June 20, 2017
Midtown on the Move logs nearly 9,000 switched trips in nine weeks
When most Midtown residents think of active commuting, one word comes to mind: inconvenient.
In an effort to change opinions and behaviors on active modes of transportation, and to inspire more active neighborhoods, Douglas County Health Department, Verdis Group and Emspace joined forces to develop Midtown on the Move.
The Midtown on the Move initiative set out with a goal to recruit 1,000 neighborhood residents to commit to leaving their car behind and choose to walk, bike, bus or rideshare once a week for nine weeks. Research has shown nine weeks is the appropriate timeframe for one to create a positive and lasting lifestyle change.
Target neighborhoods included Blackstone, Joslyn Castle, Gifford Park and Leavenworth, which represent 13,000 residents (5,800 households). Through an online pledge, neighborhood residents committed to this challenge by tracking their progress through weekly surveys, with the chance to win prizes from local shops and restaurants.
There are many benefits to choosing more active modes of transportation:
- By walking, biking, taking the bus or ridesharing, community residents discover new parts of their neighborhood and meet new people.
- When neighbors are out and about, they are helping to create an active street life, which attracts more businesses, creates connections and makes neighborhoods safer.
- Leaving the car at home also provides many health and environmental benefits. Increased physical activity is good for one’s health and reduces the risk of chronic disease.
- With fewer cars on the road, traffic congestion and pollution are reduced and air quality is improved.
“Everyone who walks, bikes, or rides the bus creates a neighborhood with spontaneous hellos, unplanned conversations, and grandparents are out with their grandkids—weaving an invaluable neighborhood fabric,” Verdis Group’s Chief Century Thinker, Daniel Lawse said, “40 percent of participants said their primary reason for participating in Midtown on the Move was for health and wellness—getting more physical activity in their day and promoting wellness.”
Midtown on the Move program success was largely due to the grassroots outreach. Verdis Group and Emspace worked together to establish partnerships in the effort of encouraging active transportation options.
- With many summer community events, Midtown Crossing was a key sponsor and advocate encouraging neighbors to walk with their families.
- Metro created bus benches promoting the program and offered free bus passes to program participants.
- Blackstone District and Midtown Crossing shops and restaurants offered gift cards to those who completed weekly surveys.
“Our partners and business sponsors were crucial to the success of this program. Through their contributions, we were able to give away 37 prizes to participants for taking the pledge and completing our surveys,” said Shelby Braun of the Douglas County Health Department, “the excitement surrounding Midtown on the Move was evident among Midtown residents. Some participants shared with us that a new habit of walking instead of driving has been formed and individuals who have never taken the bus have tried the bus during this program.”
At program completion, Midtown on the Move secured more than 400 pledges, totaling 8,753 switched trips which equals 27,715 miles logged. Be sure to check out the stories in the Omaha World-Herald and on KETV Newswatch 7.
The Midtown on the Move initiative is funded by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services 1422 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant is intended to identify successful ways to reduce chronic disease (hypertension and diabetes) through physical activity. This activity is focused on active transportation (walking, bicycling and riding the bus) as a lasting behavior change that can positively impact health. This pilot project is intended to activate other Omaha neighborhoods and to inspire active transportation.