‘This is a top priority’: Mayor releases details on Metro bus rapid transit system

As the population of Dane County grows and traffic increases, Madison area city officials are planning for the future of transportation.

Madison Mayor Satyra Rhodes-Conway released details on the MetroForward rapid transit plan alongside other Dane County leaders Wednesday.

With an estimated 100,000 new residents coming to Dane County by 2050, Rhodes-Conway expects congestion to double. As planners know, the future — and buses — wait for no one.

“This is a top priority for my administration,” Rhodes-Conway said. “MetroForward is a critical investment in our transportation, our economy and most importantly, in our community.”

Madison Mayor Rhodes-Conway unveils Metro Forward, a rapid transit plan that aims to cut down on carbon emissions and reduce travel times by up to 25%. @WISCTV_News3 #News3Now pic.twitter.com/zoijhAM7Un

— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) September 18, 2019

Buses get you where you need to go, even if it’s not as quickly as you’d like.

“There’s not a bus route to my actual house,” Middleton resident Gabe Lopez said. “I have to get to the nearest one and then go walk.”

Lopez rides a Madison Metro bus about three times a week.

“It takes maybe almost two hours,” he said. “Normally, a car ride is 30 minutes.”

He’d would be on board for more routes and quicker travel times.

“It’d be great,” Lopez said. “If I would get home quicker than just driving, I wouldn’t see why, for me, a reason to drive. So I would just take the bus more often.”

“We want to be raising a generation of bus riders,” Rhodes-Conway said.

To do that and beat expected traffic, the wheels are turning on her administration’s regional transit plan.

“Anyone who drives during rush hour realizes we need multiple options for getting around town,” Dane County executive Joe Parisi said.

“We can’t have a super highway through the Isthmus and gridlock in the rest of the city,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We need to get ahead of this growth now.”

The MetroForward plan includes rapid bus transit with dedicated lanes, modern platforms and larger buses to reduce travel times by up to 25%.

“The community that is most impacted by inadequate transportation are communities of color,” YWCA Madison CEO Vanessa McDowell said. “Metro data shows African American riders have commutes longer than 45 minutes 27% of the time, as compared to white riders, which is 9.7%.”

The plan also aims to address racial inequity. It will increase access by adding more routes and offering subsidized passes to riders in need.

“We cannot continue to rely on the way we’re getting around now,” Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser said.

Bus routes have recently been added to Sun Prairie as Madison Metro looks to expand to surrounding communities, as well.

The plan also includes a focus on sustainability and combating climate change. Next year, Metro Transit will pilot all-electric buses with an anticipated full fleet conversion beginning in 2023.

Metro Transit’s main facility will be renovated according to the plan, with an additional satellite facility and electric charging stations and maintenance bays.

Capital costs for the projects are estimated at $200 million or more, with about half covered by federal grants. The city is looking into other funding sources, including other federal and state grants, local partnerships and internal sources.

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