Date of Award

August 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Wilkistar Otieno

Committee Members

Jaejin Jang, Roger O. Smith


Case Study, Fixed Bus Route Service, Paratransit Service, People with Disabilities, Simulation Based


In order to protect the rights of seniors and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), the United States government, through Congress, enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The Act ensures that there is equity for persons with disabilities in all aspects of public services including employment, education, transportation, accommodation, commercial facilities and businesses and communication (Federal Register, 2010). In this study, we focus on the problem of transportation of PWDs, specifically in Milwaukee County in Southeast Wisconsin. The study was initiated as a collaborative effort between UWM’s Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering team, UWM’s Director of the Rehabilitation Research Design & Disability (R2D2) Center, Milwaukee County Office of Persons with Disabilities team and the MCTS-Paratransit Department Team. MCTS wanted to explore effect that increased ADA bus ridership would have on the paratransit system performance such as bus utilization by PWDs, PWD average waiting time as well as the average time in system. Since the MCTS network is large, the team determined to pilot the study on the most used routes by PWDs in Milwaukee County that serve the two most visited destinations, namely, the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino and Milwaukee Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

We formulated three study objectives to achieve this broad goal. First, we sought to understand the current status of ridership for R14 which serves the Casino, and R23 and RBlue both of which serve the V.A. Medical Center. We used both observational data to determine destination accessibility. In this study, destination accessibility is defined as the ease with which PWDs can access the location from the bus stop. Therefore, we made travel observations to both destinations in the winter, thereby considering the worst case scenario in the winter season. In addition, ridership by bus was compared to the ADA paratransit system, which is offered through MCTS’s Transit Plus Program.

Observations results indicated that while the V.A. medical center was accessible, the Casino was not accessible to PWDs. Lack of accessibility was determined to be predominantly due to poor bus stop design as well as the distance from the bus stop to the Casino entrance. In addition, ridership results indicated that paratransit ridership outweigh ADA ridership on the fixed bus route service by a ratio of 3 to 1. Ridership to the V.A. on the fixed bus route system is twice the bus ridership to the Casino. Though the reasons to access these two destinations are distinctively different—medical care versus entertainment, we observed that the unfriendly environment in the Casino bus stop might the largest contributor to the low ridership on route R14. The study results also found that while fixed bus route ridership significantly changes by seasons, this effect was not significant for ridership on the ADA paratransit service.

The second objective sought to simulate the current fixed bus ADA usage. This was done to create a baseline on which potential changes to the system could be incorporated and their effects determined. In the third objective we make a potential alteration to the system, where a few potential riders who use the ADA paratransit through Transit Plus are switched to use the fixed bus route. In this study, PWDs who use the ADA paratransit are deemed potential for fixed bus route if they geographically reside less than 0.5 miles away from the route bus stop.

Therefore, two simulation models, I and II were developed and implemented. The first model simulated the current annual ridership of R14 to the casino. Due to study time constraints, only ridership to the Casino was simulated. The results of Model I indicated that the annual average ridership was about 7 per day. The 95% confidence interval of the passenger waiting time was [10.22, 13.09] minutes, which was evidently in the summer. Winter average waiting time confidence interval turned out to be [8.96, 12.96]. On the other hand, since all buses can only accommodate at most two PWDs on wheel chair or scooter, we were interested to know if this constraint increased the waiting time for PWDs using these mobility devices. The results showed that the 95% confidence interval of the average waiting time for PWDs using wheel chairs was at most (summer) [10.58, 13.22].

Simulation model II, an extension of model I incorporated potential PDW riders who currently use ADA paratransit into the fixed bus route in model I. The simulation process involved a combination of three software—Batch Geo, ArcGIS as well as ProModel. The results indicated very little effect of additional riders on the waiting time. For instance, the 95% confidence interval of the average waiting time for non-wheelchair users was [9.88, 14.15] minutes, while the interval waiting time for wheelchair riders was [9.44, 13.20]. In the other hand, the 95% confidence interval for the average time in system for all passengers (with or without a wheel chair) was estimated as 29.87 to 38.34 minutes. Finally, the bus utilization by PWDs in this study was measured as the percentage of the number of bus runs in the simulation carrying at least one PWD to the total bus runs. The average utilization was found to be 6.5%. This percentage is an indicator of that MCST has potential to increase fixed bus route ridership by persons with disabilities, especially if challenging issues such as low bus frequency, less geographical coverage of the bus network (to cover areas where most Casino ADA visitors reside), public transport awareness, bus driver training and most of all, increased accessibility of the Casino destination.