Tag Archives: multimodal

What Will It Take?

I’m starting to get a bit frustrated about multi-modal progress in Omaha. While the city administration seems to react positively to concerns and ideas, in practice they don’t seem to get it. Here’s a few examples of the mayor and her minions not quite “getting it.”

In 2016, Omaha was recognized as having one of the better Complete Streets policies in the country. Admittedly, our policy is pretty decent on paper, but there doesn’t feel like a lot of effort or thought backing it up. At a forum during the mayoral campaign, I asked Mayor Stothert about Complete Streets implementation in a recently announced development project. If I understood her answer correctly (and I’m pretty sure I did,) she said that because the development would only affect two or three blocks of the road it didn’t make sense to follow the policy. Her thinking was that those two blocks wouldn’t lead to or from anywhere. Following that logic, Complete Streets would not be implemented ANYWHERE unless the entire length of the road was developed at once. While I’d love to see that happen, I know that’s not practical. The only way Omaha will end up with a Complete Streets network is if it’s piecemealed together, taking advantage of ALL development/redevelopment opportunities.

My second example is 63rd St. You will remember this thoroughfare from my posts on Plungergate. For a five block (1/4 mile) stretch, this residential street widens to allow for bike lanes on both sides and parking on the east side. Unfortunately, the lanes are only striped and (from what I’ve observed) use of the curbside parking is minimal. This extra width entices motor vehicle drivers to accelerate to highway speeds, and many of them do. This makes what should be a quiet peaceful street next to Aksarben Village a de facto drag strip, menacing pedestrians crossing and cyclists riding the street.

At a neighborhood meeting, the “solution” suggested by Public Works was to remove the bike lanes and allow parking on both sides of the street. This suggestion fails for several reasons. First of all, if streetside parking is not being utilized on the one side already allowed, why would it be used on both sides? The road is still wide, even the hint of narrowing provided by the bike lane is removed, so what will cause the NASCAR wannabe’s to drive reasonably? I don’t see it either. In my opinion, what should have been suggested is a Complete Streets/Protected Bike Lane treatment that… Oh wait! That flies in the face of the mayor’s forum response to me. Carry on! I doubt that the proposed roundabout is going to appreciably affect the safety of vulnerable road users.

My last example today is the widening of 120th St. In reviewing the Environmental Assessment, it appears that they plan on connecting the Papio Trail to the trail system in Tranquility Park. Great idea! No really, it is! However, the detail shows the connection being made north of West Maple up near Old Maple. While the city’s GIS data shows that the trail does reach that far currently, the reality is that it ends in Heflinger Park, south of West Maple. What are the plans to extend the trail northward to meet its soon to be created link to Tranquility? If there are no such plans, I have to wonder: did anyone from the city actually look at the trail, or did they just assume the GIS data was correct?

Now the mayor has a new buzz word to deal with: Vision Zero. I understand that she’ll be tasking ALAC with reviewing other policies and developing one for Omaha. I hope ALAC will take the time to recognize that the goals of Vision Zero can be best reached by rigorous application of the Complete Streets policy. Further, that such application needs to start now and not wait for the completion of the Complete Streets manual. After all, the tenets of Complete Streets can be found in the nine policy documents already adopted by various entities within Omaha.

Roll on!

Taking Omaha’s Metro, Part 1

Laura and I made plans to meet a friend at Film Streams to watch The Wolfpack (interesting movie, but that’s another story.) Since we took advantage of a special that Metro offered, we decided to take the bus, my first time on Omaha’s public transportation.

After checking out the route and schedule on Google Maps, we set out from home, walking the .4 miles to the stop where we’d board. Having given ourselves ten minutes extra time for the walk, we had a ten minute wait for our ride. I was pleasantly surprised by the punctuality.

For a holiday at midafternoon, the bus was surprisingly full although there was a choice of empty seats. The trip was pleasant and uneventful except for a short delay when it stalled midway in th  trip. We arrived safely at our disembarking point and Wales the two blocks to the coffee shop and theater.

As we walked to our pickup point after the movie and dinner, we saw a bus pull away from the stop. Since it was about eight minutes earlier than our chariot was scheduled, I remarked to Laura that I hoped it wasn’t our bus. Twenty minutes later, we concluded that it had been. We hopped on the next bus twenty-five minutes after that, greeted by the same driver who had brought us downtown.

I should have looked more closely at the list of apps along the way; thinking we were closer to our “home” stop than we were, I pulled the cord too soon. Inadvertently, I’d added .2 miles to the walk home. Not a huge error, bot a by embarrassing. At least we added to the step counts on our fitness trackers.

My overall experience and impression of Omaha’s Metro was a good one. The buses were clean and the driver friendly. We’ll be using the system more often since it relieves us of finding parking and dealing with traffic. In fact, I’ll be considering it installed of the car anytime I/we head out. Assuming that a bike isn’t an option.

Keeping Transportation Alternatives Alive

Having failed to eliminate alternative transportation from the recently passed Transportation Spending Bill, some members of Congress are attempting to remove it from the US Code altogether. On June 2, 2015, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced H.R.2609 for consideration. This bill will completely eliminate all references to the Transportation Alternatives Program from Title 23 of the US Code. Short titled “Right-of-Way for American Drivers Act of 2015,” the bill could effectively end the Federal Government’s participation in supporting walking, cycling, and (possibly) public transportation.

The bill has already been passed from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit (June 3, 2015.)

There’s no time like the present to let your Representative and Senators know how you feel about this issue. If we jump on this now, perhaps we can stop it from ever making it to the House floor. If we do nothing, we’ll be left with nothing.

source: https://www.opencongress.org/bill/hr2609-114/show

Why Complete Streets

In my last post, I made reference to a Complete Streets policy as one of the deliverables promised by the mayor. It occurred to me that perhaps an explanation of Complete Streets and what it means to me might be in order.

A Complete Streets Policy (CSP) will spell out in detail what is expected of our planning and public works departments in accommodating people who walk and people who bike. It would require these departments to look at each project with the safety of vulnerable road users in mind. For too many years, these departments have focused almost solely on how to get as many motor vehicles as possible passing through any single point in the city. Consequently, the design of our road/sidewalk system is predicated on the few hours of rush hour traffic each day, and this design usually is at the detriment of the vulnerable road user.

What most people think of when they hear the term “Complete Streets” is likely similar to the one shown here. While appropriate for a major thoroughfare, such a design is overkill for most residential streets where people on bikes and people on cars can coexist on the same surfaces. In those cases, a more “subdued” approach is called for. However, any plan MUST give consideration to all users of the road.

What I hope for in a CSP is a blueprint for planning/public works to follow for each type of street. The blueprint would not be a hard and fast design, but provide a starting point. The policy would also require that the two departments justify any departures from the CSP in their transportation projects.

Finally, following a CSP will benefit everyone. People who walk and people who bike will be able to reach their destinations safely, while those who choose to continue in their motor vehicles will find the roads safer (as a result of slower speeds), less traffic (since more folks may choose one of the alternative transportation modes), and overall quicker since there will be fewer people who drive competing for the same limited number of parking spaces. So let’s get behind the concept and do it for EVERYONE’S benefit!