Sup. Marina Dimitrijevic
Press Release

Milwaukee County Board Moves Forward on Free Transit Rides for Seniors and Persons With Disabilities

Adds New Transit Service to Job Centers in Brown Deer and Oak Creek

By - Oct 29th, 2014 11:47 am

Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic today applauded committee passage of a proposal that will allow seniors and persons with disabilities to ride Milwaukee County Transit System buses for free starting April 1. The budget amendment also extends transit service to growing job centers in Oak Creek and Brown Deer.

“GO”, or “Growing Opportunities” passes will allow seniors and persons with disabilities to ride the bus for free.

“The time is now to take the largest transit system in the state to the next level,” Dimitrijevic said. “In 2015, our riders will be using smart cards to travel throughout and outside of Milwaukee County. Our county is growing and we need to grow opportunities to match it. Under our proposal seniors and persons with disabilities will ride for free with the GO pass while we add new services to important job centers.

“The status quo of freezing fares that are some of the highest in the region, while the disconnect to growing job centers remains, simply isn’t good enough,” Dimitrijevic added. “We know that a healthy public transit system fuels Milwaukee County, Wisconsin’s economic engine. I rode the bus to each of the 19 municipalities and heard from riders trying to access jobs and remain independent. Now is the time for action and progress in our county.”

She said that other metro areas, including Chicago; Pittsburgh; Jacksonville, Florida; Pittsburgh; and Providence, RI already offer free bus rides for seniors and low-income people with disabilities. Nino Amato, President of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, wrote: “Public transportation also provides freedom and independence to seniors and people with disabilities, so they can stay connected with family, friends and the community. Moreover, public transit is a local economic development tool for our communities. Seniors and persons with disabilities are major contributors to the local economies in Milwaukee County.”

Supervisor Patricia Jursik cited the importance of transit to all residents of Milwaukee County, and she said the County must constantly work to improve it.

“The new transit service to the south shore will go through the MATC Campus through Howell Avenue and the business park along 6th Street to new development along Drexel Avenue,” Jursik said. “The extension will provide service to new areas of commerce. We need to make sure we are connecting riders to growing job centers across our county.”

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10 thoughts on “Milwaukee County Board Moves Forward on Free Transit Rides for Seniors and Persons With Disabilities”

  1. Jeremy says:

    So the answer to monetary problems with MCTS is to give away its service for free?

  2. Jan Pierce says:

    Not a great way to run a sustainable bus system, but it’s a great way to curry favor with county-wide constituency that always votes.

  3. Gary says:

    “… it’s a great way to curry favor with county-wide constituency that always votes.”

    Exactly. And didn’t an anti-Milwaukee Republican recently refer to transportation funding as “Social Services” spending intended as a death knell?

    (Use free rides to get the white suburban church ladies (back) on the buses — one thing they jump on is “free”.
    They commandeered the front of the bus during my youth and there’s been a whole generation of them missing from mass transit since then (my personal observation). Besides promoting independence for the elderly (and providing relief to their families), getting them back on the bus would also present an opportunity for Millennials to get a lesson in mass transit etiquette.)

  4. Andy says:

    Does the free ride program have anything to do with a county residents ability to pay for the service? Or do you just get a pass for being a senior or disabled? I know plenty of seniors who can afford to ride the bus… why should we pay for their ride?

  5. Kyle says:

    They’re paying by mentoring the youth of America just by being on the bus! If there’s anything Millennials need, it’s to pay to get on a bus so they can be lectured on etiquette by seniors who are getting their ride for free.

  6. Casey says:

    I doubt that giving free rides to the elderly and disabled (like most other developed nations) would greatly affect the operating cost for MCTS or their revenue. Those populations already receive discounted fares which created additional administrative costs. Also if they are not receiving discounted fares directly from MCTS many are already taking advantage of other state programs such as IRIS and Family Care which each have their own admin cost. I doubt additional bus routes would be added so all that would happen is the buses would increase their ridership which you would think would create a more positive perception of transit and get more paying riders on board.
    And the idea of the elderly population imparting some sort of values and wisdom upon us younger ones might be the greatest intangible benefit to society.

  7. Casey says:

    Oh…one more thing….I think we would all do well to encourage many of the elderly drivers out there to makee a seperate choice in transportation, one that in many ways is safer and more cost effective then driving.

  8. Andy says:

    Casey, your answer leads me to believe that you think these will be all new riders to the MCTS. The cost comes in the reduced revenue from people already using the bus. If there’s a need.. that’s one thing. However, can you show me some sort of evidence that there was this great need to provide free rides for people based on their age and abilities and nothing more?

    I’m not familiar with the other services you are referring to. Are you saying we’re duplicating efforts as well?

  9. Casey says:

    Andy, yes that is exactly what I’m saying. There is lots of money being wasted in bureaucratic circular spending. We are already giving many people free rides via subsidized vouchers which are available to financially eligible developmentally disabled, physically disabled and the elderly. This subsidy is funded through the state’s department of human services. It shows up on the books at MCTS as revenue but that revenue is still coming from the state. So really tax payers are just putting money in their left pocket from their right pocket. This also adds another level of administration at both the state level and county. By allowing these target populations to ride for free without needing the extra subsidy the whole process really become more fluid and efficient.
    Will there be new riders? I would believe that this would encourage more to ride who currently don’t want to have to deal with the bureaucracy. Would it be a substantial amount? Probably not.

  10. patti says:

    The seniors that can afford the bus generally are ones that drive. I take the bus and have never seen a senior say- I prefer the bus over driving.

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