Omaha Transportation Plan


BACKGROUND. The proposed city transportation plan is a prime example of local government intrusion into private business and private property rights. It seeks to micromanage the community and coerce human behavior by advocating principles declaring that government knows what is best for its citizens. The groups in the planning process that offered recommendations to this study included ones that would benefit from the largesse of expenditures or held another interest in seeing its completion, e.g., Omaha By Design, Omaha Public Schools, but included no organizations representing taxpayers who would pay for this explosion of appropriations (p.36).*

TRANSPORTATION FAVORITISM. Although the most recent census revealed that less than 2% of area employees commute by mass transit, that bus rider numbers indicate that few citizens prefer buses over other vehicles (pp.2 & 30), this plan seeks to pressure people into riding buses and would expend a huge amount on enhancing bus service together with grandiose new bus stations (p.53). The current MAT system operational costs already depend less on user fares and more on local and federal government subsidies (p. 30). Private vehicles always have served as our dominant form of transportation (p.8). With limited revenues available, the city should concentrate on expanding our street system to accommodate more vehicles in future years. Instead of widening our thoroughfares to accommodate present and future traffic, the study would shrink vehicle lanes to slow traffic, a premeditated ruse to persuade drivers to ride a bus (p.41). The entire focus of this proposal seeks to create a hostile environment for vehicle traffic in exchange for more traffic privileges for bicyclists (p.43). City streets should undergo needed upgrading to accommodate private vehicles instead of bike and mass transit traffic, as advocated in this plan (p.64). The elaborate system of new bicycle lanes and trails will incur enormous expense and taking of private property (p.45). Constructing bike trails through existing residential communities, abutting back yards, would expose private residents to litter and strangers passing among their children at play (p.70). Expensive bike projects, routes, and their accompanying infrastructure costs, and reconstructing existing streets to accommodate cyclists (pp.68, 69), some initiatives based on federal policy (p.76), would benefit a slim minority of citizens. A citywide bike system as a funding priority (p.69) would steal needed dollars for street improvement and additions. Reducing, eliminating, and providing access around sidewalk obstructions like utility poles to ease pedestrian traffic would incur huge costs similar to those caused the city by the Americans with Disabilities Act (p.77). Promoting walking and bicycling is a health issue that should not warrant government expenditure (p.77). This plan solves the traffic congestion problem by seeking to decrease the volume of vehicle traffic on our street network instead of expanding arterials that will necessarily handle an increased traffic load (p.86). Pressuring drivers to not drive and mandating bus and carpool lanes on major arterials will only increase congestion and incur additional traffic enforcement costs (p.86). The capital improvement program should concentrate on assisting with increasing preferred modes of transportation instead of focusing on unnecessary streetscapes and bike trails (p.88).

HIGHER TAXES. Proponents advocate the use of impact fees, sales taxes, and tolls to help fund this grandiose plan (pp.5, 71). Implementing parking taxes in addition to current parking fees (p. 73) will only dissuade citizens from visiting parts of the city, like the Old Market. Use of tolls on bridges that span the Missouri River runs counter to the intent of the Midwest Interstate system to provide free and fast transportation (p.73). Forming additional business improvement districts means an additional tax on business owners to subsidize transportation redevelopment with which some may disagree (p.72). The reasoning behind tax increment financing (TIFs) was to redevelop blighted areas, yet proponents would bastardize this legislation to allow the city to confiscate private property in order to supposedly improve the value of an area, thereby causing consternation to neighboring homeowners whose property values would plummet from inclusion in or becoming adjacent to TIF areas. The creation of a new local government authority with legal powers to confiscate land and issue development bonds to administer TIF areas resembles the legal furor that resulted in the Kelo v. City of New London court decision regarding confiscation of private property (p.72) that subsequently ignited a firestorm of public opposition nationwide.

INTRUSIVE GOVERNMENT. This endeavor seeks to dictate to our citizenry where we should live, how densely we should live, and with whom we should live (pp.36, 68). Decreeing the number of residences per residential acre smacks of Orwellian government (p.85).

OUT OF BOUNDS. American cities historically have provided basic services to residents, e.g., infrastructure like paved streets, libraries, and public safety. This plan recommends the city construct an elaborate bicycle system (p.5). A transportation system already exists for bike riders, trails and sidewalks. A minority of bike riders demanding additional bike lanes and other amenities should not entitle them to access city coffers (p.28). This plan ventures into territory that is not city business, such as promoting grocery stores that sell fresh produce (p. 8). Forcing residential developers to accommodate bike traffic and lay out their streets and driveways to match a government dictate micromanages the private sector, infringes on business prerogatives, and would add to home prices (pp.77, 84).

POSITIVE POINTS. New street construction projects built to control future maintenance costs would alleviate the problem of street surfaces failing soon after construction or renovation. Surveying and scoring street surface conditions will help to determine where and how soon to expend monies for street maintenance and repair. This active monitoring serves as a better approach than waiting to make repairs until a street surface begins to crumble (p.89 Expanded use of LED street lights will save taxpayer dollars (p.90).

CONCLUSION. The city council should pay more attention to the plight of city taxpayers than to the elaborate and expensive schemes proposed by Environment Omaha and Omaha By Design (p.35) in this transportation plan. Urge your city council member to reject this intrusive and exorbitant proposal.

Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by Citizens for Local Control, Cherry County Taxpayers, Dawes County Taxpayers, and other groups in the Tax Freedom Network. 8-12. C


* Page citations from City of Omaha Transportation Study.

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