The city of Madison has a new paratransit provider — based 120 miles away in central Wisconsin. As of Jan. 1, Abby Vans of Neillsville became one of three companies serving city residents under contracts collectively worth about $4.5 million a year.
The city entered new three-year contracts with two local providers — Badger Bus and Transit Solutions — but bypassed a bid from Badger Cab in favor of one from Abby Vans.
“We’ve been doing it a long time,” notes Tom Royston, Badger Cab general manager. His company generally provided between 100 and 150 rides per day under this contract, which Royston calls a “significant” but not essential chunk of business. He does wonder, however, if a Neillsville-based company can provide the same level of service.
Chuck Kamp, general manager of Madison Metro, had the same concern until he contacted other communities that have contracted with Abby Vans. “Apparently, this is a model they’ve used successfully.” He’s pleased with the reaction to Abby Vans he’s gotten so far.
Crystal Martin, Madison Metro’s paratransit program manager, says Abby Vans currently has about 20 drivers on the job in Madison. Some are from the Madison area and some have been brought in from elsewhere until new local drivers can be hired and trained. The drivers take their vehicles home at the end of their shifts.
The city has in the past contracted with a national provider (Laidlaw, later First Transit). Martin hopes people who care about keeping business local will credit Metro for sticking with a Wisconsin firm.