The Bus Stops Here: Where the candidates stand on transit issues

--The Bus Stops here is produced monthly by members of the Madison Area Bus Advocates

Madison has a mayoral election every four years and an alder election every two.  Election Day is April 7, 2015.  Current Mayor Paul Soglin is running against Alder Scott Resinck. Six of the 20 alder districts have contested races.  Hardly exhaustive, the following is a brief recount of what I pieced together from newspaper articles, information on web sites, and occasional email communications with candidates regarding candidate thoughts and actions about transit. 

MABA does not endorse as we are a 501(c)(3) organization.

Mayoral Candidates

A video clip on what the two mayoral candidates thought about transit during a debate can be seen here. Soglin briefly explains Bus Rapid Transit, and that it should be overseen by a Regional Transport Authority governed by elected officials. Resnick emphasizes the importance of Metro’s “real time” information, a smartphone app feature often credited for Metro’s increased ridership

While it was heartening that the topic of our bus system was discussed, the video was also alarming because both Resnick and Soglin talked about the systematic winnowing of existing bus stops as if it was already decided and was the right thing to do.  It has not been decided, and is the wrong thing to do.  We want a rapid, streamlined system, but in addition to the existing local system, not instead of it.

To probe more deeply, MABA developed five basic transit-related questions related to regional TRANSPORTATION authorities, the re-establishment of an intercity multimodal terminal, Transit Oriented Development policies (policies that reduce automobile travel, parking and road expansions), Transportation Demand Management policies (policies favoring sustainable travel modes such as public transit, bicycles and walking), and a Bus Rapid Transit system that is not developed at the expense of our current local bus system (a major problem with the rail-focused Transport 2020 plan).  Those questions and Resnick and Soglin answers can be seen here

We can only highlight a few of those thoughtful answers here so people may want to read the answers in their entirety.  For instance, regarding the first question Soglin answers in part “Our transit future depends upon our ability to create an RTA...” and acknowledges that the city needs State to make that possible if it will be able to use sales tax revenue.  Resnick emphasizes the need for cooperation between Madison and such neighbors as Sun Prairie, Middleton and Fitchburg to form “services agreements.”

Regarding terminal location, Soglin is confident that a location will be found although doing so will be challenging.  Resnick reiterates that any terminal will need to be accessible to rail travel in addition to bus travel, even if a proposed rail station was recently put on hold.

Both candidates gave concrete examples for Transit Oriented Development and, to my immense pleasure, tied human-scaled settlement to reduced focus on car parking. For instance, Soglin replied “Rebuilding roads like Cottage Grove with a feel of Monroe or Willy Streets, not a street where parking is the centerpiece” while Resnick replied in part “I have spearheaded building with little or no parking as a first step to meet these ends over objections from the plan commission.”

Regarding TDM policies favoring more sustainable travel modes Soglin included mention of re-doing Stoughton Road so it would no longer act as a “vast chasm splitting our eastside neighborhoods” by only accommodating motor vehicle traffic.  Resnick called for re-organizing city bureaucracy currently divided between Engineering, Traffic Engineering, and the Mayor's office so there would be a single position dealing with bicycle travel.

Earlier concern about maintaining good local bus service while implementing a streamlined Bus Rapid Transit system was not assuaged however. Neither Soglin’s nor Resnick’s answer about BRT mentioned the need to maintain good local bus service.

The Six Contested District Races

District 1 Matt Brink and Barbara McKinney are vying to become District 1 alder.  Neither has a website nor sent clarifying email as of this writing.  Both answered League of Women Votersquestions and have a page on Facebook that mention such issues as race, equity and public safety but there was nothing that I could see on transportation.

District 13: Zach Madden and Sara Eskrich are vying to become District 13 alder. Both have nicely developed web sites that address transportation among other issues.  Both appear to consider public transit very important. 

District 14:  John Strasser and Sheri Carter are vying for District 14's next aldership. Strasser’swebsite mentions the importance of sustainable transportation for economic development in general and for his district in particular.  Carter’s website does not mention transportation. Her campaign has not answered an email request for clarification.

District 16:  Denise DeMarb and Tiffany Tobias are vying for District 16's next aldership. DeMarb’s website lists transportation as one of her issues: “My primary goal is a public transit that provides comprehensive, affordable workforce transportation.”  Tobias has not sent clarifying email as of this writing.

District 17:  Samba Baldeh and Joe Clausius are vying for District 17's next aldership.  Baldeh clarified through requested email that he was a strong supporter of safe public transit, and that both streamlined Bus Rapid Transit and good local bus service were important.  Clausius did not mention transit in his reply to League of Women Voter questions nor did he send clarifying email.

District 18: Peng Her and Rebecca Kemble are vying to become District 18 alder.  Both Her and Kemble clarified through requested email that they are very supportive of enhancing sustainable travel in Madison through both rapid and local transit systems.