MADISON, Wis. - Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is aiming to save an isolated southeast side neighborhood by giving people a way out.
Soglin's budget calls for extending a Metro bus route into the Owl Creek community, which he would pay for with a 25 cent adult bus fare increase.
The proposal could be one of the most contentious as the city council debates the budget this month, as bus rider advocates push back against the fare increase. Residents in the neighborhood, which sits north of Sigglekow Road and east of Stoughton Road/U.S. 51, have said without a bus route, they can't get to work or school.
"We're really in the middle of nowhere," said Uniqua Greer, a recent high school graduate.
Greer said she wants to attend Madison Area Technical College to pursue a child psychology degree, but her mother uses the family's only vehicle to get to work.
"Anywhere you go from here, it's going to take 30 minutes to an hour," she said. "I work in Mcfarland, and I walk there. It takes a while, and now that it's getting cold, who wants to walk?"
To pay for the route, adult cash fares would increase to $2.25 from $2. Disabled senior monthly passes would go up nearly 50 percent, and all other rates would increase, too.
The City Transit and Parking Commission gave approval Wednesday to hold a public hearing on the proposed Madison Metro bus fare increase. The rising fared are also due to Soglin's 5 percent tax reduction, and would affect adult cash fares, adult 31 day passes and senior/disabled 31 day passes.
Gary Poulson, Transit and Parking Commission chair, said that the Metro has tried to find 5 percent to cut from their budget and is also trying to add services to areas like Owl Creek.
Metro has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed fares for 6 p.m. on Nov. 7 in the City Council chambers. For information, visit cityofmadison.com/metro/publichearing/index.cfm.
Owl Creek isn't even a decade old, yet some community leaders now say it never should have been built.
The community is only three streets long, and low-income apartments and duplexes line each road. Many lots remain empty, and an entry point from the north is still a dirt road.
The city should have never approved a low-income neighborhood so far removed from city services, work and school, said Susan De Vos, president of the Madison Area Bus Advocates.
De Vos agrees that they need public transportation, yet does not think "the way (the city's) paying for it is the right way," she said.Proposed bus fair increase would benefit troubled neighborhood
Soglin's plan to help low-income people will hurt others who rely on the bus in other parts of the city, De Vos said.
"They just can't keep dealing with the increases everywhere they turn, they just can't," she said.
Jill Aruguete, a nurse at La Follette High School, which the Owl Creek kids attend, said many weren't getting involved in after-school activities. Some weren't showing up to school at all, because if they miss the morning bus, they don't have a ride, she said.
"I think (the proposed route) will help make our kids more successful," she said.
She gathered a group of about 30 Owl Creek students together last fall, and all of them named transportation as the key issue in their neighborhood.
They began collecting signatures, and the petition they delivered to city leaders was part of the reason the new bus route is in the budget, Aruguete said.
"We had a meeting with the students (Tuesday) and told them it was in the budget, and there was applause," she said. "They were pretty happy."
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