Disability advocates worried over proposed changes to Madison pa - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Disability advocates worried over proposed changes to Madison paratransit services

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Advocates for people with disabilities are worried about proposed changes for bus service being considered Wednesday evening. 

Madison Metro is proposing two changes to paratransit rides. One would eliminate a "leave attended service", where drivers are attendants, making sure someone is there to receive a rider before dropping them off. The other plan moves from paper ride tickets to cash only. 

People with disabilities tell us it puts the city's vulnerable population at risk.

"For some people, that can be an issue," said Abigail Tessmann, a member of Disability Pride Madison. "There will not be aides on the paratransit buses."

Tessmann used paratransit while she was a student at Edgewood College and now rides the Metro buses regularly. She says it comes with challenges and she hopes city officials will see how much people with disabilities rely on existing services. 

Madison Metro marketing and customer service manager Mick Rusch tells 27 News the changes will not leave people stranded. 

'We would not leave anybody in harms way. We would work with agencies to make sure someone was available and if the situation warranted, where there wasn't anyone available, we would not just leave this person out there in the cold," Rusch said.

The changes come in response to losing nearly $4 million in federal funding previously received through Dane County, as the county implements Family Care services. The funding is now being distributed through Managed Care Organizations, which uses the money for a number of different services for the community, according to Rusch. Meanwhile, the city of Madison has committed additional funding to paratransit service in 2018.

A proposal last fall called for four main areas to address funding shortages, including a transition from door-to-door paratransit service to curb-to-curb and increasing fares to $4.00. Those items were removed from the measure and will be revisited in 2019. 

Advocates say what's on the table will make it difficult for people with disabilities to get community jobs or go to church. Rusch says Metro officials understand the concerns and promise to work with riders and agencies to make sure they can transition to new transportation options. If you need help right now, you should contact the Aging and Disability Resource Center at (608) 240-7400. You can also contact Metro at (608) 266-4466.

The city's Transit and Parking Commission will consider the two proposals at a meeting Wednesday night. It starts at 5 p.m. at the City County Building.

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