Deputy Mayor Leslie Orrantia discussed improving the quality of bus transit at the Madison Area Bus Advocates’ monthly meeting, Monday night 

MABA is an independent community association that focuses on bus transit issues in the Greater Madison Area. They discuss issues pertaining to the bus transit system and advocate for improvements to bus services. 

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Orrantia joined MABA to address some of the members’ concerns regarding bus transportation. 

“Groups like MABA are really critical in advancing clarity of what should be [a] top priority and keeping us accountable … about how we advance specifically transportation but also other issues especially as it relates to policy,” Orrantia said.

Orrantia said despite the desperate need for more buses, there is currently not enough storage space for them, and more buses cannot be bought until there is a space to house them. The current bus barn was built for 160 buses and now houses 218 buses, she said.

A grant was submitted to try and acquire a part of the Oscar Mayer facility for bus storage, but there was a sizable opposition from people who live nearby, Orrantia said.

MABA member Laurie Wermter proposed writing a letter to officials voicing their support for the Oscar Mayer bus barn facility. MABA took the notion to a vote and an overwhelming majority were in favor. 

Orrantia also discussed the issue of the vehicle registration fee, an annual charge applied to cars and certain trucks in addition to the $85 state fee. There is a current proposition from Mayor Rhodes-Conway to add $40 to the fee which will be voted on Oct. 29.

Wisconsin state law requires all revenue generated from the vehicle registration fee to be used for transportation. Orrantia said currently there is opposition to the fee as alders feel it places a larger burden on people with lower incomes. But MABA supports the idea and said the revenue is deeply necessary to expand the current bus transit system. 

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Orrantia said the current bus transit system is poor and desperately needs improvement. But, she said the government administration faces many barriers when trying to make changes.

“I am working on the legislative agenda recognizing that we have very limited political capital in the capitol building,” Orrantia said. “We have a governor that supports us and our initiatives but he has a lot of demands on his plate.”