WisDOT program aims to improve transportation accessibility

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Forty percent of the people who live in the city of La Crosse don’t drive. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation posted a map that shows non-driver hotspots in an effort to help non-drivers statewide.

For Denise Jess, who is legally blind, planning each trip takes time.

“Transportation is … kind of the central point of so many parts of our lives. You know, getting to work, getting to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, hanging out with people in the community, volunteering in the community,” Jess said. “When you’re a non-driver, you’re always using energy to figure out: ‘How do I manage the “what if” situations?’”

She’s not alone.

“Transportation has been the number one challenge for people with disabilities, at least, for decades,” said Tami Jackson, who works for the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities.

This WisDOT effort hopes to level the playing field.

“There are so many Wisconsinites out there who don’t drive … and I don’t think we’ve done enough in the past in terms of transportation planning to take them into account,” said Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson.

The map, which is available on the DOT website, is based on DMV and census data.

“We can provide a GIS mapping tool that shows how many non-drivers are in each given area,” Thompson said.

Jackson, who also serves on the non-driver advisory committee along with Jess, helped formulate that plan.

“I think if we’re going to be able to design a society that works for everybody, everybody should be able to participate,” Jackson said.

Transportation leaders hope this data will help inform local government and improve statewide transportation programs going forward.

“It’s making those of us who don’t drive visible, and we’re often completely invisible,” Jess said.

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