City officials disinterested in bus station closure

Monday, July 06, 2009

Knuti and Voss question whether the Memorial Union should become the de facto bus station when it may not be equiped to handle the number of people and buses that use the Badger Bus Station.

A letter sent to various alders by David Knuti and Susan Vos:

We are contacting you on behalf of the Madison Peak Oil Group and Madison Area Bus Advocates in your capacity as District 8 Alder serving the UW campus area. You have a special role in the review of the proposed redevelopment of the Badger Bus Station coming before the Council this Tuesday, because of its strong direct impact of this action on your district.

In effect, the closure of the Badger Station makes Langdon Street by the Union the de facto bus terminal of Madison—a role for which it is ill suited—and weakens intercity bus service for the public in general, including students and the disabled in particular. The narrow approach to the review of this project has focused all attention on 4th Ward issues at Washington and Bedford, whose traffic impact will be reduced by the project and supposed legal restrictions on considering the broader public interest.

Since the real estate aspect of this plan has passed the City Planning Commission, and has aroused little interest on the Long Range Transportation Planning Commission, its approval by the Council may be expected. We are asking your support for a strong condition on demolition of the station that will require a City supervised plan for the consequent relocation of intercity bus service. At the request of our organizations, David Knuti has prepared an article for the Sustainable Times which presents our findings and recommendations after five months of meetings.

What should be done?
If the Council is prepared to accept the Badger Company's project as a legal and acceptable real estate venture, it should also regard the associated transportation issues as vital unfinished business. Two kinds of measures are needed: first, adopting clear and firm conditions for bus station demotion, and, second, creating a structure for the City to assert controls and coordinate planning of subsequent intercity buses services:

+ The City should not permit demolition until financing is clearly and firmly in place—an issue which should not be taken for granted given the surplus of downtown apartments and empty commercial space, and the widely anticipated national crisis in commercial real estate finance.

+ The Council should further condition demolition on the Badger Company’s acceptance of an acceptable plan for intercity bus arrivals and departures with provision for all major stake holders including Van Galder, Greyhound, charter bus operators, and State bus planners. The formulation of the plan should be led by City Traffic and Planning staff with the participation of UW’s Union and transportation authorities.

+ The Mayor and Council should adopt a policy statement officially recognizing the City's role in fostering and regulating intercity bus service, and assigning execution to planning and traffic control units and policy oversight to appropriate city commissions.

+ The Mayor and Council should review the city’s parking and traffic control powers to regulate and channel bus arrival and departure activities in the public interest and prepare to use these powers to influence a proper implementation of the above plan.

+ If necessary, the City should enact such additional controls as needed to control on-street bus boarding and arrivals, and to channel such bus traffic through appropriate terminal points with appropriate fees that share the burden of their operation.

Tuesday's Council review is a last opportunity for the City to retain some leverage over the intercity bus issue and avoid future problems. Although the legality is not iron clad, the attached article outlines ample public purpose for a delay and the assumption of city responsibility. Badger may find it uncomfortable to legally challenge the need to ameliorate the effects of its unilateral action. While more work and leadership would be required of of reluctant City staff and officials, this an era of new priorities.

We urge your consideration for this matter before Tuesday's vote and thank you for your willingness to discuss it.

David Knuti, Madison Peak Oil Group,
Susan De Vos, Madison Area Bus Advocates,