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ACLU, residents urge City of Madison to reconsider newly-proposed bus plan that could cut off some communities

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Residents Oppose Newly-proposed Bus plan

MADISON (WKOW) -- Residents on Madison's north and south sides are calling on Metro Transit officials to reconsider their newly-proposed bus plan, which could isolate some low-income and disabled communities if passed. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is now joining the fight. 

Northside resident Kim Owens originally contacted the ACLU after she realized her bus route would disappear under the new plan. 

"I depend on the buses for everything," Owens said. "I literally don't have a choice."

Owens has a serious seizure disorder which prevents her from driving. She lives in an apartment building that serves elderly, disabled residents. 

Under the city's newly-proposed plan, the bus stop which sits outside of their building would disappear, forcing residents to go about a quarter mile further down a hill. 

"It is a necessary resource that we cannot live our lives the same way without," Owens said. 

According to the new bus plan, the number of people in low-income communities with any all-day service within a quarter mile is dropping from 91% to 85%, because many routes are being cut to increase other routes' efficiency.

This week, the ACLU responded to Owens' complaint, saying: 

"We urge you to conduct an improved service equity analysis to ensure that the redesign will not benefit white riders disproportionately more than riders of color."

A spokesperson from Metro Transit responded to the letter:

"We let the ACLU know that, yes, we are planning a full Title VI service equity analysis for the transit network redesign plan once we get closer to a final route recommendation. We are in the next steps of putting that together by presenting our survey results to our oversight body the Transportation Policy and Planning Commission and holding an official public hearing on Tuesday, May 31."

Metro Design Project Manager Mike Cechvala says cutting back on the routes allows for more frequent service, but says the city is open to changes. 

"We would like to move in the direction of fewer routes and more frequent service," Cechvala said. "But that doesn't mean that we can't make changes to the plan to make sure everybody who needs the service can have access to it."

Cechvala says a final draft for the transit redesign will hopefully be available by the end of the month, although he admits that some "people will just have to walk a little bit farther to the service."

He argues that those people likely live in areas that are not as heavily reliant on the bus system. 

Madison officials are still asking for public input on the redesign and are holding two public meetings this month.

The first is on May 19 at 6 p.m. at the Madison Municipal Building in room 215. There will also be a virtual option. 

The second is on May 31 at 6 p.m. and will be virtual. You can find details here.

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