Op-Ed

Shopping Centers Make Access Difficult for Disabled

Area malls are moving bus stops out of malls and making access for bus passengers more difficult.

By - Oct 23rd, 2013 05:41 pm
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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.

Click map to enlarge

Click map to enlarge

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.

Click map to enlarge

Click map to enlarge

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.

Click map to enlarge

Click map to enlarge

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.

Categories: Op-Ed

4 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Shopping Centers Make Access Difficult for Disabled”

  1. Interested says:

    Two things from this:

    1. If the county were willing to set up bus rapid transit systems connecting to the malls, they would probably sing another tune. No, not BRT instead of rail, but BRT to compliment our coming rails system.

    2. Google Beavercreek mall and bus stops. You will see trying to eliminate bus stops can be a very sticky situation and people who are upset about this change should weigh their legal options.

  2. Kyle says:

    I also have two things from this, though they’re vastly different compared to the first two:

    1. The 49U route is a UWM commuter route. The hours for that bus do not make them convenient for shopping. All moving that stop does is inconvenience students and make them park somewhere else for free. You failed to mention that the 12 route still rolls right down Green Bay Road, and it runs on weekends (49U does not).

    2. I particularly enjoyed your efforts to confuse the reader on your last point. Pointing out that the mall is on 124th and Capitol, then immediately saying the bus stop was forced to the highway gives the false impression that people were forced to walk down from 41/45. At least mention the highway number of Capitol drive at some point in the story if you’re going to refer to it as “the highway”. You specifically did that with the previous point about Highway 100, so I have to assume this omission was intentional.

  3. Tom D says:

    Anybody interested in this issue should google “Cynthia Wiggins Walden Galleria” and/or read an article titled “Can’t Get There from Here” by Edward Barnes in the February 19, 1996, issue of Time Magazine.

    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,984137,00.html

    Because a Buffalo-area shopping mall, the Walden Galleria, prohibited bus stops on its property, the nearest bus stop was across the street–a 7-lane highway. On December 14, 1995, Cynthia Wiggins, a black 17-year old mall employee was crushed by a dump truck as she walked from the bus stop to the mall. She died 19 days later.

    The ensuing civil trial was very high profile. Wiggins’ family sued the shopping mall, the transit system, and the truck driver. The shopping mall was represented by the same Washington law firm that defended Bill Clinton against impeachment, and the family was represented by Johnnie Cochran, fresh from the O.J. Simpson trial.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-11/15/002r-111599-idx.html

    The shopping center ended up paying $2 million, the transit system $300,000, and the truck driver $250,000. The shopping center also agreed to a bus stop on its property.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/18/nyregion/suit-accusing-shopping-mall-of-racism-over-bus-policy-settled.html

  4. St. Louis Example says:

    A disabled person(s) should look into filing a local/state discrimination claim, resulting in mall owners having to connect to transit stops. See http://www.urbanreviewstl.com/2013/09/st-louis-galleria-to-improve-pedestrian-access-adding-ada-access-routes-from-public-transit-stops/

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