County focuses on local transportation via RTA

Thursday, March 25, 2010

From an article by Ryan Rainey in The Badger Herald:

As Madison continues to grow and area officials consider more transit options, the Regional Transit Authority has the sole responsibility of determining the best form of public transit for the area.

The Madison-area RTA, which state authorities established last year after increased interest on the County Board, had its first meeting this month. The board will meet in the coming months and years to develop new transit plans for the Madison area.

RTA Board of Directors Vice Chair and Dane County Sup. Mark Opitz, District 26, said the RTA is a freestanding authority which does not make recommendations to regional governing bodies like the Dane County Board of Supervisors or the Madison Common Council.

Opitz said the RTA would be focusing mainly on improving services of the already existing Madison Metro bus service and assessing the volume of commuters between Middleton, the University of Wisconsin campus, Downtown Madison and Sun Prairie.

“We are trying to get our hands around all of the issues pertaining to transit,” Opitz said. “What we are doing in the next meeting is going through existing studies that have been completed pertaining to bus, commuter and any aspect of transit service”.

One hanging question the RTA will consider in the years to come will be whether to utilize light commuter rail or Bus Rapid Transit for use in the Middleton-Madison-Sun Prairie corridor, Opitz said.

BRT systems, which Opitz said have been successful in cities such as Kansas City, Mo., use dedicated lanes solely for bus use. The lanes can either be elevated to avoid stoplights or constructed at grade level, usually in the medians of major thoroughfares.

City and state officials have talked in the past of including a connection to a BRT or commuter rail link at the yet-to-be-determined site of a high-speed rail station. Opitz said the RTA’s priority is ensuring a strong bus system that additional transit resources support.