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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Proposal to cut State Street buses by 30%, make way for rapid transit program

Madison Metro Transit proposed a route change that would shift as much as 30% of bus traffic off of State Street on Feb. 6.

The proposed changes would adjust routes 8, 12, 15, 70 and 72 and move them from State Street to West Washington Avenue. This comes after months of limited capacity on buses due to COVID-19 guidelines and a general decline in revenue. The City of Madison Transportation Commission is expected to review the proposed changes at the next meeting on Wednesday, March 10. 

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, stated in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal that moving buses off of State Street is “progress in the right direction.” 

"I have long supported reducing the amount of traffic on State Street and trying to move to a more pedestrian-friendly concept," he said. The new proposal has also caused some Madison community members, including former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, to voice their support for entirely diverting bus traffic away from State Street and converting the area into a pedestrian mall. 

“I never liked having buses on the street. That’s because State Street has been transitioning from a primarily retail center to an entertainment district with more restaurants and bars,” mayor Dave wrote for Isthmus

The proposal to reduce bus traffic on State Street comes as part of a larger effort to facilitate an East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that aims to reduce travel times for public transportation and relieve traffic. The new route proposal would reduce the percentage of buses that travel on state street by 30% during the day and up toward 40% during the evening hours, according to the Wisconsin State Journal

The Madison Common Council approved plans in January for a 15-mile BRT route that would stretch from East Washington, through campus and toward the West Towne area, according to a Department of Transportation report. The report also indicates that the BRT would have a station at and operate on State Street. 

“The goal is to enter Project Development in early 2020, achieve a Construction Grant Agreement by 2021, and open the East-West BRT line in 2024,” the report states. 

Tom Lynch, Madison Director of Transportation, said the route changes will be essential to eventually establish the BRT program. 

"This change will help implement Bus Rapid Transit and address some of the noise complaints during the evening rush hour,” Lynch said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. 

Transportation officials have responded saying that such a conversion would be a difficult process and would require extensive planning and fire safety precautions. 

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