Facing a loss of $3.9 million in federal funds, Madison Metro Transit plans to implement changes to its paratransit service in 2018 that could include increasing fares, affecting about 3,700 riders.

In the past, this federal funding has been passed from Dane County to go toward Metro’s $9.4 million budget for paratransit services, which have exceeded Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

However, the state is preparing for the implementation of Family Care in Dane County, a Medicaid long-term care program for seniors and adults with physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities. This means that Managed Care Organizations will be directly administering funds, including for transportation, for members of the program.

“Metro has over a 20-year history with Dane County of really providing high quality paratransit services,” Metro Transit General Manager Chuck Kamp said. “Family Care simply changes the mix of how it’s going to be provided.”

Of the total 279,226 paratransit rides in 2016, Metro drivers provided about 20 percent, or 54,471 rides. Contractors with Metro provided the remaining 80 percent, or 224,755 rides. Metro Transit has 3,704 eligible paratransit riders. 

An ad hoc committee tasked with examining the impacts of the funding shift for the past year formulated four proposed changes in Metro’s paratransit service:

  • Increasing fares for all paratransit rides to $4 per trip, up from $3.25
  • Eliminating paratransit convenience tickets, except for agency contracted rides, and accepting cash fares only
  • Transition to curb-to-curb service only instead of door-to-door service. Door-to-door service becomes available only as necessary due to a disability. Each rider will be evaluated to make this determination.
  • Eliminating “leave attended” ride options, which is when an attendant meets the rider

“This is one of our most challenging things we have had to do,” Kamp said of the changes. 

Mayor Paul Soglin included the recommendations in his proposed operating budget for 2018. Metro Transit and the city’s Transit and Parking Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday at the Madison Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., in room 302 at 6 p.m. to discuss the options. 

The commission will not be voting on the changes Wednesday.

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Metro Transit is also receiving fewer federal dollars in other areas, down to 50 percent of its budget instead of 80 percent. To make up for the difference, Metro requires an additional $27 million in city funding to meets its capital needs.

“The city of Madison transit capital funding from the federal government has been decreasing to the point that it has reached a crisis situation,” Kamp said.

Metro’s bus garage on East Washington Avenue is over 35-years-old and does not provide enough space. Buses need to be replaced, and Metro’s 17 paratransit vans are reaching the end of their useful life, Kamp said. He said Metro is prioritizing its most urgent needs, which are new buses and the garage.

“It’s unacceptable not to be able to replace our basic capital assets,” Kamp said.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.