New west side DMV opens Monday amid civil complaint from city

New west-side DMV opens Monday amid civil complaint from the city

MADISON, Wis. - Madison's new Department of Motor Vehicles office opens today, and it is already the subject of a civil complaint. Earlier this month, the Madison Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation over concerns about the new location, which has seemingly fallen on deaf ears.

People living on Madison's west side used to have two options when it came to renewing their license, getting an ID, or registering to vote. But starting Monday, both the Odana Road and Sheboygan Avenue locations will be consolidated into one on Excelsior Drive.

It's a controversial move the city argues will stop people of color and people with disabilities from using the office.

Mick Rusche, Director of Marketing and Customer Service Manager for Metro Transit, said there are currently two buses that service the new DMV location. Route 15 directly serves the site, but it only runs before 9 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m.

The nearest routinely-running bus stop to the new DMV, Route 73, is one third of a mile away.

"This was avoidable," said Jason Beloungy, assistant director of Access to Independence, a local non-profit that advocates for people of all ages with all types of disabilities in Dane, Columbia, Green, and Dodge counties in south-central Wisconsin. "It should have been addressed what the transit access is and what is the access for people with disabilities, especially people with mobility limitations, whether it's due to physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, weather related, things like that."

"Another issue would be looking at what Metro can do for their general transit line," Beloungy continued. "Is there a way without disrupting the rest of their services or causing undue hardship on the city that they can alter their line slightly in that area to bring access to that stop during those business hours rather than later in the day, outside of normal business hours?"

There are no plans to add another line at this time. Doing so would take a nearly year-long process.

To add just one extra bus, the city would have to approve funding for it. There is no word yet on how much that would cost, but it would not be able to be approved until the budget cycle at the end of the year.

Rusche says additional buses are only added after data proves they are necessary. Since the DMV is just opening, they do not have enough data.

"We're always listening to feedback from our customers," said Rusche. He advised anyone with feedback to call Metro at 608-266-4466.

What is next? Alabama found itself in a similar situation two years ago when the state Department of Transportation announced plans to close or reduce services to 31 driver's license offices throughout the state. After a year-long investigation, Alabama's Department of Civil Rights found the complaint valid and expanded the hours of operation for DMV offices to accommodate people living in the area.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation turned down a request for an interview, but previously told News 3 that consolidating the two DMV centers is a cost-cutting move that has added benefits like free parking close to the building.

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