The Omaha City Council Tuesday is expected to take up a couple of transportation issues. Public hearings are set on the future of pedi-cabs, as well as police cruisers.
Pedi-cabs have been around the downtown area for a couple of years now, but they've been a source of some controversy since December, when council members first took up safety concerns.
Police initially proposed a possible ban on the vehicles during the two week College World Series time period, when streets would be busier. "The CWS was actually the reason that we thought pedicabs would be so successful down here," said Sarah Johnson, manager of Green Street Cycles, who helped bring the first pedi-cabs to the area. "So it was kind of ironic to me that that (CWS) was what was trying to get shut down."
Johnson and others who now run local pedi-cabs did agree with the fact that SOME out-of-towners, who came in to make a profit with pedi-cabs last year, should make safety improvements. Questions arose as to whether or not their equipment was up to industry standards, and as to whether or not their drivers were insured.
Three months of negotiations, between those with interests in the industry and police, have resulted in a compromise.
Instead of banning pedicabs, their numbers would be restricted during the CWS - to 25 total, with no more than four per company. "That gives us the chance to have good competition," said Mike Battershell, one of the lead negotiators working with Greater Omaha Young Professionals.
Traffic restrictions would be in place along 10th and 13th Streets near T.D. Ameritrade Stadium.
The plan would also require pedi-cabs be inspected prior to the CWS and that operators would need to get a $100 license to operate for that two weeks. They'd also need to carry insurance.
Another plan up for debate involves the police department's aging vehicle fleet. Most of the more than 200 cruisers are older Crown Victoria models from the 90's. The department received 40 new cruisers in 2010, but budgetary restrictions kept the force from any further upgrades.
Now, Mayor Jim Suttle is recommending the purchase of 40 new Chevrolet Caprice cruisers and 5 new Ford Interceptor PUV's, police utility vehicles. The total cost would be about $1,283,710 and would be paid for by municipal lease bonds.
Mark McCoy, in charge of the city's vehicle maintenance, anticipates the vehicle upgrades will save a great deal of money over the long-term. By eliminating costly repairs, bettering gas mileage and vehicle resale, McCoy estimates a savings of 16 cents a mile. Considering police cruisers run an average of 50,000 miles a year, that's an $8,000 savings for just one vehicle.
After public hearings on both issues, council members could vote Tuesday.
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