The Bus Stops Here: Bus Rapid Transit MUST ADD to Local Bus Service

At the downtown Senior Center in early May, the City of Madison had yet another in a series of public meetings on a hypothetical regional transportation system to compliment the local service provided by Madison Metro dating back to at least 2002. A video of the meeting can be seen here. This time, the meeting focused on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), not rail. BRT may be most suitable for an urban area our size, at least initially. The Madison area has become just too big to be served adequately by a local bus system alone, but it is not yet big enough to warrant having a more expensive rail system.

The Bus Stops Here: Service Changes, Reroutes and Uproots at Madison Metro

Last week Madison Metro Transit and its oversight committee the Transportation Commission held a public hearing on what has become an annual ritual of vetting a slew of service changes that do not involve a massive infusion of additional money. The aim is to have largely cost-neutral changes in place for the start of the next academic year, and the hearing in late April can be considered the public kick-off to the review process. Madison Metro had previously compiled the proposed service changes into a file that can be viewed and here.  The hearing itself was captured both on video and audio by the City of Madison's media site. The Commission will deliberate on the proposals at its May 22, 2019 meeting. In the meantime, written comments can be sent to Metro Transit Public Hearing Feedback, 1245 E. Washington Ave., Suite 201, Madison WI 53703 or by emailing mymetrobus@cityofmadison.com.

The Bus Stops Here: For Improved Bus Stops

The state of Madison Metro bus stops may not garner the kind of media attention that a $30 million price tag for a new storage facility does, nor might a nicely endowed bus stop cost even half as much as one new off-street parking stall—let alone a few yards of asphalted street—but bus stop conditions can attract or turn off potential riders. Bus stops speak volumes to what a community really thinks of its transit system, how it prioritizes transit in its budget, how it allots Tax Incremental Financing funds and how it makes land use decisions. Is the stop a mere post in the ground where people must wait for the bus by standing in the wind, rain, snow and dark? Or can they wait by sitting in a sheltered, lighted, even heat-controlled area? Does the stop have schedule information that tells riders when their bus is coming?

The Bus Stops Here: In Winter Too

Using Madison Metro bus lines in the winter can be challenging. Days are short; dark comes early; it is cold, icy and slippery. But using the bus can offer some advantages over driving in winter: there’s no need to de-ice a car, or risk damage and injury trying to drive on a slick, corrosive, or rough road. Riding the bus in winter eliminates the worry that your car might not start, get stuck in a snowbank, or worst of all, that you may run afoul of those infamous 'alternate side parking’ rules. And of course, for many riders, using the bus in winter isn’t merely a convenient choice—many riders rely on the bus as their primary means of transportation year-round, or use the bus as a backup to traveling by foot or on bike as the weather gets cold.

Madison Metro Bus Lines Poetry Project Now Accepting Submissions

Here’s your chance, Madison, to share your poetry stories about your favorite Madison places with the thousands of Madisonians who ride the bus every day. Madison Metro Transit and Madison’s poet laureate, Oscar Mireles, are inviting members of the community to send short poems, haiku, prose poems, or excerpts from longer poems, 3–15 lines total, to the 2019 Bus Lines open call for poetry. “In the past, we’ve had over 300 submissions,” Mireles tells Madison365. “The winning poems will be put either on the back of a bus or the fare card/transfer card. Or they will be put on the ride guide, the booklet that has all of the bus schedules for the city, or on the webpage.”

Mireles is the first Latino to hold the position of Madison’s poet laureate, a position he has held since January of 2016.

The Bus Stops Here: Back to the Future With a New DOT

As of July 1, 2018, Madison has revived at least two aspects of its public transportation system that it had between 1968 and the early 1990s, which is both good and bad. The good is that the city once more has a functioning Department of Transportation with a director. The bad is that citizen participation is being overly limited at a time when alders need more, not less, input from constituents. Let's begin with a little bit of history. The City of Madison established a transportation department (MDOT) back in 1968.

The Bus Stops Here: Public Transit, Good Government and Citizen Engagement

Do you think that an interested “adult city resident” should be able to contact another “adult city resident” who sits on a city government oversight committee advisory to the Common Council? Do you think a Dane County citizen has the right to know who is on a county government office’s “working group” tasked with making policy recommendations for adoption by the larger council? Are you suspicious when someone has special access to governmental decision making (and its purse) but does not have to provide basic contact or naming information in return for that access? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then welcome to the idea of good governance. Welcome too to the reality that our current government is less transparent.

The Bus Stops Here: For Bus Buddies

One of the pleasant features of public transit is that it can provide riders a sense of community even as each passenger may be going to a different destination for a different reason. Some talk while others acknowledge another’s presence with a nod, eye contact or some other form of nonverbal communication. The poem, Express Route Madison, written by Catherine Young reinforces the communal nature of public transit. “This bus is bound for Community. It’s around the next bend.

Madison Metro Transit launches equity survey

The City of Madison’s Metro Transit agency launched an online survey on September 28 asking passengers to report on equity in their bus service. According to the Metro Transit web page, the survey was launched to “reflect the goals and values” of Madison’s Racial and Social Justice Initiative. The survey asks passengers to report how frequently they use Metro Transit services, which routes and transfers they use most, and more questions about each individual’s personal profile and how accessible Madison’s bus services are to them. Madison’s bus services were at the center of a racial equity complaint in January when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation closed two DMV locations on Madison’s west side and opened a new DMV office that is more difficult to access by public transit. In response, Madison’s Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, with Mayor Paul Soglin rebuking the decision to open the more isolated DMV office.

The Bus Stops Here: For A Smart Move

New technology provides access and challenges to Madison’s bus system that must be adopted if Metro Transit is to be a viable transportation option moving forward. A major reason ride share companies such as Lyft are popular is that they made early use of smartphone technology, which enables riders to solicit a ride from/to anywhere at any time and pay via a credit card or similar cashless electronic transfer. Public transit has the competitive advantage however, IF it used smartphone technology as adeptly. After all, most people would prefer to pay $2 instead of $10 for the same ride. Before the era of smartphones, transit riders had been pining for years for Metro Transit smart cards.