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Community Costs and Benefits (3)

More on Bus Stop Placement

The 2013-2017 Transit Development Plan has speeding up travel to be a major priority. Without considering any alternatives, it determines that the major way to do this is by eliminating closely-spaced bus stops, particularly in older parts of Madison. It recommends (p. 4-2):

Adopt a bus stop consolidation program to remove or relocate excessive bus stops in central Madison, particularly on the Jenifer Street, Johnson Street, Gorham Street, and Monroe Street corridors.
This project is needed to bring these corridors into compliance with the Transit Planning Guidelines of spacing bus stops, in general, between 3/16- and 1/4-mile (990 to 1,320 feet) apart. The stop consolidation program should include substantial public outreach and sufficient data collection and analysis to identify the appropriate bus stops for removal or relocation.

This is wrong, and the Madison Area Bus Advocates issued a position statement opposing the plan, arguing that The proposed eliminations conflict with Madison’s efforts to realize the quality of life that a balanced transportation orientation toward pedestrians, bicycles, mass transit, and cars offers. Another well-studied statement reinforces the notion that densely-settled residential areas warrant bus stops spaced as closely as 500 ft. apart. Bus stop spacing has been studied by many transit systems, and a recent report that came out after the present plan was adopted and was based on many relevant studies by other transit agencies (July 2014) can be seen here.

Actually, the dismantling of a finely-tuned system has been going on for years before travel speed become a justification. The first instance recorded here refers to the conversion of land initially used for bus stops on King St. into parking stalls instead. Earlier events occurred too but this website was not recording events yet.

The list below (the latest reference on top) is only the latest update of an ongoing issue. As of March 5, 2015 bus stops on Turner Ave. are being slated for elimination. At times, planned eliminations have been reversed in response to public outcry and the special stance of an area's alder but this is not common.

Eliminating Bus Stops on the E. Johnson/Gorham Corridor

Metro’s first attempt to follow the Transit Development Plan’s recommendation of eliminating bus stops occurred in 2014 during the reconstruction of E. Johnson St. Here is the plan and justification. Despite Metro efforts to follow the Plan’s call for outreach by presenting its idea at the Tenney/Lapham Neighborhood Association's Annual Meeting (report), riders claim that they were not alerted to the impending changes or asked to comment on them. The ADA Transit Subcommittee to the Transit and Parking Commission had attempted to avert this by recommending additional outreach efforts but unfortunately was ignored. Among riders unaware of the changes were disabled patrons of Yahara House who used one of the bus stops intended for elimination. Metro's plans went through the city committee responsible for overseeing changes, as passages from the of the November, 2013 and March 2014 Transit and Parking Commission Minutes indicate. After considerable public outcry, Metro later reinstalled the stop near Yahara House but continued with the elimination of the other two stops. Articles in the local press (latest first) included:

The Unsuccessful Attempt to Thin Bus Stops on Jenifer St.

After reinstating the bus stop on Gorham St. near Livingston St. on account of the unanticipated outcry regarding access to Yahara House, Metro made a similar faux pas regarding a bus stop on Jenifer St. used by people to access the WilMar Neighborhood Center near Brearly St. Again in response to public outcry rather than any prior knowledge of the stop's function, Metro revised plans to leave the stops near Brearly St. but to continue with its plans to eliminate stops at Few St. and Livingston St. It again using the need to speed up travel as its justification. This time however, Metro continued to encounter strong neighborhood resistance from both immediate and bordering residents and local businesses (also). The area's alder too was opposed to the closures. This time, when the issue came in front of of the oversight committee in February 2015, the Committee rejected Metro’s recommendations to eliminate the bus stops, as this much longer passage from the February, 2015 Minutes of the Transit and Parking Commission recounts. But as any elimination was no longer precedent-setting, the press hardly covered the controversy:

Next Stop: Turner Ave.

Even as stop "thinning" (Metro's term) on Jenifer St. was being rejected, Metro was shifting its focus to stop elimination on Turner Avenue to suppsedly save one minute by buses traveling between the East and South Transfer Points. Unlike the E. Johnson/Gorham St. pair or Jenifer St. that were major thoroughfares on the Isthmus, Turner Ave. was in an area annexed by the City of Madison from the Town of Blooming Grove. When originally developed, the pavement had not been designed for heavy vehicles such as buses, and the street had no sidewalks or gutters. This time, there was no media coverage of the bus stop issue but there was media coverage of the city's controversial intention to install sidewalks. Similar to the previous two times, Metro withdrew effort to eliminate one of three sets of bus stops initially taregeted for elimination after public outcry about their heavy use -- the stops at Allis Avenue. But the other two sets of stops, at Kay St. and Linda Vista Road, were eliminated.

On to Monroe St.

Monroe St. is the latest but certainly will not be the last example of bus stop removal based on the Transit Development Plan. Bus stops will be eliminated or moved during street reconstruction in 2018. While planned elimination is basically the same as what was originally proposed, there will be a few significant differences since the proposal was made with a similar inattention as before to why stops were located where they were. For instance, perhaps the most heavily used one by the public library will remain after numerous comments both at a public hearing and by email. A stop proposed moved from one side of an intersection to the other, thereby making transfers more difficult and eliminating parking space in front of businesses, will stay where it is now. A third set of stops that are infrequently used but initially proposed to stay (at Edgewood Ave.) will be eliminated in order to eliminate the same number of stops as originally proposed while keeping more heavily used ones (and thus slowing down the bus).

This time, there was media coverage of the issue:

The Saga Continues and Started Before

The saga continues and started before. We only start documenting bus stop eliminations in 2007 because we did not exist much earlier, but taking bus stops away to make more room for car parking was a well-established practice by that time. More recently, the issue of bus stop elimination is being made in the name of "transportation equity" as many bus users reside outside the current transfer points. This is curious as land use and housing decisions are not being made with transportation in mind, while the agency that calls for the elimination of bus stops rather than the relocation of transfer points to speed up travel in its 2013-2017 Transit Development Plan does calls for the relocation of transfer points in the name of its pet Bus Rapid Transit plan. Not in the first instance but in second instance is inconsistent and so transparently self-serving that its hypocrisy should be obvious to anyone who has not drunk the kool aid. What then is the real reason for wantintg to eliminate and relocate bus stops -- the cost of making them accessible?

Other Possible Ways to Speed Bus Travel

There are a number of ways to speed up bus travel between transfer points that do not involve eliminating bus stops or moving the transfer points. One way that would require a change in state traffic law involves giving buses the right of way to re-enter the traffic lane. Other states do that. Examples include: Additional ways that would not involve state law include:
  1. Have drivers change at the transfer points instead of mid-route. Mid-route changes take more time;
  2. Concrete pads at bus stops should service both the front and back doors, enabling passengers to unload at the back while others enter at the front, even during rainy or snowy weather;
  3. Enable signal preemption at the Capitol Square;
  4. Enable boarding through the back as well as front door, either because of meters, pre-paid boarding, or no fare;
  5. Better expect riders to have fare or pass ready when boarding, to move to the back of the bus when it is full, and to know how to load bicycles properly.