Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vulture Capitalism Versus The Transit Rider

Last month, an Ohio-based company called Developers Diversified Realty told the Milwaukee Transit County System that they had to move three bus stops which were located in the parking lots of property they own.  The reason for this sudden demand was made obvious in the reporting of the news (emphasis mine):
Milwaukee County last month reluctantly removed bus stops from three large area shopping centers at the request of the property manager.

That manager, Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty, asked that the bus stops be removed and argued buses damage roadways and interfere with the commercial development of the areas, according to a report to the Milwaukee County Board. The request pertained to the Shoppers World of Brookfield on West Capitol Drive, West Allis Center on Highway 100 and Marketplace of Brown Deer on North Green Bay Road.*

Milwaukee County Transit System officials responded to questions about the routes with a printed statement.

“We are disappointed that we had to re-route buses at these locations, causing inconvenience to our customers, especially those with limited mobility,” the statement said. “Over the years, as shopping centers renovate, we have worked diligently to maintain public transit access. Being asked to totally vacate a property is rare, especially at locations where there are hundreds of riders per day benefiting from the service.”
The article goes on to say that MCTS has found a solution at one site due to the cooperation of a Pick'N'Save store allowing the buses to park along the side of their building. They've moved the other two sites to temporary sites while they try to find something more workable.

I am familiar with the West Allis Center.  It is a large strip mall that holds a Dollar Store, Marshall's, Pick'N'Save, Kohl's and a Menard's store.  Along the sidewalk is a BMO Harris Bank; a UW Credit Union which they had just built on the spot where a Blockbusters store stood; a Walgreens pharmacy; and a Panda Express, which had also been built in the last year or two.  They often have a Christmas tree stand there during the holidays as well.

It's fairly obvious that the realtors are looking to maximize their income and profits by kissing the public good good-bye and developing the remaining open spots, including where the buses would lay over.

The problem lies that by moving these bus stops, it's preventing people that are dependent on mass transit from having easy access to the stores in the area.  This not only hurts the people that use the buses, but the businesses that these people would patronize.  And if business drops off, that means even more people will have to take pay cuts and/or lose their jobs.

At least one Milwaukee County elected official, Supervisor Michael Mayo, isn't sitting around.  He issued a press release on Wednesday, condemning these moves:
“Re-routing those buses away from these commercial strips is not only a big inconvenience for all riders, it represents a severe disadvantage for elderly and disabled riders,” Mayo said. “Those with limited mobility will now be forced to travel further to get to their destinations.

“Moving bus routes by even two-tenths of a mile may not seem like much to an able-bodied person, but to a disabled or elderly person it represents a significant handicap.”

Mayo questioned why the manager of the shopping centers, Developers Diversified Realty, removed the stops, saying that it appeared to be a maneuver to keep some people away.

“Those routes carry hundreds of people every day,” Mayo said. “Why would they want to remove those stops when people use them to shop at their stores?”

Mayo praised commercial property owners who work with MTS to make their stores readily accessible to all members of the public.

“Most commercial property owners realize that having a bus route leading to their establishment is a significant advantage for their business,” he said. “I applaud them for knowing that transit is key to our economy, and all customers should have access to their establishments.”
It should be noted that Milwaukee County Emperor had nothing to say about this. Then again, it shouldn't be surprising. He's already shown he doesn't really give a darn about the transit system or who might be harmed if the system isn't being operated correctly.

*It should be noted that I have heard reports that the owner of Southridge Mall is also forcing the bus stops off their property.

1 comment:

  1. Here are a couple of links to stories about Southridge mall, and what the owners of that property were trying to do, early last year.

    The first is an opinion piece from Peggy Schulz.

    NOTE: If the Milwaukee County Transit System were the Underground Railroad, she would be Harriet Tubman.