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Five Questions for . . . Candidates for Nebraska Legislative District 6

18 Jul

Legislative District 6 straddles the east and west of I-680 and north and south of Dodge Street. If there was a nexus of the East/West divide in Omaha, it would be LD-6. With regard to transportation policy, LD-6 finds itself as a focal point of Omaha’s future, with the planned ORBT route running straight down the middle.

Map of Legislative District 6
click image for larger file

The top two vote collectors in this Spring’s primary election were incumbent, Sen. Theresa Thibodeau and challenger Machaela Cavanaugh. We will be talking to both of them, this Friday at our monthly Coffee Chat. We’ll be meeting at 8 a.m. at the Crane Coffee at 78th and Cass to discuss transportation issues, the state legislature and District 6. To get to know the candidates a little better, we asked them five questions . . .

Theresa Thibodeau

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
Currently my preferred mode of transportation is my car, as that is what makes sense for my family and my job. I own a business in La Vista and there is no other means of transportation to get to La Vista.

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
The greatest challenge to multi modal transportation is cost and how it will be funded.

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
I believe Omaha made great strides with the bike sharing system in the Aksarben and downtown areas, as well as the new Omaha Rapid bus Transit system. This system will make traveling in the metro easier and safer and will allow people to get to their destination more quickly.

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?
As a business owner and participant in Leadership Omaha, I became interested in transportation as it is important for a metropolitan area to have reliable and safe means for people to get around the city whether it be for work, school or recreation.

5. If you could magically change one thing about the transportation systems in Omaha, without limit to budget or feasibility, what would it be?
The one thing I would change about the transportation system in Omaha is I would broaden the areas of service. Currently there is not a means of transportation from Omaha to its surrounding cities. Having a means of transportation is important for families and businesses as it allows people to get to where there are available jobs.

Machaela Cavanaugh

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
Walking.

Walking allows me the best opportunity to interact with my surroundings and see my community. However, it can be frightening, particularly when I am walking with my children on high-speed streets where the sidewalk is not significantly separated from the flow of traffic.

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
Omaha has some serious structural challenges to multi-modal transit such as our large geographic footprint and lack of population density, but our greatest challenge, as it is in most American communities, is mindset. Too often for members of our community the automobile is the only mode of transit considered. Some of this can be changed by improving multi-modal infrastructure, but unless we see other people actually walking on our sidewalks to the neighborhood grocery store, riding in the bike lane to work, or taking the bus for a night out, we won’t consider it as an option for ourselves.

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
I am very excited about the bus rapid transit proposal for Dodge street. BRT is a great option for Omaha and the ORBT will run through the heart of the 6th district offering residents of the district a great tool for traveling east to west quickly and reliably.

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?
Through my work on early childhood education I have come to see the essential role that transportation plays in proving opportunity to young children. If we want our children to grow up healthy and thrive, their parents need to be able to reach quality jobs, quality childcare, affordable and nutritious food, and cultural and recreational areas. A robust transit system can make all of these community assets more accessible to all families, regardless of their wealth or income.

5. If you could magically change one thing about the transportation systems in Omaha, without limit to budget or feasibility, what would it be?
Just one thing?! It would be wonderful to provide all public transit free of cost to riders. This would increase accessibility for those who most need transit, but it could also encourage others to take experimental trips and explore the feasibility of using transit in their everyday life. Every trip that we can migrate from a car to a bus is one less car on the street that day. Fewer cars on the street benefits us all, regardless of our chosen mode of travel.

Five Questions for . . . Curtis Wilson of Bike Union!

7 Jun

Curtis Wilson is the Operations Manager of Bike Union and he will be our guest (and host!) Friday, June 15th, for our monthly coffee chat. Bike Union is a full service bike shop and coffee house dedicated to providing workforce and personal development to youth aging out of foster care and to strengthening our community as a whole. We’ll talk to Curtis about the Bike Union model, and the good they do in the community, but first, we asked him five questions.

1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
I prefer to ride my bike any chance I get. Though most days I end up driving to work because throughout the day the youth in our program tend to require transportation to different appointments and errands.

2. What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
General public awareness/acceptance of multi-modal transportation and a true desire on motorists part to share the road. I have had more close calls with vehicles on my bike in Omaha than any other place I have lived.

3. What, in your opinion, the the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
The Leavenworth/St. Mary’s bike lane gives us an example of what is possible in Omaha in regards to safer cycling routes. It would be great to see more miles of that type of infrastructure.

4. How did you come to have an interest in transportation?
As a cyclist I use my bike for transportation and recreation. Being on the road with motor vehicles and being concerned for my and my friends safety has given me an interest in multi-modal transportation. Also, a lot of our youth program participants use some form of multi-modal transportation on a daily basis.

5. If you could magically change one thing about the transportation systems in Omaha, without limit to budget or feasibility, what would it be?
I would love to see a network of protected bike lanes linking the entire city. With the emphasis being on linking every part of the city, so cycling could become a more feasible transportation solution for all people.

A Huge Thank You to all of our supporters during Omaha Gives!

29 May

We are very grateful for the support that rang in during Omaha Gives this year totaling our final donations to a whopping $12,860! This amount also includes a $1,000 participation prize that we received at midnight during the 24-hour challenge. With contributions like yours, this will help us move forward in a lot of new and exciting ways.

Recently, we’ve done quite a lot to advocate for safer and more efficient transportation options for everyone in the Omaha area. It’s important to us that we highlight those for any potential members who may be reading this. Below are a few wins that have taken place:

  • We launched member committees to further help educate and engage others on ways to stay proactive about transit options. The following committees are now actively seeking members: Biking Team, Election Team, Transit Team, Transparency Team, Urban Land Use Team, and the Walkability Team.
  • We initiated the intersection surveys throughout Omaha and reporting content to city officials for review. Learn about the nominated intersections on our blog.
  • We advocated for dialogue around the development of the Civic Center Site to ensure diverse and safe transportation options are considered. See blog post here.
  • We won the Friends of the Environment Award at Earth Day Omaha which came through a board nomination process. We are so honored to be recognized for this effort!
  • We developed a resource library at the Omaha Bicycle Company to help others stay informed about all things transportation.
  • We hired a Membership Coordinator!
  • We continue to help educate and engage through member-led Ride Alongs (traveling to different districts across the city via bus tours and historic site visits); co-organizing the Citizens’ Academy, at our Monthly Meetings and at our monthly Coffee Chats.

Building the Momentum

Last year we worked on our strategic plan, and identified goals we hope to achieve in the next few years according to our theory of change. Here’s where we stand:

  • We’ve continued to advocate for transparency from City Officials on topics like the Bond Issuing, reallocation of funds towards road safety and most importantly, invitations to the conversations of policy change before they are presented to legislature.
  • Continue to host coffee chats with local groups to build awareness and partnerships around safe transit options and healthy neighborhoods. So far this year, coffee chats included meet-ups with Seventy-Five North at the Highlander campus; Bcycle and the City Bike Sharing committee at the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge; Find out about other recent coffee chats here.
  • Educating our members through meetings, events and blog posts sharing active ways of engagement to secure a more diverse transit landscape across the Omaha Metropolitan Area.