Madison transportation officials have picked their plan to redesign the city’s bus system, but public input on how the city’s buses should run is still needed.
It’s all part of a plan called Network Redesign, a plan to alter the city’s bus system to make them more effective.
To help explain the complex issue of redesign, here’s Keith Furman, a Madison alder on the city’s west side.
“So the goal of our redesign was to look at our entire system and take into consideration that Bus Rapid Transit would be implemented, first east to west and eventually north to south, but we looked at the entire city and come up with a way to structure transit to be accessible. The goal was to focus on something called a ridership alternative, which prioritizes specific service for specific places,” Furman says.
Network redesign was first proposed in spring 2021, and it’s slated to be wrapped up this spring. And it proposes two possible models – one that prioritizes frequent service, and one that prioritizes coverage of neighborhoods.
The plan proposed last night is called the ridership alternative. It would reduce the number of bus lines to just seven, but is designed so that people would have to wait less time at any given stop. Currently, there is around a 30 minute wait at bus stops, with some stops only running once an hour. Under the new plan, half of the bus routes would run every 15 minutes, and the other half every 30 minutes.
Though the plan has been in the works for close to a year, it garnered some controversy last November during city budget deliberations, when a group of five alders proposed an amendment that would temporarily halt funds for related project of bus rapid transit (or BRT) until until plans for Network Redesign were completed.
The amendment was spearheaded by Council President Syed Abbas, who was concerned that residents on the city’s north side would be left underrepresented with bus access.
That amendment failed to pass last November.
Abbas still has concerns with the new Network Redesign plan, saying that the proposed route would not cover densely populated areas on the north side.
“You do not have dense residential areas that really connect people. So running every 10 minute service on Packer Avenue, instead of on Sherman, is kind of concerning. And I do think when we talk about equity and accessibility, this is one area where we are missing the mark,” Abbas says.
Abbas says that, although he sees issues with the plan, he is overall supportive of this alternative.
Equity for Madison’s underrepresented communities was a button issue at last night’s Transportation Policy and Planning Board meeting. Here’s Daniel Costantino, with the consulting firm that helped create the plan.
“You can see that we targeted the service in the lines that we drew, to make sure that we would keep service as close as possible to as many low income people as possible. We also didn’t just look at where low income people live, we also looked at where low income people go. That includes their jobs, but what I’m showing you here is a map of low and mid-cost grocery stores. These are places where people need to go, and people need to go relatively regularly, and not only that, but places around grocery stores tend to have other services that people need often, so that was another item we payed attention to,” Costantino says.
According to last night’s meeting, around 50% more low income residents would be within a quarter mile of a stop that runs every 15 minutes than the current plan. Additionally, around 25% more of people of color would be within a quarter mile of one of these stops.
The plan will next be presented at a public meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. After leaders gather public input, the whole plan is expected to head to the Madison Common Council later in spring, with changes to routes to be made by fall.
Photo courtesy: WORT Flickr