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Madison Metro provides emergency transportation through brutal cold

MADISON (WKOW) — As temperatures warmed up Thursday afternoon, businesses began to open, UW-Madison was back in session and schools prepared for class Friday morning. More and more people hit the roads in Madison joining the Metro buses that lasted all week long.

Many people like Caitlin Brenner were returning to work for the first time Thursday afternoon.

“This is the first time I’ve left my house in the last 48 hours,” she said.

Though for Brenner, that return to normalcy came with a rough start.

“My car battery died,” she said. “It wouldn’t even turn over.”

That’s how Brenner said she found herself riding the Metro for most of the afternoon and she was far from alone.

Seven thousand passengers hopped on Wednesday during the record cold wind chills, while Thursday saw twice as many board. That included Metro General Manager Chuck Kamp.

“I went into the maintenance department yesterday when it was 25 below when I got off the bus and I thanked them that I had a bus that worked that was warm,” he said.

Kamp said the city debated whether it would be worth it to keep the service open, especially while they were encouraging people to stay home.

“We don’t have a lot of track experience with this like we do when it’s 10 below,” he said.

Ultimately, he said the decision came down to serving those who needed to venture out. Kamp said they provided free rides Wednesday and Thursday as an emergency service and also provided warming shelters at fires and other emergencies.

While buses were nowhere near their typical 50,000 ride service rate, he said it was clear from those who did need a ride, their service made an impact.

“When you have somebody that says ‘thank you.’ When you have somebody that gets on the warming bus at the shelter and says ‘thank you.’ When you have somebody that was at the fire in Brooklyn and says “Thank you, we didn’t know that you came out to Brooklyn, Wisconsin,'” Kamp said.

Service returns to its standard schedule Friday morning with drivers taking their normal routes and collecting fares. Still Kamp said this unprecedented event has given them a blueprint for future emergencies.

“Metro is an essential service and unless we’re ordered not to, we’re going to try to run,” he said.


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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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