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Midwest Transportation Summit

6 Sep

Mode Shift Board Member, Madeline Brush attended the Midwest Transportation Summit, at Chicago’s Environmental Law & Policy Center, August 9th and 10th.

Activists from across the Midwest came together and strategized on how to improve public transportation in our communities. A group of attendees participated in the drafting of new policy.  Gathering everyone together to share ideas was important.

Peter Skopec of Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) lead conference. Ash Narayan, the director of Transportation Policy of 10000 Friends of Wisconsin, in Madison, was also present.

The other organizations from the region in attendance were:  Frontier Group, Wisconsin Green Muslims, Environmental Law and Policy, ReAmp Network, Sierra Club, Michigan Environmental Council,  Mode Shift Omaha, NIAOMI , Wisdom, Great Plains Institute, Illinois PIRG, Active Transportation Alliance, Alliance For Sustainability, Illinois Environmental Council, MN350, and the Better Bus Coalition.

The focus for the weekend was a document created by WISPIRG, the Frontier Group and 1000 Friends of Wisconsin: The Road to Clean Transportation. This report examined the challenges facing transportation in the Midwest region from air quality to opportunity.

In our Thursday session, Peter Skopec stated, “Cars and school buses in the Midwest do not have reduced emissions.  We need to have strategies to improve transportation for citizens.” He meant that in addition to expanding and improving public transportation services, we need to also lower the emissions of the vehicles we’re using.

Here, in Omaha, we are seeing progress toward lower emissions in two areas, personal vehicles and public transportation. OPPD is offering rebates for customers purchasing electric vehicles and installing home-based charging stations. Our fleet of buses is getting younger, more efficient, and environmentally friendlier with an introduction of 38 new buses to the fleet. These new vehicles will run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or have cleaner-burning diesel engines.  

Improving public transportation access is especially important in communities where not everyone, like me, has access to a car or the ability to drive. And when I walk about public transportation, that doesn’t mean only “more buses.” To my mind, that means we should be making our communities walkable, bike friendly, and safer for everyone by slowing traffic through residential areas.

The best place to push for this transformation toward cleaner transportation is at the local level. Local Zoning and Planning policies are the first step to make neighborhoods walkable and bike friendly. These solutions tie back into a clean energy strategy and taking care of the environment. After all, the cleanest energy is the energy you don’t need to use.

To get the message out to our communities, the group attending the conference are planning a Regional  Day of Action. We will be challenging public servants and business leader to use public transportation for one day. The day will emphasize the benefits and challenges that come with the current transit environment. This day of action will emphasize that communities must make the initial investment, is better, cleaner, healthier choices which will save them money and resources over time.

By Madeline Brush

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When More is Not Nearly Enough: Pothole Season Edition

29 Jan

During the last race for Mayor of Omaha, an undisputed detail of the state of the city’s transportation infrastructure is that we, as a city, are more than a half century behind schedule resurfacing our vehicle lanes.  And the breakdown of vehicle lanes leads to our annual vehicle lane issue of winter potholes. Mayor Stothert recognizes that the resurfacing backlog is an issue that requires action. She has nearly doubled the budget for resurfacing projects in her time in office from $6.6 million to $12 million.

In her first term, Mayor Stothert reports that she spent $44.6 million resurfacing 400 lane miles throughout the city. That roughly works out to 100 lane miles per year at a cost of $111,500 per lane mile. According to public works, the city currently maintains 4823 lane miles throughout the city. A well maintained road should last approximately 20 years, depending on environmental conditions and use. Let’s look at the math and see where we end up.

First, if we are only resurfacing 100 lane miles per year, it will take 48 years to resurface all the lanes currently being maintained by the city. That’s well beyond the expected useful life of our streets. But let’s assume the demand for resurfacing continues at a consistent rate, and we are going to resurface on the anticipated schedule of every 20 years. The 4823 lane miles multiplied by the $111,500 per lane mile cost gives us a total of $537,764,500 to resurface all the current lanes. To meet the goal of resurfacing all the lanes every 20 years (and assuming a consistent rate of demand) we would need to be spending $26,888,225 every year, or more than twice the current budget. And these numbers only account for resurfacing; some roads will need to be entirely replaced at a higher cost per lane mile. Continue reading

The Transparency Project: Part 4 – What Are the CIP Projects? Where Are They?

8 May

This is the fourth post from the Transparency series, following the steps of the Mode Shift CIP game board. We continue our study of the City of Omaha’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), with a look at these questions:

  • What are the CIP transportation projects?
  • Where are they located?

What are the CIP Projects?

Mode Shift’s CIP database classifies the projects by Work Type:

  • Automobile Capacity – Projects that add lanes of automobile traffic or otherwise allow more automobile capacity.
  • Automobile Infrastructure – Replacement of automobile infrastructure that has reached its end of life, without any increase to automobile capacity.
  • Transit – Improvements to the public transit system. These projects have no City funds and are not run by the City, so perhaps they don’t belong in the CIP. But the BRT project is in the CIP, so we are including it as well.
  • Streetscape – Improvements to a street front such as wider sidewalks, bump out at street crossings, better lighting, and bicycle parking.
  • Pedestrian – Improvements for pedestrian traffic, such as ADA compliant sidewalks, foot bridges, etc.
  • Cycling – Improvements to cycling routes such as protected lanes, painted lanes, signage, etc.
  • Other – Green street corridor study and master plan, and city-wide safety projects.

In all cases, it is the driver behind the project that dictates the category. So if a widening project also replaces aging infrastructure, adds ADA compliant sidewalks and access to a cycling trail, it is considered an Automobile Capacity project, because none of the other improvements would occur if not for the driving desire to widen the street. Mode Shift relied on the CIP project descriptions to apply the Work Type to each project.

The $322 million of Capital Budget spanning from 2017 to 2022 is split as follows:

Continue reading