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Richard & Tim

Bus ridership advocate Richard Schmeling (right) told the Lincoln Executive Club that StarTran bus ridership is up markedly since improvements have been made. Exec Club program chair Tim Brusnahan (left) introduced the club's guest speaker and summarized his remarks for the Neighborhood Extra.

Sometimes having a car becomes an assumed means of transportation across Lincoln. What happens when that means of transportation is taken away, or is not attainable? An easy answer is public transportation.

The StarTran bus system is considered the only mass transit carrier in the City of Lincoln and is fully owned and operated by the City. It is a municipal service through the administration of the Lincoln Public Works and Utilities Department.

Richard Schmeling endured the loss of his car transportation several years ago and began utilizing the StarTran system. He has become a “dogged” supporter and a common user of the city’s bus system. The retired attorney and busing watchdog took time recently to sing the praises and advances of the StarTran system to Lincoln Executive Club members at their weekly luncheon at The Nebraska Club.

How CFIT came to be

Schmeling pointed out that the city hired consultants in 2015 to study the busing system. He said the Nelson Nygaard Transportation Research Consultants noticed the system had not changed dating back to 2008. In turn, they came up with a Transportation Development Plan that would outline steps to be taken over the next four years, beginning in 2016.

And, thus was born the Citizens For Improved Transit (CFIT) Program and Advisory Board, of which Schmeling is a board member.

“The city made a $1.2 million investment in the busing system in November of 2016,” said Schmeling. “Their emphasis was taking buses off of residential streets and putting them on arterial roads to speed up the transit times. They also wanted to change the designated bus stops to every four blocks as opposed to the practice of ‘waving’ down the buses.”

What have the changes meant to StarTran traffic?

“By August 2017 there was an 11% increase in riders over the previous year,” said Schmeling. The StarTran and CFIT Passenger Bill of Rights includes:

- Safe, reliable, environmentally-sustainable and affordable transit that is accessible to all.

- Living wages, benefits, safe working conditions and union rights for transit workers.

- Dedicated and sustainable funding for public transit.

- Equitable distribution of transit costs with corporations paying their fair share.

- Transit that meets the needs of each neighborhood with no neighborhoods left out.

Beatrice Six attorney

As an attorney, Schmeling represented one of the Beatrice Six defendants in James Dean. This case gained national attention as the six defendants were falsely found guilty in the 1985 rape and murder case of a Beatrice woman. But, the defendants served prison time and were not exonerated until 2009 by forensic evidence. The defendants have been engaged in a lawsuit with Gage County, Nebraska.

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