With considerable changes to the University of Wisconsin bus service on the horizon, Madison Metro Transit System presented proposed alterations to the system in a public forum Thursday night.
Madison Metro Transit Schedule Planner Colin Conn presented three proposals intended to decrease campus bus service by 10 percent, the equivalent of 3,200 service hours annually. The cutbacks are a result of a UW Transportation Services’ budget deficit.
The first proposal eliminates one of the two 81 bus routes that are currently operating, cutting back service hours by 1,700 hours and reducing the arrival times of the route from 15 minutes to 30.
Conn said along with one of the two other proposals, it would collectively contribute to Transportation Services’ goal to decrease transit service hours by 3,200 hours.
The second proposal eliminated one 85 bus service route after 10 a.m., changing the frequency of the bus’ arrival from 10 minutes to 20 after 10 a.m. The third combined a portion of the route 80 and 85 buses, changing some destinations and requiring different transfers.
Many of the event’s attendees inquired about alternative means for fixing the deficit. However, Transportation Services Director Patrick Kass said the department has exhausted all alternatives to decrease their services and cuts need to be made.
“We looked at what changes could be made that will have the minimal level of impact on these services,” he said.
Kass noted that in the past, Transportation Services has increased cost of ridership and parking rates but was still faced with managing a large deficit.
Of the three proposals, the first was met with the most disapproval. Attendees were concerned about the impact cuts would have on campus safety.
“The Route 81 was sacred on campus, and we did not want to see cuts to that,” Student Transportation Board member Laura Checovich said.
She added that until a few days ago the board was not aware cuts to the Route 81 buses were even on the table. The route serves as a nighttime safe service for students.
Student representatives also raised concern that they were not involved enough in the decision making process because they have not been invited to the meetings between Madison Metro and UW Transportation Services.
After pressure from Student Transportation Board representatives and audience members, Kass agreed to open the next meeting between the two groups to students.
“It’s nice that they said it. I’ll believe it when I see it,” board member Chase Wilson said.
Chairman of Mansion Hill Neighborhood and UW alum Jean Devitt echoed much of the concern over safety regarding the 81 proposal, but also raised concerns about what the changes would mean for disabled bus users.
Madison Metro Transit Systems General Manager Chuck Kamp said he did not anticipate the changes would have too large of an impact on disabled Transit System users’ ridership and that those who may be inconvenienced can register for a door-to-door service called Paratransit.
It is currently unclear which two of the three proposals will be implemented as they are still under review, but the changes will take effect at the start of the fall semester.
Madison Metro will hold its second hearing of the two-part series May 9 at 6 p.m. in the Madison Municipal Building.