Group raises red flag on bus station plans

Friday, February 06, 2009

From the Madison Peak Oil Group's statement on possible plans to redevelop the site of the Badger Bus station on West Washington Avenue:

Madison's Transportation Future is at Stake

While the buses make some noise and transients occasionally congregate there, the Badger Bus Station provides valuable passenger service for Badger, Greyhound and other bus companies. Moreover, it offers the potential to be an invaluable focus for future public transportation development. Each week hundreds of passengers pour through the station—returning students, out of town visitors, businessmen, Badger fans, high school tournament attendees, and Madison citizens.

However, next summer, if the proposed redevelopment proceeds on schedule, intercity bus arrivals and transfers will be spread around the city in a disorganized fashion without regard to passenger convenience and access to major destinations. In the next five years, as our nation responds to the return of very high energy prices and institutes measures to control global warming, planned expansions of bus, train, and rapid transit will be urgently needed. Madison will then search for a central hub for these facilities and find the current bus station site has been preempted by an ill-timed commercial development.

Madison has no better place for a central transit focus than the bus station site. Accessible to nearly all the major bus lines, it is equidistant between east and west Madison, and close to much of University housing. It is the natural linking point for new services using existing rail lines. It provides ready access to nearly all of the public attractions of Madison. Its is only two blocks from the Kohl Center, an easy walk to Camp Randall, the State Capitol, City offices, Monona Terrace, Overture Center, Farmers Market, and Capitol Concerts, among others. The existing bus and train stations provide a core for a transit hub, and the surrounding low intensity uses would pose very minimal obstacles for parking and other facilities (as opposed to the hypothetical alternatives at Monona Terrace or west of the Kohl Center). . . .

• At a minimum, the Badger Bus Company should be accountable for a viable plan for intercity bus boarding and transfers for the near term—two to three years—as a part of their plans for conversion of the station site to non-transportation use. The Madison Planning Department should review this plan its adequacy in meeting public transportation needs.

• Before City Planning review, the owners should obtain an agreement with UW planners specifying what boarding and transfer activities can be accommodated at the Union South facility. This should cover the construction period through 2011 and after completion. It should include provision for Greyhound bus service and transfers. This should be made available to the City Planning Commission for review prior to redevelopment project approval.

• The City Planning Department, Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Wisconsin Department of Transportation should provide the public with projected plans for intercity transportation terminal facilities and intermodal transfers--both near and long term--in the downtown area before review by the City Planning Commission and Common Council. The City should not approve the Planned Unit Development required for the implementation of this project until these arrangements are considered.

• Prior to a final approval of this project, the Mayor and Common Council should consider the purchase of this site for public transportation purposes, if necessary under eminent domain, and apply for State and Federal funding. The Badger Bus Company should accept its civic obligation to play a constructive role in Madison's future transportation planning, and delay its redevelopment project until these questions are resolved.

If Madison is to have the central focal point anticipated in practically all its public transportation plans, where is it to be? If not this optimal site, where?

When should Madison prepare for a world of scarcer, more expensive oil, with controlled carbon emissions, if not now?

Written by David Knuti and Barbara Smith, Madison Peak Oil Group, February 3, 2009