Shopping Centers Make Access Difficult for Disabled
Area malls are moving bus stops out of malls and making access for bus passengers more difficult.
The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is getting pressure from representatives of two shopping malls to move Milwaukee County bus stops away from mall shops to a far more distant location on the street. Three other shopping malls have already made such changes. Disability advocates spoke at the County Board’s Transportation Public Works and Transit Committee meeting today and are outraged at the actions of Simon Property Group Inc., the managers of Southridge Mall. Several speakers suggested the mall had obligations to the community because of property tax deductions it received that have provided assistance for redeveloping the mall. The committee voted unanimously to seek legal advice regarding changes made at Southridge Mall.
Simon Malls, the management company for Southridge, has successfully forced MCTS to leave the mall entirely. The map shows the location of the new bus stop relative to the mall. The lights at that stop are turned off in the evening.
These distant bus stops require that a wheelchair user roll through a sea of parked and moving cars. A visually impaired person might be disoriented because parking lots do not have the visual cues that help a guide dog interpret instructions. A red and white cane in a sea of cars is problematic. The cane user interprets touchstones, curbs, and the sounds of traffic on predictable routes. Painting a yellow path is no help to the visually impaired. In a parking lot the sound of a moving car gives no specific directional information. Worse still, upon leaving the mall, the visually impaired person is required to sift through conflicting sound clues to plot a direction to the bus stop.
MCTS has been negotiating with a company called Developers Diversified Realty, which manages several shopping malls in the metro area. Two mall managers have told MCTS that its buses are using private property for these bus stops. MCTS states in correspondence with Developers Diversified Realty that it is willing to work with management to find a way to accommodate the bus, but mall managers have not been willing to negotiate technical adjustments, such as hardening the bus path or locating an MCTS-built shelter reasonably closer to a mall entrance. So MCTS is making the best of the situation and has re-located the Southridge bus stop, requiring a 1,000 foot walk through the parking lot.
In the case of the Brown Deer Shopping Center at Brown Deer Rd. and Green Bay Rd, Diversified Realty required MCTS to move the bus stop from the Brown Deer Park and Ride lot on Green Bay and Brown Deer. While this stop was along the sidewalk, two to three blocks away from any entrance to a business, Diversified Realty nonetheless directed that the stop be moved to a more distant location. The map shows the former location of the bus stop (left center on the map). Bus number 49U now ends at the Brown Deer Park and Ride lot, four miles away from the shopping center, making access extraordinarily difficult.
At the West Allis Center at National Ave. and Highway 100 (108th St.), mall managers required MCTS managers to relocate the bus stop to a point further east of the mall, requiring a rider approaching or leaving the mall to cross both Highway 100 and National Avenue – two very busy thoroughfares.
The only positive outcome so far has been at the Shoppers World mall in Brookfield (at 124th St. and Capitol Dr.). There, Diversified Realty had the successfully pushed the bus stop out of the mall and on to the highway, forcing MCTS to move the bus shelters. But Roundys, next door to the mall, invited MCTS to locate a stop near its Pick N Save store’s front door. Observers applaud Jim Glynn of Sunset Investment Company who supported the move by Pick N Save. Ironically, Shopper’s World stores will benefit from Pick N Save’s solution because the earlier solution would have dropped shoppers and workers several long blocks away from the mall, on a strip of grass with no sidewalks.
On October 24, during a “Senior Day” at the Southridge Mall, disability and transit activists will hold a press conference. This event is being coordinated by the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Milwaukee County, and is sponsored by such groups as Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Commission on Aging and the Transit Services Advisory Committee. After the press conference, wheelchair users plan to roll to the mall on the Simon-designated path through the parking lot.