Disabled, elderly residents concerned by Metro Transit Redesign draft

The City of Madison is in the third and final stage of a public transit overhaul.
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The City of Madison is in the third and final stage of a public transit overhaul. A proposed draft includes a new set of bus routes. A network, the city says, will be more frequent and direct for those who use it most. But some Madison residents are not convinced the change is for the better.

Under the proposal, the new metro routes would still serve the same neighborhoods they do now. But eliminating some current routes will require bus riders to walk farther to the new stops. This is a real concern for the elderly and disabled community on the north side.

Residents say the Dryden Terrace apartments are not only accessible and affordable for the elderly and disabled, they are conveniently located: the Metro Route 17 bus stop is just a few steps from their front door. One resident says she moved in because of the location to the bus stop. Many who live there depend on the bus as their only source of transportation.

Kim Owens doesn’t have a drivers license because of her disability. She relies on the bus to get around.

“I visit friends, go shopping. I go to doctors appointments,” she said. “I have many doctors for my disability that I go to.”

But under the city’s transit redesign, Route 17 and others like it will be cut and consolidated with routes that run more often. The nearest stop for the Dryden Terrace residents would be several hundred feet down a sloped road.

“These streets are dangerous,” said Verna Batchelor, a resident there who uses an electric scooter to get around. “We’ve had people hit. I get hung up on the ice crossing the roads.”

“It’s supposed to be public transportation,” said one resident named Jane. “It should be for everybody.”

The stop at the Pick N’ Save nearby will also be eliminated. It’s one of the only affordable grocery stores on the north side, residents say.

Beth Sluys collected over 300 signatures between grocery store employees and customers in an effort to prevent the change.

“It limits food access and job access for the community,” said Sluys. “It just seemed like an injustice to me. Why would you cut the stop to the only grocery store on the north side?”

The city plans are still fluid. They are hearing public comment and concern through meetings and surveys.

“We are listening and trying to find how those people are affected and possibly making adjustments to the plan to accommodate their needs,” said Mike Cechvala, Transportation Planner for the city.

He says in moving away from a coverage-oriented system to a ridership-oriented one, convenient stops for some people may be sacrificed for a faster network for everyone.

“It’s not possible to have more frequent service and also the same number of routes in the same amount of coverage without significant increase in funding,” Cechvala said.

The final draft amendments will be presented to the city council this summer for approval. The system will be implemented in summer 2023.

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