The Bus Stops Here: Madison needs an intercity bus terminal
By Susan DeVos | Thu, 09/27/2012 - 10:38am
You’d think the issue simple: Madison, Wisconsin’s capital and second largest city with more than 235,000 people would have an intercity bus depot. After all, we have some of the finest intercity bus service in the country, and cities less than half our size have, or are planning, intermodal transit terminals.
Until the fall of 2009 Madison did have a depot, located at the corner of South Bedford Street and West Washington Avenue. But it was demolished to make way for a pharmacy and apartments in September 2009. The resulting chaos has been the subject of many news articles and opinion pieces. Waiting at the right place for a bus to go to Chicago or Minneapolis can be an impossible challenge.
One might be surprised by the apparent complacency of various city committees and commissions, as well as divisions of the UW-Madison, to let the former terminal go without concrete plans for a replacement.
One might also be surprised by the apparent inattention to the issue on the part of the city’s transportation planners who were too focused on establishing a downtown intercity rail terminal to have the time or interest to consider the need for an intercity bus terminal.
Finally, one might be surprised by the attitude of public works and transportation agency heads who think to this day that the city functions just fine without a Department of Transportation since those heads meet regularly on their own to hash out various transportation issues. Never mind that such a setup oversaw the loss of a major intercity transportation facility. Never mind that Madison lost its depot when this arrangement was supposedly functioning so well.
Now that both the intercity bus depot and commuter rail projects have been tabled, what originally were to be plans for a rail station have come out as plans for a Judge Doyle intermodal facility downtown for bicycle, pedestrian, and automobiles -- not buses. It is telling that the new Downtown Plan’s section on transportation still discusses an intercity rail terminal and land for a commuter rail station, yet does not even mention our need for an intercity bus terminal. It is telling that the new five-year 2013-2017 Transportation Improvement Program of the Madison Area’s major transportation planning body does not mention an intercity bus terminal either.
It is past time for the City of Madison or Dane County to establish an intercity bus terminal. Since the 1982 passage of a federal Bus Deregulatory Reform Act, most terminals are public, not private. And the federal government provides assistance for terminal development.
Duluth’s plans for a multimodal terminal serve as a good example. Current estimates suggest that it will cost 27.5 million dollars, with over half of that (16 million dollars) coming from a federal appropriation. Another sizable amount (6 million dollars) would come from the State of Minnesota. About a fifth of the cost would be borne by local and private funds (5.5 million dollars).
Syracuse, N.Y.’s terminal cost less than the Duluth estimates (18.8 million dollars) for more buses in a larger city, but it is not designed to be multimodal. The main thing is that the federal government needs to be asked by the City of Madison for financial assistance, and it has yet to be asked.
There is no limit on suggestions for the location of a terminal. The major limitation may be that of imagination. For example, the City Attorney’s office issued an opinion that municipalities had limited standing with which to establish a terminal, a major reason the Common Council was cowed into permitting Badger Bus to convert its land into a pharmacy in 2009.
Tell that to Duluth, Syracuse, or the many other cities that have since established an intercity bus terminal with federal assistance. And the legality of using eminent domain -- why can the Wisconsin Department of Transportation invoke eminent domain to acquire land for the expansion of Verona Road, but somehow the city cannot use it to establish a public transportation terminal?
Let’s get with it!
Meet the Madison Area Bus Advocates in their first column.
- Appalachian Ridge NA
- Glen Oak Hills
- Hill Farms
- Mendota Beach
- Midvale Heights
- Oakwood Village
- Old Middleton Greenway
- Parkwood Hills
- Parkwood Village
- Parkwood West
- Skyview Terrace
- Spring Harbor
- Stonefield Woods-Ridge
- Summit Woods
- University Hill Farms
- Wisconsin Co-op Housing
- Woodland Hills
- Woodlands Hills Condominum
- Wyndemere Condominum