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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.

5 Questions for Mike Helgerson

18 Jan
Mike Helgerson is the Transportation and Data Manager at Metropolitan Area Planning Agency. It is his job to lead the transportation planning process for the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area and Regional Planning Affiliation 18 (RPA-18); lead the administration of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and the development of the Long Range Transportation Plan; provide staff support in the development of the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP); oversee development and management of regional datasets and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). He is also our guest for our first Coffee Chat of 2018 — Friday, January 19th at 8 a.m. in our usual haunt, Spielbound, located at 3229 Harney St.
We asked Mike Five Questions.

1 What is your preferred mode of transportation?
I end up driving my car most of the time, but love taking advantage of walking or biking to the bus during the week. Our family loves walking around our neighborhood in Benson to visit the library or grab a bite to eat when it’s not winter.

2 What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to multi-modal transportation in Omaha?
Our development patterns are the biggest challenge. We need to take advantage of our opportunities to bring new people and jobs into the already developed areas of our community. This has the effect of making areas easier to serve with transit, and makes walking and biking more of a choice.

3 What, in your opinion, is the greatest multi-modal success in Omaha?
I think the ORBT project is a tremendous opportunity to change perceptions and make the active, non-auto choice the easy choice. As a regional organization, its hard not to point to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge as a fantastic piece of bike infrastructure that brings Omaha and Council Bluffs together. Continue reading