Emphasizing Quality

If you’ve been to public forums about city issues, or even if you’ve spent a few minutes on social media, you’ve probably encountered a NIMBY or two.

You’ll know a NIMBY by their singular phrase: “Not In My Backyard!”

These people are also known as the “late majority” or “laggards” in the Diffusion of Innovation theory. Innovation can be scary – but we also know that people are naturally resistant to change. But being fearful of change is not a good reason to avoid improving and evolving our cities.

The key to turning public sentiment around is to reach critical mass, when the rate of adoption becomes self-sustaining and creates further growth. For a streetcar in Omaha, we have a few ideas for NIMBYs to think about.

According to Urbanist Brent Toderian, we should focus on QIMBY: Quality In My Backyard. To build the density needed to support a robust public transportation network, three things have to happen:

  1. The density has to be high quality, in terms of aesthetics and how the elements relate to each other.
  2. Active transportation has to be a priority. “You have to make walking, biking and transit not just available, but delightful,” he said.
  3. Amenities that give communities vibrancy, such as parks, green spaces and cultural facilities, plus a diversity of housing types, like rentals and public housing, have to be emphasized.

There’s no one-size-fits-all, but the key is to be thoughtful and nimble about adding density and do what makes sense for each community.

In Omaha, where we are running out of suburban land in which to expand, our urban core becomes more important. The streetcar can help attract density both in numbers of people and developments.