To better serve Madison’s rapidly growing population, the city is looking to implement Bus Rapid Transit, a transit system that will be address increased the need for quick, efficient transportation.
A public kick-off meeting was held Wednesday at Madison Public Library to lay out the plans and ideas for BRT.
BRT would look much like a train system with all the same benefits of a bus, Julia Suprock, of construction engineering company HNTB said. BRT includes potential for exclusive bus lanes to streamline ridership times.
Currently, the first route is set to be implemented from Madison’s east corridor to the west corridor because it will have a high ridership, and with that a higher return on investment.
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To supplement BRT, a service called JobRide Plus is also being considered. It would be similar to a taxi service and offer carpool-style transportation for people commuting to jobs outside of the metro area.
Transportation Director Tom Lynch said if the Madison area were to continue growing at the rate it is currently growing at, Madison would have a population of 400,000 and Dane County would be around 1 million by 2050, a growth the current transit system wouldn’t be able to serve effectively.
“We are going to go from being a little big city to being a big little city,” Lynch said.
The largest barrier facing the implementation of BRT is funding, Mayor Paul Soglin said. Madison’s major hurdle in receiving funding for BRT is the lack of a regional transit authority and the city’s inability to raise sales taxes.
Wisconsin is the only state in the Midwest that doesn’t have an RTA.
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Soglin said that Texas “marveled” him in how it’s funding its transit system with an increase in sales tax, despite being “redder” than Wisconsin.
“They are funding their transit system through sales tax and other sources which, up until now, our legislature has refused to allow us to implement,” Soglin said. “In fact, we have actually gone backward in this state in regards to legislation,” Soglin said.
Although BRT would cut down on carbon emissions and provide more frequent, widespread coverage, funds are limited for public transportation. Despite the crowd being generally supportive of BRT, it remains to be seen when it will be implemented.