A year into bus rapid transit construction on the east-to-west line, the city is starting to plan for the second route from Madison’s north side, through the downtown area to the south-side neighborhoods and end in Fitchburg.
Some form of rapid transit within the city has been studied since 1992. The bus rapid transit system has been in the works for nearly a decade and is aimed at improving the city’s existing Metro Transit system to shorten travel times, reduce congestion and support economic development.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has made bus rapid transit a pillar of her platform during her tenure in office. The city broke ground last December on the east-to-west route, which will run along East Washington Avenue through the city’s center and the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus and end at West Towne Mall.
The north-to-south line will include 33 stations with raised platforms, shelters, seating and bus arrival information. Both lines will include larger electric buses that arrive every 15 minutes throughout the day.
BRT will use specialized lanes, dedicated boarding stations, off-board fare collection, and fast and frequent operations — but those modernizations require construction crews to update underground utilities and traffic signals, as well as remove the bump-outs at several intersections. On the east-west line, the main construction work is taking place on East Washington Avenue between Blair Street and Marquette Street, according to Mike Cechvala, Metro Transit's capital projects manager.
“It will be a similar process to planning for the east-west line, but things will move a little bit faster since we've already established things that we needed for the BRT network in general,” Cechvala said. “It’s essentially an expansion of the line being built now.”
Cechvala and others in Metro Transit plan to hold public information meetings to hear what Madisonians think of the route, where the stations should go and any other improvements that can be made along the line. Park Street will be the main area getting a major facelift.
“We'd like to hear about other needs along the corridor that we could maybe accommodate, such as bike lanes, pedestrian improvements, intersection improvements, those kinds of things,” Cechvala said. “We're just starting the process so it's a good time to get input.”
Metro would like to see “pretty significant improvements to Park Street” for the public, he said, and that will play a large role in the feedback process.
“Park Street is a street that's not very welcoming to people in terms of the infrastructure that's there,” Cechvala said. “It's difficult to cross, it's difficult to walk along, it's difficult to bike and that affects transit as well. We'd like to hear people's ideas and thoughts about how Park Street could serve people better.”
In-person informational meetings will take place on:
- Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: The Urban League of Greater Madison at 2222 S. Park St.
- Thursday, Nov. 2 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Warner Park Community Center at 1625 Northport Drive.
- Thursday, Nov. 9 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: MainStay Suites in Fitchburg at 5421 Caddis Bend.
A virtual meeting will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. Those looking to attend can register online at MadisonBRT.com.
The north-south line construction is set to begin in 2026 and continue into 2027 when the line will launch. It seems like a ways away, Cechvala said, but it's actually “a pretty aggressive timeline.” Cechvala attributed it to design work and downtown Madison construction completed for the east-west line, which speeds up progress for the north-south route.
As for the east-west line, it will include 44 new bus stations, which will be 60 feet long and 10 to 12 feet wide. Fourteen of those are on the west side of the city where most stations will be located in the middle of the road, with left turn lanes additionally serving as bus lanes.
Despite a small manufacturing delay waiting for steel parts to get galvanized, that line is set to launch next summer.
“We get a few people who are saying, ‘Why is it taking so long?’ and ‘Why isn’t this station done?’ The basic answer is that it's a lot of work along a long corridor,” Cechvala said. “It's quite varied work, and so it does take two years to build it all. They are working on multiple sites simultaneously, which gets the whole project done faster.”
“Things are getting done. They're basically on schedule,” he said.
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