Don’t let bus station closure set back Madison

Monday, June 22, 2009

From a letter to the editor David Knuti, Madison Peak Oil Group, and Susan De Vos, Madison Area Bus Advocates:

The Badger Bus Company plans to close its intercity bus terminal at West Washington and Bedford, which is likely to clog city streets, discomfort bus passengers and reduce total ridership when it needs to be sharply increased. In addition, the best site for a future central transit hub should not be permanently lost. When the issue comes up at its June 15 meeting, the City Planning Commission should withhold approval of the redevelopment plan until viable plans for intercity bus service have been worked out.

No plans have been offered for future service other than pile the rest of Madison’s intercity bus activity onto the curb at Langdon Street and have the Union service the passengers. UW has said it will not cooperate with this development, and the added bus traffic is likely create a hopeless pile-up in an already crowded location. But a worse alternative would be for bus service to be completely dispersed to scattered street corners and peripheral locations.

It is time for the Mayor and Council to lead a joint search for solutions involving all the companies--Van Galder, Greyhound and Badger. To make this work, the city should dust off its traffic control ordinances, planning capability, and financial resources. Ultimately, an effort should be made to refocus bus service back to the station, and consider public support for its operation and improvement—with or without public acquisition.

At this time, Badger is rushing to build another downtown commercial-residential development when space is empty and projects are stalled all around them. In the meantime, a Regional Transportation Authority is being created, high-speed rail is coming to town, the state is considering more intercity bus routes, and commuter rapid transit is in planning—all with expanding Federal support. The current Bus Station is the best point for all these developments to converge in a multi-modal center. Time is needed to seriously deal with these issues.