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North-South BRT and Bikes: A summary of our community meeting

In late November we hosted a community meeting about the planned North-South bus rapid transit (BRT) route and how it relates to biking. Staff from Metro and the city gave a presentation, followed by an extended Q&A and comments from attendees. If you couldn’t make the meeting, you’re in luck. We recorded the meeting, have the slides to share, and also have a complete transcript of the meeting.

If you have any feedback, questions, or comments, please reach out to us (info@madisonbikes.org) or to the city: BRT@cityofmadison.com or via the website https://madisonbrt.com

Thanks to Mike Cechvala and the other city staff for their presentation and responding to questions and comments!

If you appreciate posts and meeting like this, consider a donation to Madison Bikes before the end of the year.

Meeting recording on YouTube

You can get time stamps for the Q&A when you watch on YouTube.

Slides

Transcript (lightly edited for clarity)

Facilitator: So we’re recording the meeting so that people who weren’t able to join the meeting have the ability to watch it later and that we can also maybe have a summary after the meeting. So yeah, tonight we have several city staff with us who will introduce themselves. After I’m done talking, we’ll get a about 20 minute presentation from the city on the north south bus PRT project. And then really, after that, we will have the opportunity to provide feedback to ask questions. I’m looking at the number of attendees, we have about 30 people. So I think if you are able to you should either put your question or comment in the chat. Or you can also raise your hand if it’s easier for you to talk and so we’ll try to manage that in a way that we get to everything. If we run out of time or if there are questions that can’t be answered immediately. As I said, we’re recording the meeting. We’re also saving the chat. So if we don’t get to a question I think city staff are willing and able to respond to things after the meeting, if need be. And so yeah, I think we should have all that covered so I think I’m going to hand it over to Mike, and all of you. 

Mike Cechvala (Metro): Thank you, Harald. I’m going to try to share my screen here and get us going. And hopefully that’s up. I’m Mike Cechvala. I’m the project manager for North South Bus Rapid Transit. I work with Metro Transit, which is part of the city of Madison. I have a couple other colleagues from the city here and I’m just going to let them go ahead and introduce themselves quick. If I could start with Tom, Liz, Jose. 

Tom Lynch: Tom Lynch, director of transportation. 

Liz Callin: Good evening, everyone. I’m Liz Callin. I’m a transportation planner with the city of Madison. Jose, if you’re on. 

Jose Navarro: Yes, sorry. Jose Navarro, engineer with the transportation department. 

Renee Callaway: All right, and I’m Renee Callaway. I am the pedestrian bicycle administrator in traffic engineering. 

Cechvala: Thank you, Renee. I knew I was missing somebody. Sorry about that. Okay, so let’s go ahead and get started. I just want to start out by saying a couple things. This is a North South Bus Rapid Transit project. This is our second BRT project in the city. The first one is East West, which is under construction right now. We see this as a very big deal. We’re very excited about this project. We see it as being potentially transformative with the East West BRT project. We’re right at the start of the project. We’re just starting to have some public information meetings. We had a few public information meetings a couple weeks ago. And we’re now happy, very pleased to be working with Madison Bikes to get the word out about the project. Just a couple of things about the project. We are at the very top end of the project. We’re just starting the planning process. This is a bus rapid transit project. It’s a project whose primary goal is to improve public transit infrastructure on the North South Corridor. So we do need to kind of focus on that. We do need to kind of control the scope on that. But on the other hand, we would like to use this opportunity to help fix some of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure along the corridor. So it’s a fairly long corridor. We know that we can’t fix everything with it. But we’re going to try to fix some things with it, and we’ll get into some more details later. 

Just one other thing I’d like to point out before we get started is that I think what we’re trying to do here is help bring about a transformation in transportation in the city of Madison. Give people more options to travel, to give them more options besides driving their car, and hopefully reduce the dependence on driving in Madison. Some people will have to drive, but we try to give them better transit options. We try to give them better bike options. We’re going to be struggling because we’re all trying to get access to the same space on the roadway and the same dollars. So it’s going to be a struggle when these assets are limited, but we’re all trying to do the same thing. And so we’d like to work together and have your support on this project. 

So we’ll talk about what is BRT, some existing facilities, Park Street timeline, and then we’ll open it up to questions. So a little bit about what is bus rapid transit and how is it different from your standard bus route that we have. So there are a couple of distinctions between bus rapid transit and normal bus service. BRT doesn’t have to have 100% of all of these features, but it has to have some aspect of most or all of them. So for example, direct routes with fewer stops. That’s the primary way that we can reduce the travel time on the route so that it’s more attractive and gets you there faster. A frequent all day service, typically service every 15 minutes throughout the day so that you’re not waiting so long for the bus. Bus only lanes. So typically can’t have all bus only lanes throughout the entire corridor, but we try to have at least half the corridor be in bus only lanes. That’s again one of the fundamental ways that we can reduce traffic delays and have the route not only run faster but more reliably. Easy to recognize stations and buses. Traffic signal priority at traffic lights. Again, one of those fundamental ways that we reduce the red light delay and keep the bus moving. Longer articulated buses so that we can accommodate more people on the bus and faster fare payment. So, you know, these things all kind of work together. We can do some of these things individually to kind of help things, but when we apply this combination of enhancements to a single route. The ultimate goal is to have that route be fast, frequent, reliable, and more comfortable and easier for people to use to give them a more, more rail-like and more, more premium experience using the system. 

Who is building bus rapid transit? The city of Madison is leading the BRT project. We have several partners who are key to making north south BRT happen. One key partner is the city of Fitchburg. About two, two miles or so of the route is within the city of Fitchburg. They’re providing not only support but also funding for the improvements within the city of Fitchburg. Dane County has jurisdiction over part of the route, the Greater Madison MPO, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which also has jurisdiction over part of the route, and the Federal Transit Administration which will, which would be providing the majority of the capital funding for the project. 

This is a [a photo from the] groundbreaking that we had for the east west BRT system. I think it was about a year ago now. So let’s go ahead and start to look at some maps. 

What you’re looking at here is kind of the overview of the entire BRT system. The east west bus rapid transit line is shown in red here, this is route A in our current transit network as the route a was implemented in the summer of 2023, in terms of the route that it passes that’s shown here. The BRT component of it is the capital investments that’s being made along those corridors so we’re building stations, where the dots are, we’re implementing the transit signal priority. We’re implementing the bus-only lanes. Where we’re purchasing the new articulated electric buses to run along the route. So, you know, BRT is really about those capital improvements to make the make the system better. 

The second BRT line, which is what we’re talking about now, is north south, which is shown in green. This is route B. You can see that route B the north south BRT line shares the corridor with the east west line on East Washington Avenue and through downtown. So it’ll use those existing stations that are being constructed now in the bus only lanes along that part of the corridor. And this will essentially be an extension of those improvements to the north and to the south. So, you know, the project is in some ways split into two, it’s, it’ll be one continuous route and one continuous project. 

But we do have this northern segment along North Street, Packers, Northport, and the southern segment along Park Street, Badger, and Fish Hatchery. So the scope of this project is to add some of those same capital improvements – the stations, the bus lanes, the signal priority along route B that will exist for the A route, should be completed at the end of 2024. So that’s what we’re talking about. 

Here’s just some progress photos of the east west line. So with our second line we have the luxury of actually seeing what we’re planning. These are two stations that are under construction. This one on the left is a station on Mineral Point Road at High Point, and this one on the right is on Sheboygan Avenue at Eau Claire. So you can see these enhanced stations which are under construction. These still have a lot of features that need to be added to it like the seating, the glass panels, and some of the electronics and so forth. And this is a progress photo, so it’s not totally done yet but you can kind of see it start to take shape. This is in the median of the street. You’ll see a platform, this platform is where you’ll stand and wait for the bus or get off of the bus. That height of the platform is 13 1/2 inches; it’s taller than your typical curb. The reason for that is so that the platform is level with the floor of the bus. That makes it faster for people to get on and off the bus, it makes it easier for people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices or, or who find it more difficult to board the bus. They can do it more easily and more safely because they don’t have that step up to come down. Everything is faster and easier. 

You’ll notice that the lanes are red, so these lanes next to the station will be bus only lanes that will exist on about two thirds of the east west line and you know maybe slightly less but comparable part of the north south line. You’ll also notice that the station is in the center of the street, and so one of the most common questions we get is how the heck are you supposed to get on when the doors are on the right side of the bus. The new buses that we’re buying will have doors on both sides of the bus, so the doors on the left side will open as the bus pulls into the station and then you’ll get on and off using the doors on the left side of the bus. When it uses these center running stations and you’ll get off on the right side when it uses the side running stations. 

So, getting into a little bit more detail we’re going to focus on a few key questions or decision points to move forward at this early stage in planning with north south BRT. One of those decision points is the station locations, where should the station locations go. There are some that kind of have to be in certain places. For example we have a station at Erin Street that serves the hospital there. We have a station at, you know, I’ll just point out one on the northside: Sherman and Northport. There’s limited places there where you can cross the street and get to the station. So there are some places where we kind of have to have stations in certain places. But a lot of these station locations can be shifted around potentially depending on what we hear and what we plan and what gets recommended going forward. So those are some things that we expect you to just kind of focus on and we’re really listening to see if anybody has any suggestions. We’ve heard some already so if you’ve shared any with us before, we’re collecting those, those thoughts and ideas, as we adjust the station locations. 

Another thing that we’re looking at is the running way and expand that to say the corridor transportation improvements. So, you know, we’re looking at where should the bus lanes go, but we’re also looking at what other improvements to the corridor would support bus rapid transit but also maybe as an opportunity that that can be fixed with the BRT project. So we’ve laid out the bike infrastructure along the north south BRT line. We’ve separated into the southern half and the northern half. I’m not going to go through all of it, but I will touch on a few things I think at a high level, I think we want to recognize that there are shortcomings in the bike network along these corridors. Fitchburg has made some improvements to Fish Hatchery Road, south of the Beltline where they had a reconstruction project a few years ago. They’ve added some infrastructure like a side path. We have some new bike lanes on Badger Road. Park Street remains a fundamental missing link in the bike network so I just want to point that out. We’ll have some more information on that but I think that’s pretty clear from the maps here. 

Looking at the north side again we have some bike lanes that were installed on Northport Drive. We have some bike infrastructure parallel to Packers Avenue that to some degree is helping things. But again, Packers Avenue, we recognize that there are shortcomings on Packers Avenue. There have been various efforts and plans to improve bike infrastructure to the north side. You know, I don’t think we’ll be able to fix everything along these corridors, but I think we’re looking at ways to bridge some gaps and get us closer to what we want to do. 

So, talking more about the running way and the infrastructure along the route. One of the key decisions is to go center running, as we have shown in the pictures along Mineral Point Road, or to go side running or outside running, which is more like what we’ve been doing for a long time. You know, we have several bus lanes around the city, where the bus runs on the right and the doors open on the right hand side. There are some benefits and negatives to both. Generally, we prefer the center running bus lanes and the reason for that is it eliminates many of the conflicts between buses and right turning vehicles, bikes, cars that are stopped, parked illegally, parked for a short period of time. All of those conflicts typically happen in the right lane. And so when we, even if we have a bus lane, we still deal with those conflicts. But, you know, there are some challenges with the center running bus lane. Typically, the outside bus lanes are shared with bikes, for example, on Mineral Point Road. We are switching from side running to center running and then replacing that shared facility as it existed with a side path on the north side of Mineral Point Road. Outside running is basically kind of the reverse of that. We have those, we have those conflicts, but it’s there, but it retains some of the benefits that are there with the facilities that we have. 

Okay, so getting into infrastructure a little bit deeper here. The project can be broken up into a few segments that have a number of things in common. We’re going to start at the south side, looking at Fish Hatchery Road south of the Beltline. This is in Fitchburg. So Fish Hatchery Road was reconstructed a few years ago. We will maintain most of the investment that was made along that corridor. We need to retrofit BRT into that. We’re not tearing it all out. So we will retrofit the stations in the median or on the side. If we flip the bus lanes from the side to the center, we’ll do something similar to what we did on Mineral Point Road, which is make the right hand lane a general purpose travel lane and then make the left lane bus only. So we remain two lanes in each direction. 

Going across the Beltline, Badger Road would be in mixed traffic. That’s just one lane in each direction. Not many changes that we would make there other than retrofit stations. 

Going up Park Street. So we’re going to talk a little bit about Park Street. Park Street is going to be a big part of this. So Park Street is due for a full scale reconstruct. It has pavement that is in poor condition. It also has many shortcomings in its cross section. It accommodates cars fairly well. It does not really accommodate buses or bikes very well. It does not have continuous bike facilities. And it has very few trees along it. To be straightforward, it’s not a very urban corridor. It’s a fairly car centered corridor and we’d like to improve it as we reconstruct it to make it a little bit more of a balanced facility and support that urban vision. So we’ll talk a little bit more about that. 

As we go north along Park Street, once you get north of about Fish Hatchery Road, Park Street is in better condition. That will not be a full reconstruct. That will be a retrofit. We will retrofit the stations and bus lanes into the corridor as it works. 

And then this section in the central part of Madison, again, no changes. That is being constructed now. We’ll leave the east-west corridor on North Street, which is opposite of Milwaukee Street. Again, that’s a single lane street, one lane each direction and then left on Commercial. So that will be in mixed traffic. No major changes to those corridors. 

As we get on to Packers Avenue, we have kind of a complicated intersection with Aberg Avenue. So we will serve a station there. There are a couple of different ways we’re looking at doing it, but right now we’re using the on and off ramps to serve stations on the ramps at Packers and Aberg. From there, we’ll go into new bus lanes on Packers Avenue and then around the curve onto Northport Drive. So currently Packers Avenue and Northport is three lanes in each direction. The concept would be to make the center lane bus only and then the two right-hand lanes would continue to be general purpose traffic. 

And then this loop on the north end would likely just be in mixed traffic as we go around the loop and serve the stations on that loop on Troy Drive, Green Avenue, and then back around on Northport Drive. 

So we also have some preliminary concepts for the changes to the bike facilities as it relates to this. And again, very preliminary, just putting some ideas out there. Starting on Fish Hatchery Road, if we were to go to center running, we would no longer have that shared bus and bike facility, but we would instead rely on the shared use path that has been built along one side of Fish Hatchery Road. It would still be technically legal and allowed to bike on Fish Hatchery, but I think we recognize that that’s basically not really an option for the vast majority of people and that most people would choose to use the side path. 

Going to the north, no real changes on Badger Road. Those bike lanes would remain on Badger Road. And then Park Street, I’ll show some concepts in just a second here, but that would be a full reconstruct with a new shared use path along the west side of Park Street between Badger and Fish Hatchery. That path would replace the existing facilities that kind of exist on Park Street. There are sections of Park Street that kind of have a bike lane and kind of don’t, and they kind of start and stop. So that whole concept would be replaced by a path on the west side of Park Street. We would then have an improved crossing on Park Street and provide connections to parallel routes to continue journeys to the north for people who don’t want to bike on Park Street. 

As we get farther north, north of Fish Hatchery or West Washington, depending on how you define things, again, very few changes. We do have the bike lanes on Park Street north of West Washington, so those would remain as they are. 

Flipping again to the north side, no substantial changes on North Street or Commercial Avenue. We have an existing bike lane on Commercial. We do not have one on North Street. And then coming around to Packers Avenue, no large scale changes to bike facilities. But again, we’re looking at some of those intersections to see how there may be some ways to improve crossings, make connections that don’t exist. 

And then no substantial changes to the bike lanes on Northport. So we have bike lanes that start right around Sherman Avenue. It’s kind of different in each direction, but west of Sherman, we basically have on-street bike lanes there. And then no changes to Troy Drive and Green Avenue. So we’re going to kind of start from the top, starting at Northport and work our way down. Just dive into these concepts a little more deeply. And just again to point out, these are very preliminary high-level concepts, trying to feel out if we’re on the right track here. 

So this is what our stations generally look like on the east-west line. Again, center running platforms with enhanced shelter and station amenities. Bus lanes in the middle. This is currently a three-lane street in each direction. So we have bus lanes in the center, two general purpose travel lanes. One area that we’re going to spend some time looking at is this particular intersection of Northport, Packers and Darwin. This intersection was rebuilt, I think, about 10 years ago. It is very difficult to cross. It’s basically impossible to cross. So we’re looking at ways to not only incorporate BRT through this interchange with a station somewhere in this block, but also try to make it more urban and more easy to cross and navigate for people who are walking and biking. No easy answers. Don’t have anything to show you yet, but that’s just a focus area that we’re looking at to try to make some larger scale improvements. Just a note on these drawings. The blue lines indicate bus lanes, and then the green lines indicate buses and mixed traffic. 

Moving down to Park Street. So this is a general overview of our concept for Park Street. Again, just looking at cross sections right now, looking at general concepts. Bus lane going in each direction, one to two travel lanes in each direction. We’re looking at the possibility of reducing the number of travel lanes from two to one along the middle part of Park Street. We don’t know if that’s viable yet. We think that that would help reduce the travel speeds and make Park Street more urban and safer. It would allow us to widen the things like the medians and the terraces. Still looking at that, it’s difficult because it is a state highway, so they do have jurisdiction and we’re looking through those options. But the general concept here is right now Park Street has three lanes essentially in each direction, two travel lanes, and then an auxiliary lane that’s a parking lane in some places, it’s a bus lane in some places, in some places it’s a parking plus bike lane. So taking that third auxiliary lane and turning it into a continuous bus lane on the left side of the street. 

We’d also like to make some improvements like widening the terraces so that we can actually get some healthy terraces with some street trees to provide shade and that more comfortable feel as many other urban corridors in Madison have, but Park Street does not. Some of that space is coming from the median, so reducing some of the median width and allocating it where pedestrians are more likely to be. 

And then this is a concept for the widened sidewalk or the side path that would replace the standard five foot sidewalk on the west side of Park Street. There are some reasons why it’s on the west side but I’m not going to go into that detail. So that would replace this sidewalk with a path that’s wide enough for bicyclists and pedestrians to pass each other, providing a protected facility between bikes, pedestrians and traffic. 

Just moving our way south on the corridor again blue is BRT and bus lanes, green is mixed traffic. Looking at this area now which is essentially the south transfer point, I don’t have anything to show you but this is another just kind of complicated area, as was the intersection of Northport and Packers. We have a couple things going on here. So the south transfer point will be redeveloped into a mixed use development. It will no longer function as the south transfer point because the BRT line will not stop there; it will continue to go to from the south and to the south. So we’re looking at ways to replace that facility with a facility that’s more supportive of the BRT infrastructure that keeps buses moving, that has a little bit more of an urban feel to it. And so there are a few options that we’re exploring there – again I don’t have anything to show you yet, but I’m just pointing out that we’re looking at this area and looking for ways to accommodate what we need to have there. We don’t have the same volume of buses and the same number of routes coming in and out of that area as we had before the transit network redesign. But we do have a couple routes G,H, and O that will interact with the north south BRT line route B, and so we do need to do that so we’re looking at some options in that area. We’re also looking at the Park and Badger intersection. This is an intersection that was again rebuilt about like 10 to 20 years ago. And again, it’s very car oriented. It does not serve pedestrians, bikes or transit users very well. And so we would like to make changes to that intersection to benefit all users of that intersection. 

One more thing to show you as we go to the south, the current end of route B is here at McKee and Fish Hatchery. So the current end of route B is essentially one station to the north here on Caddis Bend. So we’re proposing to extend the line about a half mile to the south, that would get it to McKee Road and Fish Hatchery which is this dot here on a street that’s called Triverton Pike. That does a couple things for us. It gets us one stop further into Fitchburg, serving a kind of a node there where people can get to the BRT service from several places around Fitchburg where the current end of route B is just a little bit too far. It also gives us an off street terminal where we can charge the bus. We do need a place where we can charge the electric buses at the end of the line so that they can continue to provide service and not run out of batteries. 

What I’m trying to show you here is that we’re also looking at the concept of extending it a couple stations farther to the south. And this is at the request of the City of Fitchburg. This concept would extend route B farther south along Fish Hatchery Road towards East Cheryl or Lacy Road, providing BRT service to the Fitchburg Civic Campus, which is kind of the downtown of Fitchburg. And so we’re looking into the feasibility of that. There are a couple questions. You know, there is a cost associated with this. And there are some challenges, but we’re looking into it. So, you know, any comments or thoughts about any of these things? Certainly welcome. Or, you know, anything about the project in general? I’m just trying to kind of give you some information about where we are and how we’re planning this project. 

So we’ll come back up above the clouds a little bit, and talk about the timeline. So, you know, the BRT system has been in planning for about the last decade. We’re now implementing the second of essentially the two lines. We are at the very start of the planning process for the north-south BRT route. Planning, design, and environmental evaluation will last from 2023, which is really just about coming to an end here through 2024 and 2025. Construction will last about two years. And then we hope to implement the system within about four to five years. It’s a little bit hard to make any predictions that go out that far, but, you know, probably looking in the 2027-2028 timeframe. 

A couple other ways to provide comments. And, you know, we’ll post this. We can go back to this. But we have an online forum where you can provide comments with a QR code. We also have a map where you can view the north-south BRT line and provide comments on the map. And we can come back to show that. But I just want to kind of finish out a couple other options here. We have a website, madisonbrt.com. If you go there, you’ll kind of see two streams. You’ll see the east-west BRT project, where you can get things like updates to the construction process. And then you’ll see north-south BRT, where you’ll see some of this information and some of the planning work that’s being done. We have an email address dedicated to this project, brt.cityofmadison.com. Those emails go to myself, Liz, Tom, and others working directly on the project. You can also sign up for email updates to get notifications of any upcoming meetings. So it’s a lot of information. It’s pretty dense. I think I’m going to end it around there. And I don’t know, maybe I should just go back here in case anybody wants to get those links. But thanks for that. And we can open it up to any questions or comments. 

Yeah, thanks so much, Mike, for giving us this very brief overview. But yeah, there’s a lot to digest here. And I already see questions in the chat. And yeah, we do have 35 people. So feel free to either put your questions or comments in the chat. Or you can also raise your hand if you’d rather ask it yourself. And I’ll try to keep an eye on here.

I see some questions from Craig about BRT having a dedicated lane on North Park Street between Regent and University Avenue and what that would look like. 

Cechvala: Okay, so between Regent and University Avenue, it does get a little complicated in here. Let me see if I can go back to one of these types of drawings. So what this would look like is we would have dedicated lanes on Park Street as it goes up to West Washington. What this would probably look like is northbound, you have two lanes. So you have those two receiving lanes northbound on Park Street north of West Washington. The left lane would be dedicated towards two cars turning left on Regent Street. So this is shown in somewhat of a simplified fashion. But you’d have two lanes approaching Regent Street. One would be for cars to go. Actually, you’d have three lanes approaching Regent Street. One would be for cars and other vehicles to go through and right, a bus lane, and then a left turn lane. So that bus lane would develop somewhere in between these two intersections. 

Southbound, we’d like to have kind of a similar situation where southbound, we have a southbound left lane that becomes dedicated to turning left onto Regent Street. And at that point, you have a bus only lane that begins and then goes through southbound Park. That would have one southbound travel lane and one southbound bus lane. We are a little bit concerned about having just one southbound general purpose lane at West Washington Avenue. So we’re looking to see if we can truly have that southbound bus lane going all the way through. Another option would be to kind of do that same thing at Regent Street, but then have the second lane open up to general purpose traffic. Obviously, we’d like to have that continuous dedicated bus only lane, but we do need to work within the confines of what we can do. 

Facilitator: Thanks, and Craig had a follow up question on the 400 to 1400 South Park Street blocks where many buildings abut the sidewalk and how that would go together with building a path there. 

Cechvala: Okay, so the path would be from Badger Road to Fish Hatchery. So this section here, this is where we’re doing the full reconstruct. So there are some buildings that are tight to the sidewalk there. It gets a little bit complicated with each one. But in some cases, they’ve set that building back. So in that situation, you’d have a sidewalk, and then a separate path between the sidewalk and the street. At any rate, most of the side path here would be not adjacent to a building directly. Most of those buildings are set back. 

Facilitator: Thanks, and the final one from Craig, would this on street parking on South Park Street be removed or would that be kept? 

Cechvala: We are looking at that section, particularly this section of Park Street between West Washington and Olin. I think it’s hard to say, but there are some businesses there that really rely on parking. The concept shown here would generally remove parking along the entire stretch, but there are some businesses that rely on it. And so we’re looking at different options. Again, we don’t want things to creep too much, but there would be some options that would have parking and that would not have parking. Most likely, the retention of parking would mean that the bus would have to be in mixed traffic. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Matt is asking about bikes on buses, where the current bike racks in the front of the bus have a weight limit that doesn’t allow for e-bikes. So BRT will allow you to bring bikes on board, but will there be restrictions on what you can bring on board? 

Chechvala: So the bikes will be on board, you’ll go in the back door and the bikes will be, there’ll be a space for bikes in the back of the bus, as opposed to on the front of the bus. I mean, you know, this person clearly knows that, but that’s what I kind of pointed out for anybody else that might not know. And the reason for that is it’s faster and it’s easier. A lot of people are very intimidated by going into the street and putting their bike on the front of the bus. And it does take quite a long time with the platforms that are raised up above the street. It really doesn’t work as well. You know, we haven’t, we haven’t thought about what kind of policies we might have for bikes, but, you know, I think realistically the weight will not be a problem. I think the challenge will be the longer bikes and the trailers are just difficult to fit in there. They’re difficult to fit on the front of the bus too, right? And the trailers don’t fit on the bikes on the front and some of the very long bikes don’t fit either. So I think that’s going to be kind of the limitation. And I think what the way it’ll work out in practice is if you can get it in there and find a way for it to fit so that you’re not blocking the aisle and blocking people from circulating on the bus, I don’t think anybody’s going to really complain about it. 

Facilitator: Thanks. I see some support for extending the route to Lacy Road for serving Promega and the Fitchburg Library. And Janet, you have your hand up. So why don’t you unmute yourself and ask your questions before we go back to the chat. 

Janet: Sure, thanks. I’m pretty excited about all this and I’m very happy with the Park Street 15 minute service we have already. So thank you. I was wondering about it for the folks who want to ride their bike to the BRT but don’t want to take the bike along. Is there going to be any bike parking on the medians? 

Cechvala: Yeah, on the east-west line we’re putting in some bike parking strategically along the route. Typically that’s on the side of the street. I think we’re also looking at possible other options for the north-south line. I think that one of the shortcomings is that the bike parking is typically going to be on the side of the street, not in the median next to or on the platform. We don’t really want it on the platform, but we looked at different places to locate the bike parking. So we will try to locate bike parking along the BRT route so people can drop their bikes off there and then continue on the bus. And we’ll continue to look at different options to provide that. 

Facilitator: Thank you. Kaleb is asking about the planned lane widths both for the car lanes and for bus lanes for the route. He understands that some of these streets are state routes, but you’re exploring reduced lane count on South Park and reduced lane widths may also help with achieving reduced speeds. 

Cechvala: Yeah, now we’re getting into the nitty gritty. So if you look at the cross section that’s on the screen right now, I hate to use overused metaphors, but we’re trying to fit 10 pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag. The right of way is 106 feet wide. And to be straightforward, all of these things that we want to fit in here don’t fit. And so we’re looking at absolutely everything. We’re looking at reducing the lane width to 10 feet, wherever we can do that. Even the bus lanes, a bus is as wide as any vehicle out there. It’s eight and a half feet wide plus the mirrors. So if you think about that, an eight and a half foot wide vehicle plus about nine inches of mirrors on each side and then you say, how does it fit into a 10 foot lane? There’s just very little wiggle room, but yet we’re still looking at going down from an 11 foot lane to a 10 and a half or even a 10 foot lane. We’re also looking at even the curbs, curb heads, curb and gutter. Typically the city likes a one or two foot gutter pan with a six inch or 12 inch curb head. We’re looking at even going lower than what we’ve done on any other project to even just try to save six inches on the curb head to get healthier trees. We have the path there that we’d like to have at 10 feet. And we might have to reduce that with a little bit, but we don’t want to reduce it too much. We want to get every inch of that path that we can. We’re looking at the median, as I mentioned, looking at reducing the median. Right now the median is wide enough for a left turn lane, but then also a pedestrian refuge. But if you think about it in between blocks and at intersections where we don’t have the need for a pedestrian refuge because of traffic signals or the way it’s laid out. We’re looking at where can we save room from the median to make it all fit. And that’s why we’re trying to look at even removing a travel lane on part of Park Street. Again, we don’t know if that’s going to work. I’m not going to make a prediction either way, but it’s a tall order. But we’re trying because that will preserve width for other things. We’re looking at all of it. 

Facilitator: Thanks, Mike. Aaron has two comments, which are a little bit longer. So I will maybe try to summarize them a little bit. So first, he highlights that there seems to be some research that the increased vehicle congestion that can result from BRT implementation when it is not paired with improving bike and ped infrastructure can, oh, sorry, I shouldn’t have tried to summarize this. Well, let me get to the question part of that point. Are you confident that the bike and pedestrian options included in your plan are legitimate options that will actually impact the number of people who are able to forego driving? And then the second question is maybe a little bit more specific about what it means to have a widened sidewalk. How wide is that going to be? And how does that relate to the fact that 10 feet, as we have seen in some other projects, is not enough and leads to conflicts between people walking and biking? 

Cechvala: Yeah, so I think the first question was, do we think these changes will have a meaningful effect? I mean, I think we’re hoping to, you know, we’re trying to have a real solution on Park Street where we really have the opportunity to do something. I think we’ve been finding that in many cases for many people, just having an on-street bike lane with no separation or protection on some of these higher volume, higher speed streets, even though the speed limit is 25, it’s just not desirable for a lot of people. 

The second question was about the width of the widened sidewalk. Our preferred width would be at least 10 feet. Again, going back to the potato analogy, you know, I think we need to be realistic. If we can get as much width on it as we can, I think we’ll have a better facility than what we have today. Tom maybe has something to add. 

Tom Lynch: I think, you know, part of our goal is to promote mode shift, right, to have people use transportation that’s less impactful to our environment, but part of it also is just safety. And when Harald said, you know, all ages and abilities, that’s something that’s particularly needed in South Madison. You think about some of those, you know, you have a middle school there, you have a splash park there, you have a swimming pool there, you have the library there, and a parent can’t tell their child to go to the library, right, where do they bike? And so, I’m just going to say, we are trying to make a meaningful improvement in transportation choices that are less impactful to the environment, but we’re also trying to provide some safer choices for every age, you know, and every ability. And so I’d say that, particularly in South Park, is as much of a goal as anything. 

Callaway: Yeah, and I’ll just jump into, I just wanted to say, you know, we’re focused tonigh, just particularly on the BRT corridor, but this is certainly not the only project that we will be moving forward, related to walking and biking, in the South and the North part of the city. So, this is just what’s happening with BRT. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Mark has two questions or comments. One of them is, what about, and again, I’m guessing, Mark, feel free to chime in if that’s not right, what about protected bike lanes on Park Street, I guess, rather than having a combined multi-use path? 

Cechvala: Yeah, the question is about protected bike lanes on Park Street, as opposed to the shared-use path and widened sidewalk. We looked at that option. We are proposing to widen the sidewalk for a very simple reason, that we can make use of the existing five-foot width of the sidewalk, so we can expand it by five feet and get a two-way facility. Whereas, if we had a one-way facility on each side of the street, we would need a five or six-foot width, plus the buffer on both sides of the street, and it’s just not going to fit. 

Facilitator: I’m going to jump a little bit ahead, so I’ll come back to other questions after, but this seems to be a good follow-up. Andrew is asking the reasoning for having the widened side path on only one side of the street, where widening on both sides would allow safe travel without having to cross the street as many times. 

Cechvala: Yeah, and I hear you, and that statement is absolutely correct. I think, unfortunately, the answer is the same. You know, this corridor really needs to be 10 feet wider, and it’s not really practical to acquire a strip along the entire corridor. And so this is what will fit in the right of way. Not a great answer, not what we’d like to deliver, but that’s the answer, unfortunately. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Greg is asking about Madison’s Complete Green Streets Ordinance, which came into effect after the east-west BRT was already underway, and that complete green streets ordinance seems to require a bike facility along the entire length of Park Street. Is that not correct, or will this plan provide that? 

Callaway: Sure, I can probably jump in on that one, Mike. So, complete green streets does show part of Park Street as being part of the all-ages and ability bike network. So, from ErinStreet south, however, it is also transit priority for the full BRT length. The portion to West Washington is also on the state highway network. So, obviously, you know, we want to try and accommodate the all-ages and ability bike network within the right of way, while also realizing it’s transit priority and it is a state highway. So, I think, does it require it? It doesn’t require it. It requires us to look at it, to review the trade-offs, to engage around those, and try to find solutions to accommodate the needs within that corridor. But it isn’t the full length that’s on the all-ages and ability bike network currently. 

Facilitator: Thanks, Renee. Peter is pointing out, thanks for the great presentation. BRT has great potential to expand transit ridership to folks currently opting for single occupancy vehicles. By not directly serving the Dane County Regional Airport, that seems like a missed opportunity. Is a route that can directly serve the airport something that can still be considered? 

Cechvala: Yeah, that’s actually a good question. And that’s been in part of our presentations. We took it out of this one for brevity, but let’s go ahead and talk about it. So, as we were planning for Route B and the north-south BRT line, we knew it would come up either Sherman or Packers, because those are basically the two roads to the north side. And then, we looked at where it should go from there. One option would be the airport. One option would be the Northport – Troy loop here, historically served by Route 22. And we also looked at doing both. And I’ll just, I’ll start out with doing both. You know, again, thinking about what BRT is and how it’s different from a local bus route, it needs to be fast and direct. If it’s too out of direction, it’s just not going to be competitive. It doesn’t matter how many bus lanes or how much signal priority or how many limited stops we have. It’s just not going to be direct. So, anything that tries to go to the airport and then come back and do the rest of the route is just not going to be time competitive with driving. So, looking at doing one or the other, we did look at the ridership and kind of the utility of going to the airport and going to the west. It felt like there’s a lot more demand to the west. There’s a lot of housing. There’s a lot of medium and low income families living to the west. And so it felt like we were accomplishing a bit more by going to the west. 

We’ve also implemented some changes with the transit network redesign. The airport was historically served by Route 20, which ran about every 30 minutes but required a transfer at the north transfer point and kind of a wait and a delay and then you transfer to Route 2 or 4 to continue downtown. We replaced that with Route D2, which comes up Sherman Avenue and then goes directly to the airport. So, no more waiting through the north transfer point. It doesn’t have the frequency or the capital improvements, the bus lanes, the stations that BRT has, but it does have that direct route to downtown. But this is also something that we are interested in hearing others’ thoughts on. If you think we should re-look at this and maybe you prefer the airport, we’d like to know that. Again, these aren’t decisions that we made lightly. These are decisions that are difficult and have a lot of different aspects to them. So, if you think that we should re-look at that decision, that’s information that we’d like to know. 

Facilitator: Thanks, Mike. Benjamin is pointing out and asking you to consider kids on bikes with any of these street projects. On-street bike lanes are not a safe solution and what would be required for safe bike infrastructure to be put into any street or transit project? 

Cechvala: Yeah, I think Tom touched on that, so I’m not going to repeat what he said. But generally, we’re trying to get away from the old standard of just slapping bike lanes on the side and move towards a more protective facility like you’re seeing here. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Nick is asking about dual use of a single bus lane. Probably most of the time that buses going opposite directions pass each other, it will be at a station. So, I guess you have a single line serving both directions, if I’m understanding that right. 

Cechvala: Yeah, so this is a question that we sometimes get, and this is a strategy that has been used on other systems. We call it single track. So, if you think of it like a train, a light rail system or a freight train or whatever, they sometimes have sections of single track where you have one track and the train goes both directions on the same track. You could have a system that has a single track that’s buses, and that is used in some areas. 

There are some pretty significant challenges to it. It really only works on short lines or lines with infrequent service. What happens is with these bus lanes, we’re trying to avoid traffic congestion. But if we have two buses, if we have buses going the same direction in the same lane, we could say, okay, great, we eliminated 10 seconds of traffic congestion, but now we’re waiting for three minutes for this bus coming in the opposite lane to pass us. The other challenge with it is at the stations and at the busy intersections, which the stations tend to be at the busier intersections, that’s where our choke points typically are. So, what happens is those choke points where we have the most need for space, that’s also where we can’t do the single track. And so we end up with a lane in each direction at the stations at the busy intersections. And then if we were to try to have a single track bus lane in between the stations, it’s like, well, okay, what are you trying to get for that? If you’re trying to have a better bike facility, it’s like, okay, then your bike facility is going to get shrunken down to the same cross section at the intersection where you need that better bike facility the most. Because of those challenges, we typically don’t do the single track, but there are some places where it is a tool that can be used. 

Facilitator: Liz posted some comments on other ways to provide feedback. Liz, do you quickly want to say something about those? 

Callin: Sure. I just posted the link to the desktop version of that interactive map. I was seeing a lot of comments coming in on that. So keep those coming. Those are great. And then also just the link to the comment form is in there as well. And we’ll also download the comments from this chat too, if people have to go and try to reply to those. Yeah, this is the best way. And if you can’t get to that or whatever, probably the second best way and easier to remember is just email us, BRT@cityofmadison.com.

Facilitator: Next question. Janet is asking, will there be traffic lights at every station and or begbuttons  to activate those traffic lights? 

Cechvala: Yep. So all of the stations are typically at traffic signals. And so you would use the crosswalks to get to the median station. That’s another thing that comes up a lot. What happens is when we have the stations in the middle, every time you go to or from the stations, you have to cross half the street. And so, you know, yeah, you do have to cross the street to get to the station. But when we have bus stops on the side of the street, depending on where you’re going or coming from, you’ll have to cross either none of the street or the entire street. So you’re not actually crossing the street more. You’re just crossing it half of the street twice or the full street once. 

But yeah, on the east-west line, for example, we’re putting in five new traffic signals. Two to three, depending on how you count it. Two or three of those are for bus operations. And I’ll say two and a half are because we have a BRT station at an intersection that is not signalized. And so we wanted to put that signal where people can cross the street. One of them sort of serves both purposes. So there probably will be a couple of new traffic signals with this project for those same reasons. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Matt is pointing out that we keep hearing the reason that things can’t be done is that there isn’t space in the right of way, but there would be space if we removed more car lanes. Why can’t we do that? 

Cechvala: We’re trying. We’re trying. Yep. Towards the south end, towards Badger Road and the Beltline, that’s probably unlikely. And on the north end, north of about Olin, it’s pretty unlikely because of the traffic volumes. Tom, do you have something to add? 

Lynch: Yeah, maybe we’ll just add that, as you said, they’re under WisDOT jurisdiction and we are doing traffic modeling, trying to show the Wisconsin DOT that the traffic delay impacts are not unacceptable. However, they get to have the final say on this. It’s their facility. And so, as Mike said, we’re putting in the fight, seeing if it can be done, but the decision will be the Wisconsin DOT’s decision. 

Facilitator: There are two questions or comments about the northern part of the route. Robbie is asking, can you please go over the north side plans again? What bike facilities will be on Northport? There are lots of destinations there, especially for kids and low income neighborhoods on both sides of Northport. Nicholas is pointing out that the Troy Drive loop, whether that has the same ridership potential as the rest of the route. 

Cechvala: Okay, so yeah, I’ll kind of take those together. So the basic plan for Packers and Northport in this blue section is to take one of the three travel lanes and convert it to bus only. This facility was reconstructed recently. We don’t see major changes to this corridor. Again, just thinking back to some of my opening statements here, we know that this is a 15 mile corridor. We know that there are shortcomings. We’d like to use some opportunities to fix some of them. We do need to contain the scope and do what we can. So we are not planning major cross section changes to Packers or Northport. We do know that there are some pieces of side path along Packers. We’re looking at maybe ways to kind of connect some of those dots perhaps. This intersection at Aberg and Packers is somewhat problematic with the discontinuous path and the flying right turn. So we’re looking to see if there’s some ways that we can make some of those connectivity improvements. And then this interchange here between Packers and Northport, trying to find some way to connect the gaps in that area. But the on street bike lanes along most of Northport there would not be changed with this project as we’re currently envisioning it. 

And I think then the second question was, what’s the demand potential for this one way loop on Troy, Green and Northport? I think there’s quite a bit of demand there. This pair at School Road serves a pretty good number of people in this area. And then also the north side is fairly disconnected from a pedestrian and street grid standpoint. So School Road does serve people coming down here and getting on the bus. Kennedy Road serves quite a number of apartments and other people living in this area. These two, they serve a couple of important destinations, the Central Wisconsin Center and the Mendota Mental Health don’t have a ton of ridership potential, but I think as we improve transit service, those are important destinations to serve and perhaps some improvement. 

One challenge that we have with this loop today is because it’s a one way loop, I’m just going to go over this briefly, but we need some place to end the route, right? So the bus goes to the end of the line, and then they sit and then, you know, they might have 10 minutes to take a break, use the bathroom, the bus charges a little bit. And most importantly, what happens is if the bus gets to the end of the line late, they have that recovery time so that they can turn around and start the return trip on time. So the problem with a one way loop is where do you do that? Right now, we’re doing it at Northport and Sherman. And so what happens is people getting on this loop, they get on the bus, they wrap around the loop, they go to Northport and Sherman, and then they sit and that’s the end of the line. And so they sit there for 5, 10, 15 minutes and wait for the bus to keep going while the driver’s taking their break and getting back on time and all those kinds of things. So I think that issue is making the service less attractive than it could be. And that’s another issue that we’re trying to solve with this project. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Stefan has a question. So parts of Park Street require a complete rebuild, which is a good way to justify major configuration changes. Will we also be able to justify major changes on the Packers Northport-Darwin intersection, even though the pavement condition isn’t dire? There’s a good amount of space there, so many slip lanes, but a bike-ped friendly design will require big changes. 

Cechvala: Yeah, I think that’s a good question. I think we’re still struggling with that. It’s a little bit inconvenient that it is pretty new. I think we’d ultimately like to rebuild the entire thing as a new urban street T intersection. It is very expensive. It is very invasive. You start to look at things like, what do you do with all this extra land that is no longer necessary? So I think that we may end up with some smaller improvements there. I think we might look at things like, how can we have bicycle and pedestrian connectivity? How can we kind of retrofit what’s there? And I think your initial reaction might be, how can you retrofit what’s there? It’s just really not built like an urban intersection at all. But I think there are some things that we can do to at least provide connectivity. So we’ll be looking at that full range of options. Again, the cost of this project, definitely, I don’t want to lose track of the fact that we do need to make this fit within a reasonable budget. BRT is an expensive project. It uses a lot of the city’s budget. And we do need to not only be cautious and conscious of that, but there are also limits to what we can do with our grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration. And they have certain thresholds and limits on what we can spend the money on. And they compare the cost to the projected ridership. And they have limits that way. So we’ll hope to have more information soon. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Benjamin has a very specific question. Is there a plan in place to avoid getting stuck waiting to turn eastbound on Johnson from Park Street? 

Cechvala: So the northbound right turn from Park Street to Johnson, that is a very sticky spot. We get hung up there quite a bit. I hate to sound like a broken record here, but we have a couple ideas. None of them are going to be easy, but we’re looking at kind of small signal timing and signal adjustments and kind of minor changes to more major and more invasive things. The solution will probably be somewhere in between there. But again, I don’t have anything to show you. But we’re looking at that. That’s another one of those spots where we’re trying to do something that really has a lasting benefit. That’s a good point. It’s a really sticky spot. We struggled with that right turn for many years. 

Facilitator: Thanks. And it seems like the chat is starting to slow down. Kaleb has one maybe final question. Are you planning to have coordinated signaling at all BRT stops to make a call for pedestrian phase when the bus stops? 

Cechvala: Yeah, so the concept is when the bus goes through the intersection, it can call the crossing for the walk light. And that will help if you’re getting off the bus and you can’t get to the intersection in time to press the button. So you don’t have to wait an entire cycle to cross the street. We’re setting up some of the infrastructure to be able to do that. I don’t think we’ve decided exactly where and how to implement some of that. But it’s definitely on our radar. And so we’ll at least have the options to do some of that stuff. 

Facilitator: All right. Oh, just as I was about to say, we don’t have any more questions. Benjamin, the entirety of North Sherman looks like an obvious candidate for a protected bike corridor. Is there any way to use momentum from this project to jumpstart that sort of project as part of a comprehensive Vision Zero goal? 

Callaway: So I was going to say we have some planning work unrelated to BRT around our bike network and our all ages and abilities bike network and doing some prioritization. That will be starting in 2024. Don’t have an exact date for when we’re going to start that because we just got our agreement with the US DOT for the funding we’ll be using for that, as well as some pedestrian planning. But definitely, we want to kind of look at that. We know for sure we hear a lot from the north side. And so we’ll be taking a look at that and prioritizing things so that we can get projects into the hopper and find the ones that will have the most impact to get to the top. So that’s not exactly an answer about North Sherman, but there’s some momentum on the all ages and ability bike network and prioritizing them and getting them into our various funding streams and prioritizing applications for additional grant funding as well. 

Facilitator: Excellent. And I think I was about to send you an email at some point, whether you would be interested in talking about that bike network planning effort a little bit more at a future community meeting. So stay tuned. If you’re not on our email list already, please subscribe and you will get notified about meetings such as this. Tom has a question about the range of the buses between charges. 

Cechvala: Yeah, good question. It’s not really so much a question of range. It depends on a lot of factors, such as the hilliness of the route, the speed that you drive at. Driving on the freeway really drains the battery. We think of it in terms of hours, in terms of time, and that varies just as much. But, you know, it kind of varies anywhere from, I’ll say, about 7 hours to about 10 to 12 hours, depending. But what we’re doing is we’re putting the en route chargers at each end of the line. And so that will essentially allow it to keep going continuously. I don’t know if that’s really what will happen, but our goal is to have enough time at the end of the line so that the bus can keep running all day long. And at least make it from the morning to the very end of the day, even if it needs to get charged up overnight by the time before it goes out the next day. But that is the goal, to make it last all day with the en route chargers. 

Facilitator: Great. One comment from Tara about pushing buttons for the walk signal. I think we covered that already, maybe, but there’s another vote for not making people push buttons, especially at new lights for BRT. 

Cechvala: Yeah, just one thing I’ll add to that is where we are changing the traffic signals along the BRT route at the stations, we’re typically putting in the audible pedestrian signals for people who are blind and need that. Historically, we haven’t done that at every traffic signal, but we’re preemptively doing that on the BRT routes. 

Facilitator: That’s awesome. Thanks. All right. If I, for some reason, skipped over your question, maybe now is the time to raise your hand and make sure you still get in the queue. Otherwise, I think we can probably wrap up. 

Cechvala: Thank you, everybody. It’s a very good discussion. Again, appreciate any feedback or questions in any of the forums that you see on the screen or to get a hold of us, please don’t hesitate. 

Facilitator: Awesome. And yeah, we will make this recording available in the next couple days on our website. Yeah, don’t hesitate to reach out to us as well, Madison Bikes, if you have any specific questions that you want to share with us and the city or only with us. And yeah, thanks so much, Mike, and everybody else for being available to answer this great range of questions. Have a good night. I see lots of thanks in the chat. So, thanks.