A regional transit authority should include more than just trains

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A letter to the editor of the local newspapers sent by Susan De Vos, Madison Area Bus Advocates:

Back in April, an opinion letter in this paper asked for clarity as to what a regional transit authority (RTA) here meant. We reiterate that call for clarity. Many people seem to mistakenly believe that an RTA in the greater Madison Area would initially only be about commuter rail. In fact, an RTA here should be multi-modal. Initially, it should oversee a vastly improved and expanded bus system.

An RTA’s main focus should be on improving urban transit within the Madison RTA area. In fact, Madison Area Bus Advocates believes that we should have an RTA whose priority is to improve and expand our current transit system first. We feel it is essential that bus transit be expanded to include express buses (buses stopping infrequently to make transit more time-competitive with cars). Only after our existing bus system is improved and expanded to include express or rapid buses should we consider rail. Furthermore, the system needs to be expanded to serve the entire RTA area, not just Madison.

Another important function of the RTA should be to build and operate a multi-modal terminal (a hub) which would tie intercity bus (e.g., Van Galder, Badger Bus, and Greyhound) and expected intercity passenger rail to our local transit system. Note that the Madison Area will no longer have an intercity bus terminal after the closing of the Badger terminal at the end of this month.

Before we are asked to vote on whether we want an RTA in this area, we need to know what we are voting on – and that must include a vastly improved and expanded bus system.