Tag Archives: public transit

Citizens’ Academy Spring 2016 — Local Government & Planning

5 May

The Spring 2016 Citizens’ Academy is coming to a close this week. Here are the key takeaways from the first two sessions, on Placemaking & Local Government and Local & Regional Planning:

Omaha’s government is led by an elected (partisan) official. Some cities are governed by city managers. Many consider election-based city leadership more legitimate than leadership hired by the City Council because the purpose of having public elections is to reflect what the majority wants in its city governance. The advantage of city managers over elected officials is that they are not politicians, but “professionals.” Yet, even though city managers are (technically) non-partisan, they are still human and can be influenced to choose sides. Continue reading

Let’s Move on Public Transit Improvements

5 Dec

Image from Transportation Master Plan update.

From Transportation Master Plan update.

The Central Omaha Transit Alternatives Analysis (COAA) held its fourth public meeting on December 3, 2013, before finalizing the transit recommendations it will make to the Omaha City Council and Metro Board of Directors. After more than a year of study and discussions with stakeholders and the public, the COAA has narrowed the possible alternatives down to 3 major options, and one combination of two options. The options are laid out in detail here, but briefly they include:

  1. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Dodge/Douglas
  2. Bus Rapid Transit along Farnam/Harney (couplet) or Farnam (contraflow)
  3. Modern Streetcar along Farnam/Harney (couplet) or Farnam (contraflow)
  4. Combined Bus Rapid Transit and Modern Streetcar, both along Farnam/Harney

We are very pleased to see the City and Metro taking the steps needed to improve transportation options along the Dodge/Douglas/Harney/Farnam corridor, which serves as the backbone and core to improving the larger regional transit system. Providing multiple options along this corridor is our best bet for changing the culture of transportation in Omaha. As noted during the public meeting, study after study has shown the need for better public transportation in Omaha, now is the time to make improvements happen!

Mode Shift Omaha supports transportation options for everyone. Any of the alternatives will help to bring this about—we support the option or combination of options that has the most likelihood of getting implemented. Beyond that, we support the option(s) that will have the biggest impact on improving the larger transit system. From the data provided, funding for these projects will come from different sources (not necessarily from raising taxes), and will serve somewhat different populations. Both BRT and a streetcar will also potentially bring a great deal of economic development to the area. The study projects, over a 15 year outlook, a potential increase of 1,200 to 8,500 jobs and additional development growth of $305 million to $1 billion. It would be fiscally irresponsible for the City NOT to invest in these transportation options given the return on investment (not to mention enhancement in quality of life for citizens).

After a good deal of discussion with members and colleagues, among the proposed options we support the BRT because it seems the most likely to be done sooner and extend service to a larger area. Of the BRT options, we prefer the Farnam contraflow. If the BRT option is selected, we encourage aiming for the “gold standard,” incorporating best practices such as dedicated lanes and other amenities essential to make the outcomes of a BRT worth the investment.

We also appreciate the value of a modern streetcar and support this option if it is feasible. Of the streetcar options, we prefer the Farnam contraflow. Contraflow (two-way flow for transit)[1] is preferable to the couplet (one-way pair)[2] options because, as Jarrett Walker discusses in his book Human Transit, couplets are more problematic for users. He writes in a blog post about this:

…if you care about people getting where they’re going, the one-way split reduces the area served by a transit line. That’s because for a two-way line to be useful, you have to be able to walk to both directions of a service. The further apart the two directions are, the smaller the area…that will have a reasonable walk to both of them.

We want transportation options that get people to where they need to go!

We also urge the City to include protected bike lanes in the Farnam contraflow design if feasible. The Transportation Master Plan showed Farnam and many downtown streets have more space than needed for cars, so it’s likely there will be room to create a true “complete street” on Farnam, where cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians can co-exist safely and efficiently. In addition, we hope the proposed COAA route or other plans in the Regional Transit Vision will address better transit access to Creighton and the airport.

Finally, we suggest we all start reframing discussion about these transportation options—highlighting the increased capacity and multiple benefits they will bring to everyone. In particular, we all know the mention of a streetcar immediately brings to mind past studies and controversies. Times have changed and the demand for public transportation has increased—the way we talk about options such as a streetcar needs to change too. What about calling it the “Omaha Midtown Tram” or the “Midtown Connector”?

What do you think? Please post your comments below so we can consider them before finalizing the official comments we send into the COAA.

Please also send your comments to the COAA by the end of this month. You can send them directly to: email@OmahaAlternativesAnalysis.com or see the comment form here. The more comments the better; we need to show decision-makers that we want action on transit improvements now.


[1] Contraflow bus lanes are areas in which a dedicated lane of an otherwise one way street is reversed for buses and other mass transit.

[2] A couplet is a pair of parallel, usually one-way streets that carry opposite directions of a signed route or major traffic flow, or sometimes opposite directions of a bus or streetcar route.

Walk and Bike Scores in Omaha

5 Sep

We posted an article on our Facebook page earlier this week about choosing the right neighborhood if you want to live without a car.

Midtown and downtown have the best transit options. For example, bus #2 runs every 15 or so minutes up and down Dodge from downtown to Westroads.

Otherwise, check out these walk and bike scores for several neighborhoods in Omaha, according to Walk Score®.

Areas (see link for exact location) Walk Score Bike Score
Downtown (16 & Harney) 95, Walker’s paradise 64, Bikeable
Old Market 91, Walker’s paradise 76, Very bikeable
Dundee (50 & California) 86, Very walkable 55, Bikeable
South Omaha (24 & N) 83, Very walkable 49, Somewhat bikeable
Midtown Crossing 80, Very walkable 53, Bikeable
Aksarben (67 & Mercy) 80, Very walkable 58, Bikeable
North Downtown (13 & Mike Fahey) 77, Very walkable 76, Very bikeable
Benson (63 & Maple) 75, Very walkable 46, Somewhat bikeable
Orchard Park (72 & Sorensen Pkwy) 71, Very walkable 63, Bikeable
One Pacific Place (72 & Pacific) 69, Somewhat walkable 65, Bikeable
Ralston (73 & Q) 60, Somewhat walkable NA
Broadmoor (84 & Pacific) 57, Somewhat walkable 49, Somewhat bikeable
UNO (60 & Dodge) 55, Somewhat bikeable 46, Somewhat bikeable
Florence (30 & Mormon) 55, Somewhat walkable 41, Somewhat bikeable
Applewood Heights (107 & Laci) 54, Somewhat walkable 38, Somewhat bikeable
Field Club (35 & Woolworth) 51, Somewhat walkable 58, Bikeable
Prospect Hill (34 & Decatur) 49, Car Dependent 32, Somewhat bikeable
Elkhorn 46, Car dependent 56, Bikeable
Rambleridge (108 & Military) 46, Car dependent 54, Bikeable
Regency (96 & Harney) 42, Car Dependent 35, Somewhat bikeable
Zorinsky Lake (163 & Grover) 38, Car dependent 51, Bikeable
Saddlebrook (150 & Fort) 32, Car dependent NA
Millard Heights (132 & Harrison) 28, Car dependent 38, Somewhat bikeable

What do you think? How does your neighborhood compare?