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Five Minutes with MSO – April, 2019

22 Apr

This is a new and monthly feature where we bring you five minutes of issues facing transportation in Omaha, Nebraska generally and the world at large:

Below are links to the issues discussed:

Dawaune talks about LB 492, the regional transit authority bill.
Liz discusses how “levels of service” can be used to transform neighborhoods into thoroughfares. (probably not referencing a certain roadway with strange traffic patterns)
Chris digs into our obsession with the CIP. How can so much money be appropriated without any public input or transparency???
And finally Lee digs into POTHOLES! and the difficulty of trying to build your way out of a maintenance crisis.

Five Questions for Stephen Osberg

17 Apr
Stephen Osberg

It’s been a few years since we sat down with Stephen Osberg to talk transit. He was last a guest at a coffee chat in 2016, when he was a planner for the City of Omaha. He joins us Friday, April 26th as our guest speaker, but now as the Director of Transportation Development for the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. This time around we asked him some additional questions to our usual five. Here’s what he had to say:

1. When it comes to our transportation network, what role does commerce play in bridging the equity gap?

We have a serious workforce challenge in the Omaha metro area. With a region-wide unemployment rate of about 2.6%, it can be a challenge for organizations to grow or even maintain their talent. It is clear, however, that there are pockets of the region with significantly higher rates of unemployment or underemployment. If we can reorient our transportation system to help people access educational opportunities and get to where the jobs are without the need to own/operate a car, we can help close the gaps on educational attainment and wealth while also helping growing businesses access talent.

2. Does the Chamber of Commerce have a position on LB 492?

The Greater Omaha Chamber testified in support of LB 492, a bill to authorize the establishment of regional transit authorities, at the Urban Affairs Committee hearing in February.

3. What are the barriers to expanding our biking infrastructure and how do we overcome those challenges?

In my view, the benefits of on-street bicycle infrastructure really come from having a connected network of facilities that provide a low-stress experience. It can be difficult for some people to see the value of constructing the infrastructure if it isn’t heavily used, which it likely won’t be until we have a full network built out that can help us get wherever we need to go while making us feel safe. You’ll hear this from me a lot, but I think we need to design the system and then take proactive steps to implement it rather than adding facilities in a piecemeal fashion.

4. Cities like Kansas City and Des Moines have made pedestrian infrastructure a priority, what could we change in Omaha to improve our approach to walking?

We just need to remember that nearly everyone walks at some point. Improvements to the pedestrian realm are improvements the quality of all our lives.

5. ORBT is scheduled to roll out in April of next year, if you ran the zoo, what would be your ideal follow-on project after the first ORBT line is active?

The first transit system improvement I’d like to see after the arrival of the Dodge Street ORBT is an increase in frequency to all the bus routes that serve the urban core. It’d be great to see buses arriving every 10-15 minutes on more of the routes. Regarding premium transit, I’d like to see a plan for the ultimate system of rapid transit lines that will touch all parts of the metro area. We can figure out the order of implementation after we’ve got the system designed.

March Coffee Chat: The 24th Street Corridor Study

13 Mar

Our Coffee Chat this month is bringing together a number of community members, some new to us and some of whom we have spoken with in the past. So, rather than post our usual Five Questions highlighting our guest, we’ve put together a post introducing the topic.

This Friday, at our March, 2019 Coffee Chat, we will be discussing a project entitled, “North 24th Street Corridor Housing Market & Multimodal Transportation Study” initiated by the city. This study seeks to identify commercial and residential solutions for the North 24th Street Corridor. From the RFP:

Much of the corridor experienced a long period of decline in housing stock, decreasing numbers of households, increasing poverty, and consequent loss of commercial activity. New residential and commercial development in recent decades has been dependent on subsidized investment. While such development has resulted in physical improvements to housing stock and attracted somewhat more moderate income households, it has not provided sufficient disposable and discretionary income in the geographic area necessary to sustain growing economic and commercial vitality.

Project RFP Document

Study Area is a corridor bounded by 20th Street and US-75, from Cuming Street to Ames Avenue

Our Coffee Chat will bring together members of the community with other project stakeholders to discuss how this study can benefit the community and what the impacts will be with regard to active transportation options that allow people along the corridor to live, work and play. One of the exciting intersections this study has with Mode Shift’s current work is the focus on “Missing Middle” housing. We are looking forward to learning more about the proposals that have been submitted and how the selection process is moving along. Join us at the Scooters on 30th and Ames at 8 a.m., grab a coffee and a pastry and get engaged with the changing landscape for transportation planning and implementation.