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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Madison planning for north-south BRT line

City officials have begun planning for a second bus rapid transit (BRT) line running from Madison’s north side through the downtown area to Fitchburg.

The City of Madison has begun planning the second bus rapid transit (BRT) line, officials said at a public informational meeting Wednesday.

BRT, Madison’s bus-based transit system overhaul, aims to reduce travel time, promote renewable energy and minimize traffic congestion, according to Metro Transit. The east-west line is currently under construction and is expected to go online at the end of 2024,. The proposed north-south line is planned to begin construction in 2026 and launch in late 2027.

The proposed north-south line will start from the north side of Madison, and run through the downtown area and ending at Fitchburg. The north-south line will comprise 33 stations, and the facilities will include elevated platforms, shelters and additional seating as well as bus arrival information, according to Metro Transit

The electric buses will arrive on 15-minute intervals from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m Mondays through Saturdays and every 30 minutes on Sundays. The buses will mainly be traveling on dedicated bus lanes and will utilize traffic signal controls when running in mixed traffic for increased efficiency. 

Mike Cechvala, Metro Transit’s capital projects manager, told The Daily Cardinal he hopes the changes to public transit as part of the BRT system will be competitive with vehicle travel.

“Any improvement in transit gets more people onto buses, and hopefully they’ll choose the bus over driving if the bus is more convenient and more reliable,” Cechvala said. 

Additionally, according to Cechvala, the city will switch out its fleet of diesel buses for  “100% battery electric buses” to reduce emissions. 

In 2021, the city received $80 million in federal support for the east-west line, which covered half of the project’s $160 million cost. Tom Lynch, Madison's Director of Transportation, said the city submitted an application in August to receive federal funding for the north-south line.

“This project would be 80% federally funded and 20% locally funded … we’ll find out how we rate in March or April of 2024,” Lynch told the Cardinal. “We hope to be rated well this year. If we don’t, then we’ll make a few adjustments to the project and re-submit next year.”

During the public informational meeting, residents raised initial concerns that replacing car lanes with specialized bus lanes would cause increased congestion on the remaining car lanes.

Cechvala said the change will have a minimal effect on current car lanes. 

“On most of the corridor we are not removing any traveling, we’re re-allocating parking or other spaces with the bus lanes,” Cechvala said. “There [will] remain two general purpose lanes for the most part.”

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Madison area resident Ben Varick said the replacement of parking space with a bus lane on Park Street — which the north-south line will run along — would be welcome.

“On Park Street, there is a very limited corridor and to use some of that very limited space to store unused vehicles for parking is a horrible waste of space,” Varick said. “The bus-only lanes are a much better use of space.”

The city will hold additional public informational meetings virtually on Nov. 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and in person on Nov. 9 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 5421 Caddis Bend in Fitchburg.

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