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ORBT Could Bring Age-Friendly Housing Options for Omaha Residents

Bus Rapid Transit lines have helped transform communities across the globe, boosting local economies. (Adam Coppola Photography/Flickr)
Bus Rapid Transit lines have helped transform communities across the globe, boosting local economies. (Adam Coppola Photography/Flickr)
June 29, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. -- The city of Omaha is expanding its public transit service, and if it adopts a proposed Transit Oriented Development policy, neighborhoods along Dodge Street will have the opportunity to create "age-friendly communities."

AARP Nebraska state director Todd Stubbendieck said smart zoning for retail, new housing, sidewalks and green spaces within walking distance of bus stops will help older Nebraskans age in place, closer to services, and in more convenient homes.

"They may not want to be in that house anymore where they have yard work and they have to shovel snow, but would love to be in a duplex. They're around other people, they can walk to the coffee shop, they can walk to get groceries, they don't have to drive as much," Studdendieck said. "That's also what younger people want; they don't need a single-family home at that point in their lives."

Studdendieck said the proposed policy does not mandate any specific type of zoning along the ORBT bus route. But he said as development opportunities come up, it would allow residents to weigh in on planning options, including pedestrian-scale designs that support corner-store businesses, parks and public schools.

The city is planning a series of public hearings before ORBT rolls out in the fall, and Stubbendieck said he's hopeful neighborhoods will see the value in picking spots along the corridor where retail and entertainment - as well as offices and other services older Nebraskans rely on - can exist alongside a variety of housing options.

"And these communities have everything that they need: access to parks, access to transportation. I think what you get is self-sustaining communities as well," he said. "People are living and working and going to the store all within walking distance of where they live."

ORBT is the biggest transit project the region has seen in decades. City officials estimate the project, which will require an investment of more than $30 million, will generate $450 million in economic activity, in part by attracting businesses that employ young professionals looking for alternatives to long commutes and suburban sprawl.

Disclosure: AARP Nebraska contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE