The primary for Madison mayor happened on February 19. To inform and educate the electorate, Madison Bikes has asked all candidates in the election four questions related to biking and transportation in Madison. Madison Bikes is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and does not endorse or oppose any candidate for political office. All responses are reproduced unedited and in full. Nick Hart and Toriana Pettaway did not respond to our requests.
More information on how to vote can be found on the City Clerk's website: https://www.cityofmadison.com/clerk/elections-voting
Additional information on the candidates' positions on transportation can be found in the transcript of an in-person candidate forum that Madison Bikes co-hosted.
Paul Soglin and Satya Rhodes-Conway received the most votes in the primary and will be on the ballot for the general election on April 2. Responses from the other candidates are at the bottom of this page.
Concerns about car parking have been a major obstacle when it comes to a shift in our transportation system. Removing on-street parking is often necessary to build dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, or safer pedestrian crossings. As mayor, what would your policy be toward trading on-street parking for safer and better active transportation options?
Our transportation system should focus on people – on getting you where you need to be, safely and efficiently - not on vehicles. In part, that means finding a better balance between modes, and prioritizing the use of public right of way for modes that serve a higher density of people, like transit. That will inevitably mean using curb space for things other than parking.
I will also prioritize using tools like dynamic pricing and other regulation of parking to better manage demand and encourage the use of non-SOV modes, wherever it makes sense. I would like to move towards a full transportation demand management approach like San Francisco is using (and LA is developing), including making it easier to find available parking, and using level of service measurements that reflect pedestrian, bicycle, and transit use instead of just cars. We also need to evaluate off-street parking requirements that impact the amount of driving. And we should look at our curb management policies, including neighborhood parking permits, with a goal of balancing parking demand, infill development, and encouraging multi-modal transportation.
The long-term success of our transportation system depends on shifting away from single-occupancy vehicles, and moving toward zero-carbon transportation modes.
For the purposes of mobility, the Madison roadway is shared by traditional motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and in the future, possibly motorized ped scooters and rail. There will be increased demand particularly for protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes. This demand will result in examination of both on street parking lanes and motor vehicle lanes.
In every instance, the determination will be made by a number of variables which will include the various modal demands for the space and the availability of off street parking. We will also examine the uses of right-of-way in adjacent parallel streets.
As many other cities, Madison has many inequities when it comes to transportation. Poorer neighborhoods and neighborhoods with a higher proportion of people of color often lack access to good transit, safe walking and biking, or to green space. On the other hand, these are often the neighborhoods were people are least able to afford a car. How are you going to address these inequities in transportation access?
Racial equity should be at the heart of every decision we make as a city.
One of my top priorities will be finally implementing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Madison region. In addition to BRT, we must increase the number of neighborhoods serviced by Metro and the hours they’re serviced. We must also focus on providing transit to key employment sites, and for folks that don't work 9-5, and keeping transit affordable. All of our transit investments should help build complete – and green – streets that are safe for people, no matter how they travel.
The city is presently undergoing a review of transportation equity, particularly as it relates to the highest priority that affects the most people: public transit. Under my administration, we have already gone through a review of two transit demands which led to the implementation of brand new service to Owl Creek and increased service for Route 80.
As we plan for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) a new analysis is underway in regards to the planning of routes. Traditionally routes were planned based on demand from one location to another. The result was this: the greater demand for service at a specific a location, the more frequent the service and there was an effort to reduce the timing of the trip. The new analysis will look at equitable service to all points in the Madison Metro service area.
Forty years ago, over sixty percent of school children in the US walked or rode a bicycle to school. Today, that figure is less than ten percent. This decline in bicycling and walking and physical activity in general) has been mirrored by dramatic increases in negative health impacts for kids. What would you do to reverse this trend?
The city needs to work with MMSD to increase participation in walking or biking to school. We need to build the infrastructure to create safe routes to schools, and encourage programs like walking school busses, and education for families about the health and safety benefits of walking, biking, and taking transit. I would like to look at providing free bus passes to high school students, like other cities do, both to make it easier for them to get around, and to create a generation of bus riders. All this will help improve the health of kids, and will also ease congestion around drop off/pick up zones providing greater safety for kids.
We are collaborating with the federal government and Madison public schools on our Safe Routes to School initiative that installs and maintains safe biking and walking paths near elementary and middle schools. We know additional exercise can improve a student’s academic performance.
We are also committed to, and creating, walkable neighborhoods which encourage more activity. We regularly install and repair sidewalks in neighborhoods to promote active lifestyles as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety. We install sidewalks with new developments.
Our Parks Department has a program called Connecting Kids to Nature. City Staff work through the summer with interns in challenged neighborhoods and directly with children helping them explore, learn and appreciate the out-of-doors.
In addition, Madison City Parks have many types of playgrounds, bike and walking paths. We have bike racks for safe storage of bikes at many of our City parks. And, we continue to invest millions in bike paths providing connections throughout the entire city in a safe manner.
We are also expanding our shared bikes program throughout the City to encourage and enable bike ridership for residents and visitors of all ages.
The percentage of people biking in Madison has been stagnating at around five percent for the past ten years. Where would you like that number to be in 2025 and how are you going to get us there? How many miles of protected bike lanes will the city have built by the end of your first term?
Madison has a solid base on which to build an even stronger cycling presence. Increasing the mode share of bicycling will be critical in meeting our climate goals. As Mayor, I will:
work to fill the gaps in the bike path system
increase investment in infrastructure that supports cyclists of all ages and abilities, including protected lanes
make sure that cycling infrastructure is integrated with our bus rapid transit system
work on managing traffic speeds, through design and enforcement, to make streets safer for all modes of travel
Madison is a Platinum Bike Community. This is a highly coveted national recognition that examines all aspects of our biking facilities and opportunities. The majority of the developments and projects in the city that resulted in this award were created under my leadership.
The city currently has roughly 100 miles of protected bike trails to take residents and visitors to all areas of the city and beyond. We continue to engage with BCycle, a bike share program, which is expanding every year. My goal is to provide those bikes in more challenged neighborhoods as well.
We are continuing to provide additional biking opportunities in every budget. For example, in 2019 we are adding an additional two miles of protected bike expressway near County M on Madison’s west side. This project includes underpasses and other safety options which will make this a wonderful opportunity, not only for commuters to the new UW research park but also to Epic and other far west side jobs. This is also a great path for families and individuals biking for recreation. In fact, these connections can take a biker all the way to Dodgeville.
Under my leadership the city has hired a Director of Transportation who is overseeing biking projects and opportunities. He is working with city staff and residents to consider the most sustainable manner to proceed with any transportation project, mass transit, biking, peds and motorists. We will continue to engage with the community and users on every project.
As our city continues to grow and diversify, maintaining the character of neighborhoods is an important goal to have. As our population grows, especially on the isthmus, the need to support transit modes other than cars will become critical. As mayor, I will continue to support increasing access to safe pedestrian, bicycling, and bus options across our city. And in some cases, this may cause discussion about whether to protect the character of a neighborhood’s existing street. My commitment is to evaluate these on a case-by-case basis and weigh the priorities of the neighbors and the priorities of commuters fairly.
Communities that have made progress toward better active transportation options prioritize moving people over moving vehicles. That is the policy here in Madison but recent actions by the mayor contradict that position. I would have supported the Common Council decision (Option 2) on the Winnebago reconstruction, which would have prioritized safe walking, biking and tree canopy over street-based car storage.
It’s also important, less as a matter of policy and more as a matter of public education, to demonstrate the economic benefits of active transportation. The public health and environmental benefits of active transportation have real dollars and cents implications for the city. Cyclists and pedestrians benefit local businesses too! Some studies show that bike/walk-in customers spend more, in aggregate, than customers who drive. Before any reconstruction effort, I would support a retail study identifying customer transportation “mode” to get a sense of how people are getting to stores, and how we might best support a transition to active transportation methods without undue burden to businesses.
Active transportation is something we should encourage among the youngest city residents. We should explore designating schools and parks as “move safe” zones that protect young people as they bike or walk to school. This may include adjusting school drop-off points and creating vehicle-free buffers around schools and parks where people can bike and walk in safety. Pedestrian islands, wide sidewalks, plazas and bike lanes are all part of an environment that make walking and cycling better, safer options.
Having spent the past six years representing the most socioeconomically diverse district on the City Council, I’ve personally addressed this issue to much success. In my first month on the Council, I successfully fought to save Metro route 18 from being removed as a casualty of the Verona Road reconstruction project. In this case, neighbors in Allied were informed that they would lose this route that served their neighborhood, and that they could get by with less frequent bus service.
Likewise, I spent four years working to establish Allied Park. I’m proud to have brought beautiful green space to a historically marginalized neighborhood while offering innovative amenities like free WiFi in the park.
I’m proud to have fought for my neighbors and to have successfully championed access to transportation and green space for a neighborhood that historically faces deep inequalities. I have a track record of demonstrating results while working to reduce
disparities. As Mayor, I will continue this across the city.
We must move towards fare-free transit and expand our service.
The bus is not just an “option” for many people. It is a necessity. Many people can’t afford a car. Others aren’t able to drive because of age, disability or medical concerns. We need to look at our transit system as an extension of our roads, not as an alternatives to cars. [emphasis in original]
People who use transit save an annual average of $10,000 over those who drive. This impacts everyone-- the single parent, families, people of color, people like my daughter who may not be able to drive, the 20% of Wisconsin’s seniors who do not drive, and our young college graduates who say they would be more likely to stay here if they could get around without driving.
Better transit brings more businesses and people to our city, and we can increase our transit in a green way that is healthy for our citizens and our environment. I support developing a Bus Rapid Transit system and Transit Oriented Development as a long term strategy. In the short term, we should explore system changes to better accommodate the needs of those who rely on transit most.
I also favor expanding protected bike lanes by 5 miles in the city -- prioritizing connections between those parts of the city with the least access right now to existing infrastructure.
As a parent of two young children, the health and safety of our youngest residents are of utmost importance to me. My daughter Hannah who is 3, cherishes riding her little green balance bike. I support Madison School District’s plans to invest in establishing more “community schools,” which I expect will facilitate more kids walking to school.
As Mayor, I will prioritize the public health of the youth of our city. Cost should not be a barrier to anyone, particularly a school-age child, having access to healthy activities like walking, biking, or enjoying our lakes. As Mayor, I will work to ensure there are more healthy and free activities for young people in our city.
As the father of 3 daughters, I want them to be active and healthy. I also want them to be safe. As a year-round bike commuter, I know first-hand that Madison must make significant improvements before I would want my girls riding their bikes to school.
I do think that we can make steps in the right direction. Moving to fare-free transit with increased service will remove more cars from our streets. We can increase the number of bike boulevards, protected bike lanes and bike paths surrounding areas where kids frequent-- schools and parks. I also think we would have to take a hard look at drop off zones at schools and separate them from bike egress. We should explore designating schools and parks as “move safe” zones that protect young people as they bike or walk to school. This may include adjusting drop-off points at schools and creating vehicle-free buffers around schools and parks where kids (and adults!) can bike and walk in safety.
We need to decrease traffic and reduce speeds as well. The faster drivers are going, the more likely they are to kill or gravely injure kids (and adults!) they might hit. Traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps, raised pedestrian crossings, and sidewalk extensions to slow cars in Madison and make walking/cycling safer options for everyone.
For those of us who have had the privilege of experiencing our city by bike, it is a beautiful experience. My wife and I love to ride together, with our 3-year-old daughter Hannah in her little yellow bicycle trailer behind one of us. We do that on the southwest bike path, and on other bike paths that feel safe to us.
As the data shows, the most significant room for growth in biking is increasing the ease of which people who are "Interested but Concerned" can feel safe while biking. To increase bicycling in our city, I’ll work to ensure that families like mine feel increasingly safe biking across the city.
Of equal, or greater importance to me, is the need for us to connect communities with easy transit. As mayor, I will proactively fill gaps in the pedestrian and bicycle network. Making it easier and safer for our residents in low-income neighborhoods to connect to the rest of the city by on their bike, or via b-cycle is critical if we’re going to claim to prioritize equity in a platinum bike city.
I would like to increase the number of people biking by at least 50%. Improved bus services are part of the key to success. That way riders have a backup option if weather is unpredictable.
I would also like to have an additional 5 miles of protected bike lanes built by the end of my first term. This will have public health, environmental and economic benefits in Madison and we should explicitly make mode-shift toward active transportation options a priority in all redevelopment efforts.
But expanding bike lanes and transit options are effective at shifting transportation modes only when coupled with land use policies that make it easy to make a change. I support modernizing our zoning codes to encourage tight-knit neighborhoods that bring people closer to schools, jobs and amenities. Cities like Minneapolis and Grand Rapids have limited or eliminated exclusionary zoning codes -- making it easier to build more housing options for more people in more parts of the community.
Reducing the distance between the places people live, work, play and study will encourage use of active transportation modes. So will increasing the amount of safe spaces for cyclists and pedestrians to move about.
With modern data-collection capacity, spotting danger becomes much easier. Improving Madison’s data will allow officials to put resources into the intersections and streets that pose the greatest risk to citizens, and offer the greatest opportunities for improvement.