A city on the move

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February 1st, 2012

Omaha, NE – Film Streams is now showing a documentary film that walks people through city redevelopment projects around the world. After the film screening on Wednesday, the theater will host a discussion about how to move Omaha forward.

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People on the move at the Keystone Trail in central Omaha. (Photo by Angel Martin)

On an unseasonably warm January day, people parked their cars and chose to walk, jog and bike through the Keystone trail in central Omaha.

But the most common mode of transportation for Omaha is still the car, according to a recent survey conducted by the city. Sloan Dawson is the transportation planner at Metropolitan Area Planning Agency or MAPA. Dawson said the Omaha transit system was classically designed, based on necessity, to provide transportation to essential social services. To get people out of their cars, he said, there has to be a link between the business district and transit system.

“I think that we’re seeing at least within the last decade or so, (an) increased interest,” Dawson said. He said for decades, interest in public transit has decreased, but now, “We’re actually seeing kind of a reversal of that trend and kind of the emergence of a new culture around cycling and transit use. I think it’s a pretty interesting development to observe.”

Several examples of urban development from around the world are highlighted in the documentary Urbanized, which is currently showing at Film Streams. In the film, various architects, planners, builders, and thinkers discuss the issues and strategies shaping cities. After the screening tonight, Film Streams will host a panel discussion. Omaha native Anne Trumble is one of the panelists. She is also the founder and executive director of Emerging Terrain, a non-profit group that seeks to engage the public about factors shaping their environment.

The creek that runs beside the Keystone trail. (Photo by Angel Martin)

Urbanized is fundamentally about how public space is so important in … shaping culture,” Trumble said.

Trumble said improving Omaha’s transportation system includes all modes of movement, and connecting them with the natural layout of the city is key toward community redevelopment.

“Omaha especially has some opportunities to provide a pretty comprehensive transit system that also creates some really stupendous public spaces,” Trumble said, “gathering spaces, plazas, parks, streetscapes, and places where we interact with one another every day.”

When it comes to redeveloping historic neighborhoods and districts, Sloan Dawson said incentives are limited for cities in Nebraska. But, he said Omaha will be well situated if it continues its efforts to bring talented, young Omaha sons and daughters back to the city by focusing on how people get from place to place.

“I think that we’re starting to see a wave of people returning,” Dawson said. “And I just want to see that continue and accelerate.”

“I think we have so many advantages as a city, and as a region, especially in these trying economic times,” he said. “This is really the time to be bold as a city and a region.”

Urbanized is showing now through Friday at Film Streams in north down town Omaha. Other panelists tonight include another Omaha native Othello Meadows, the Executive Director of Seventy Five North, and Omaha City Planning Director Rick Cunningham.

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