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Get Involved in Omaha’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

1 Jan
Thanks to some recent efforts by the City, Omaha’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) looks better than ever. But despite these improvements, it is ultimately a meaningless long term plan because the City deviates substantially from it every year without explanations, visibility, accountability, or public engagement.
Why does this matter? Considering the 2019 CIP includes over $200 million of Omaha property tax funds, taxpayers deserve a process that:
  1. Engages the public
  2. Explains why some projects get funds and others don’t
  3. Explains why some projects proceed even when their cost skyrockets past the prior year’s estimate and they are years behind schedule
The City’s Planning Committee, led by Pete Festersen, and includes Brinker Harding, and Rich Pahls, is considering making some changes to the CIP. This gives us a chance to propose some changes that will make the CIP a meaningful planning document.
So how can you get involved? Mode Shift proposes these actions in January:
  • Form 3 teams – one for each City Council member of the planning committee.
  • Review our proposed CIP changes with the teams to fine tune them and so that each team is knowledgeable about the issues (we have a resource page to help you be more informed here or view this detailed video)
  • Meet with the three Council member to advocate for the changes.
  • Emphasize public involvement with specific steps that the City could perform. We’ll ask for the full process to be in place by January 2020, but we’ll include some sample public requests with your help such as:
    • Reviving our effort for a bicycle lane program
    • Re-instating the Leavenworth project that disappeared without any explanations last summer
    • Perhaps a pedestrian project?
  • Publish blogs and videos in January. Let us know if you want to contribute! Email joanna@modeshiftomaha.org
We need your help to make this happen. Join us on January 23, 2019 – 7 p.m. at UNO’s Community Engagement Center for a Mode Shift member meeting where we will form the teams and begin the steps outlined above.

Omaha at Human Scale: A walk to school

17 Dec

Amanda Long is a member of Mode Shift Omaha.

Walking is a major form of transportation in my household.  As with anything there are frustrations and problems to be solved – but walking is our favorite way to get around.

Entrance to Tunnel Under Dodge Street

One of our regular destinations is school.  I am in my 11th year of having a child walk to the local elementary school.  My youngest child has walked there her entire life – first to drop off and pick up her big brother – and then to transport herself.  It’s a habit – and an absolute preference. When the weather is too bad to walk, both of our moods darken and we begrudgingly hop into the car.  Drop off in the car is much more stressful for both of us. We have to deal with traffic and trying to get out of a car with a backpack, lunch box and sometimes a school project.  When I have to drive to pick up my child from school I actually have to leave earlier as it takes longer to find a place to park the car and walk up to the school building than it does to walk from home.

I’ve read that walking to school has been shown to improve both academic performance and psychological well-being, as well as public health.  Our experience agrees with that. A walk at the beginning of the day makes us both more awake, alert and ready to focus. In addition, the walk to and from school gives us time to talk at the beginning and end of the school day. It’s often where the best talks happen.  On the hardest days the walk has therapeutic benefits – anxieties can be verbalized while we simultaneously get the physical benefits of walking to help us cope the rest of the day.

Bike Rack Haiku

When we walk, we see and experience things you can’t from the car – our favorite is the big hound dog that looks over the second-floor balcony and announces its presence in its unique hound dog voice. We hear the leaves crunch under our feet, see the first crocuses that appear in spring, smell freshly-mowed grass and experience the quiet of a good snowfall.  We get to enjoy the decorations that people put on their houses and get to observe someone’s sense of humor in their ever-changing configurations of pink flamingos. We can browse a Little Free Library, peruse the community garden’s neighbor garden and see if they have that herb we need for dinner. We can window shop in the stores in our neighborhood & check out the restaurant menus.  We read haikus on bike racks and see public art.

Community Garden

With the experiences we have with walking I believe it when I read that people live in more walkable neighborhoods trust their neighbors more and children have more opportunities to be independent.  As we walk the neighborhood, we get to know the people. We say hello, meet the dogs & greet the children playing in front yards.  Because of our walks, we know multiple families on every block that we frequent. This knowledge and familiarity build the bonds of trust that a neighborhood needs to thrive.  I may not walk alone in your neighborhood in the dark of night – but I do walk in mine as I know who’s who and who lives where – and who could help if needed.

In every neighborhood that I’ve regularly walked in, I’ve had a strong feeling of connectedness to the people, schools, and businesses in that neighborhood.  I find myself face to face with many people along the way- which reminds me of what we have in common. There’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t get a smile or wave from someone across the street or through their car window.  When something out of the ordinary is happening in the neighborhood, I feel comfortable stopping to talk to someone with a familiar face and compare stories. Maybe the first step to increasing social capital and a feeling of connectedness to others is as simple as taking regular walks through our neighborhood.

Omaha at Human Scale: Transit dependence requires dependable transit

11 Dec
Interior of a Metro Bus

Madeline Brush is a member of the Mode Shift Board of Directors.

I am legally blind, meaning I cannot drive a car. I depend on Metro Transit to get around Omaha.  I usually take the #15, to go to Midtown Crossing. When I get to 32nd and Farnam, I get a coffee, or grab some Chinese food. It is unfortunate that the route frequency is only every 30 minutes — if it’s on schedule. Since I have limited vision, it is difficult for me to read the street signs. Public transportation is great and affordable, but I wish all the bus drivers would announce the numbered streets. Some of them do, especially if I tell them where I need to get off the bus. Sometimes they forget when it is a longer bus ride.

Madeline

The second bus that I take often is the #2 on Dodge street.  My mom and siblings live near the route, so it is easy for me to catch the bus downtown and get off  at UNO. From there I can walk to see my family. I know to request a stop when I see the
the green pedestrian bridge near UNO.  I go to Dundee often. I can get off at 50th and Dodge and walk to my favorite businesses. 

I am excited for ORBT, Metro’s Bus Rapid Transit or the  BRT. I will be able to pay with my smartphone, and the new buses will have an automatic audible announcement  the upcoming stops.

Route 2 to Westroads

I have heard from a few bus riders that their bus is not dependable. I tell them to call or email Metro — they want to hear from the public if the service isn’t working. Metro is making improvements to the system with new bus shelters and buses and more technology to connect passengers. As someone who depends on the bus, I am grateful Omaha is investing in public transportation.