Greendale — Judy Troestler wanted to experience the new Southridge Mall bus stop for herself.
Troestler, 70, suffers from macular degeneration and other physical ailments. She also serves on the Milwaukee County Aging and Disability Resource Center Governing Board.
Bundled up in winter clothes and clutching a cane in each hand, Troestler trudged the 1,000-foot pathway toward the Sears entrance. Her journey took more than 20 minutes.
"I didn't imagine the walk was that long," said Troestler, noting the slight incline closer to the building. "If I had to walk that every time, I would find another place to shop at. I wouldn't shop here."
Troestler was just one of many local officials and people with disabilities who, on Dec. 11, demonstrated the risks associated with Southridge Mall's decision to remove its bus stop near the Sears entrance.
The bus stop was relocated to the edge of the mall's property on Nov. 1 due to safety concerns, according to The Simon Property Group, which owns Southridge.
On the B.U.S.S.
Prior to arriving at the mall, protesters held a press conference at the Kelly Senior Center in Cudahy to announce the formation of a Bus User Safety at Southridge Committee.
The committee, formed by County Supervisor Patricia Jursik, includes representatives from ADRC, the Department on Aging, the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998.
"The Milwaukee County Commission on Aging is strongly opposed to the action that the Southridge Mall has taken," Chairwoman Vi Hawkins said. "The people that would be more affected about the (new bus stop) are the elderly or people with disability.
"... Just because we are elderly or people with disability, there is no reason we should be treated as second-class citizens."
B.U.S.S. representatives argued the pathway's proximity to parking lot traffic poses numerous dangers. Members also expressed concerns about the pathway itself, a yellow-striped crosswalk mockingly referred to as the "Yellow Brick Road," and its maintenance during stormy conditions.
"In fresh snowfall, this would be hell," said John Haupt, a County Commission for Persons with Disabilities board member, as he wheeled himself up the incline toward Sears. "I'd rather travel half a mile on a straight, paved road than try to get up this 1,000 feet to the mall."
Once inside, Jursik delivered a petition to Southridge General Manager Mary Mokwa that requested the bus stop be returned to its previous location near Sears. The petition was signed by most of the County Board of Supervisors.
As Jursik and Mokwa conversed privately, the group of B.U.S.S. supporters was directed by mall security to wait in the Sears entrance.
Not giving up
The dialogue between Jursik and Mokwa did not produce any immediate changes.
And in a prepared statement days later, the mall defended its decision to change the bus stop for safety reasons.
"The bus stop relocation has been in effect for more than a month now thanks to the cooperation of the Milwaukee County Transit System," Mokwa said in the statement. "We remain committed to everyone's safety at Southridge Mall, and this change has improved pedestrian safety and traffic flow for all visitors. The Milwaukee County Transit System Transit Plus service continues to pick up and drop off passengers at every mall entrance."
But B.U.S.S. supporters aren't driving off any time soon, Jursik said.
"I'm not naïve to think this will be easy," she said at the conference. "(Simon) has done this in other cities, but other cities are not in Milwaukee County.
"We are not going to go away."
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