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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.

Pedestrian Safety Concerns at the Aksarben Transit Center

9 Feb

The new Askarben Transit Center is a recent realignment by Metro to get bus routes and transit centers closer to nodes of activity. Previously, this “transit center” was nothing more than two paired stops outside the Bergan Mercy hospital at 75th and Mercy Road. While the hospital is a major employment center, there really isn’t much else around of interest to a transit user who doesn’t work in the area. To the east, along Mercy Road, we have the growing Aksarben neighborhood — a burgeoning development of residential opportunities, commercial offices, entertainment, shopping and dining. The area has high density, diverse activity and is better served by a transit center that brings together five bus lines.

Currently the new transit center is, again, two paired stops across the street from one another on Mercy Road just west of 68th Street. This location, just west of Aksarben Village is withing easy walking distance of the development, but not positioned so that it would be affected by the many markets, events and concerts throughout the year when the community closes Mercy Road for pedestrians and exhibitors.

Mode Shift member, Cindy Tefft sent along the following observations and images.

North side services Metro Routes 11, 13, 15, 18, and 55. South Side services Route 15.

(L-R) The South side of Mercy, 68th Street, North Side of Mercy

Coming from 67th St., walking west toward the transit center, I saw the following conditions in the few minutes I was there. Cars coming down the hill go extremely fast heading east. Buses ares stopped in the furthest right hand lane of traffic, narrowing the road at times to 2 lanes. This will be very interesting in the summer during events. Would be good to see what it looks like during a.m and p.m. rush hours.

(L-R) Pedestrian crossing mid-block; Truck traffic commingled with buses; Buses, cars and pedestrians

In order to get to the South Transit Center you have to cross 4 lanes of traffic. One transit user says it isn’t too difficult but you have to time it just right. Since HDR opened their new headquarters, traffic has increased. The Keystone trail going under the Mercy Rd Bridge is closed, trail users have to cross Mercy Rd with no crossing signal or crosswalk. There are curb cutouts, 2 on each side of Mercy Rd. One at the corner of 68th south side and one on the north-side mid-block, the other where the trail crosses and is not at a corner. If you are walking east on the south side of Mercy Rd, you must cross the street in order to go over the bridge on a sidewalk to prevent walking in the street with the flow of traffic.

My take away is that this is an extremely dangerous situation for transit users, pedestrians, bicyclists and even motor vehicles.

Pictures: 11:50 a.m. Tues 2/5/2019 – Cindy Teftt

Current Conditions, Suggested Improvements

While Metro made an effort to avoid having pedestrians cross a busy street (all but one route connect at the north-side bus shelter) there are still users who will need to cross Mercy Rd. to make a connection to the east-bound 15, or catch one of the routes that begin heading west on Mercy. This creates a hazardous environment for people walking.

Current Conditions at 68th and Mercy
Click for Larger Image

As we move west on Mercy across Aksarben Drive, Mercy expands from three lanes to four. This creates a particularly dangerous situation for pedestrians, especially without any dedicated, on street walking infrastructure. In a four lane pedestrian crossing, the behavior of a person driving in one lane does not necessarily influence the drivers in the adjacent lanes.

For the safest environment, the roadway around the transit center would be narrowed to three lanes with one vehicle lane in each direction and a center lane that would act as a refuge for pedestrians crossing traffic in stages. The refuge lane (because there are no potential left turns in this stretch of roadway) could also have bollards warning drivers of pedestrian activity. The north/south crossing at the curb cuts should be marked with a cross walk and set-back stop bars. making clear that vehicles should give plenty of room for pedestrians to cross.

In an ideal world, a HAWK signal (High-intensity Activated crossWalK) would be installed to allow pedestrians to activate a right-of-way to cross to their connecting buses, even in high-vehicle-traffic periods.  All of these improvements would be at the discretion of the city’s Planning and Public Works departments.  We hope they will prioritize the comfort and safety of the most vulnerable of transportation system users over the speed and convenience  of people driving cars. 

We know that often infrastructure precedes demand. We trust the city to see the value in providing safe, inviting infrastructure for people walking and using mobility devices will encourage more people to use active transportation as their means of getting around our great city. If you would like to see changes at this intersection, or if you encounter other issues that affect the safety and comfort of people trying to use active transportation, please contact the Mayor’s Hotline (402) 444-5555.

Where are you going, MUD?

7 Feb

Out of the fog of the controversies of site selection, historic preservation, project management and public financing surrounding Douglas County’s proposed Juvenile Justice Center in Downtown Omaha a question adjacent to the project has yet to be answered. In a compromise deal, the original site to be acquired by eminent domain was spared when Metropolitan Utilities District agreed to sell their headquarters to Douglas County and relocate their operations to make way for the Juvenile Justice Center. Now, the remaining question is, where will MUD relocate?

One of the issues that has been of concern to Mode Shift Omaha from our founding is the problem of connecting where people live with where people work in an equitable fashion. When companies select a site for an employment center that does not account for people who cannot drive, for whatever reason, they unintentionally limit the pool of available employees, or require complicated, costly solutions that may or may not be sustainable.

As MUD’s headquarters is not only an employment center, but also a service center, the need for accessibility is two fold: both employees and customers should have full access to the facility. Whether the utility plans to build a new headquarters or lease office space in the interim, we hope that they will select a location that is accessible by active modes of transportation and by individuals with mobility limitations. To select a car-only location will erect a barrier between the utility and their customer-owners as well as limit their pool of qualified employees by adding access to private automobile transportation to the employment qualifications.

Please contact the board of directors and let them know you would like to see MUD select an accessible site for their headquarters in order that all Omahans will be able to take advantage of the employment opportunities and services MUD provides to the community.