Equity analysis completed as part of Metro Transit redesign; some remain concerned about proposal

MADISON, Wis. — Members of the public shared their thoughts this week on the results of a federally-mandated equity analysis as part of the larger Metro Transit redesign effort.

Plans are underway for the City of Madison to redesign its bus system by June 2023 as part of the largest change that’s been made to the transportation system in 23 years. The plan is designed to include fewer routes and more service, which means that bus wait times will be shorter while some routes are cut.

The city held a public hearing Wednesday night to hear community input and discuss the results of the plan’s equity analysis.

The analysis studied how often a bus would stop at a person’s neighborhood as well as how accessible bus routes were for minority communities in comparison to the general population.

“We want to make sure that overall, when we look at large populations, people of color are benefiting in equal ways compared to white people and if there are service reductions, that they’re not seeing a disproportionate burden compared to white people,” city transportation planner Michael Cechvala said.

The results of the analysis were mostly positive: 47% of people will be able to travel to more places. Additionally, people of color and low-income groups will benefit just as much or more than the general population.

Another key finding: older people and those with disabilities may benefit less. Due to limited data, Cechvala said that statistic is unclear.

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“We’re also just dealing with a relatively small sample size and census data. So census data doesn’t really tell you the full picture of how people with disabilities will be served,” Cechvala said.

Cechvala said the city is addressing the problem by adding several bus routes and making sure no residents are left out of the paratransit boundary, which offers accessibility features to people who need them.

However, because the study was done by the same consultants who created the plan, people are concerned the study is inadequate.

“You need an independent reviewer who does not have a conflict of interest and could point out the methodological problems and ask for a different kind of analysis,” Susan De Vos, president of Madison Area Bus Advocates, said.

READ MORE: Madison city council pushes through massive changes for Metro Transit system

De Vos also said the virtual-only public hearings put some bus riders at a disadvantage.

“A number of people have taken advantage of the pandemic to make everything virtual and cut out people who need face-to-face interaction to really participate in decision-making,” De Vos said.

To read the full equity analysis, click or tap here. For more information about the redesign effort, click or tap here.