All I Want for Christmas is...
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
I am wishing you all good health and happiness for the holidays! All I want for Christmas is less divisiveness and more working together. But putting my dreams aside, we do have a few divisive issues facing us here in Monona and one of those is our Public Transit issue. If you've been following along, you know the City is currently working through the decision of using Madison Metro bus service instead of continuing with First Transit, our private bus contractor.
We've used a national company called First Transit as our provider for the Monona Transit and Monona Lift for as long as I've been here since 2014. But now Madison Metro has approached us asking us to join their service as they become more of a regional transit provider serving area communities. So far, Middleton, Fitchburg, Sun Prairie, and Verona have signed on to use Metro's service which runs morning to night and on weekends. Monona's Transit Commission has been working on this decision for over 19 months now. Back in spring 2021 when I was serving on the Transit Commission, we were preparing for our transit service to begin service again after being shut down and having limited service due to Covid. I had suggested to the commission that we conduct a survey to see where people were at in regard to their confidence in riding the bus once again. I LOVE public engagement opportunities and view them as a valuable tool in our decision making processes. That survey was open for several months (if memory serves it was close to five months) and received approximately 160 respondents. The loudest message in those responses was people urging us to use Madison Metro's service because they wanted to take the bus downtown on weekends for concerts, farmers markets, soccer games, football games, etc. and they wanted an option for those working second shift to get to and from work.
Then coincidentally, not long after the survey closed, Metro approached our commission asking if we would have interest in using Metro's service instead. They are retooling their routes and eliminating all transfer points in 2023 as a way to speed up service and efficiencies. First Transit struggled to hire drivers for our system resulting in reduced routes and reduced options. Several people transitioned from two car families to one car families due to Covid and our changing work styles. This left some people who were dependent upon the bus in a lurch with no public transit option.
Two public input sessions have been held so far and the commission is continuing working on collecting data and input from residents through another survey which will be forthcoming soon. This is just a bit of the background and I'm providing it as a backdrop in how we move past divisiveness and vetting local candidates.
I work professionally in transportation equity in my day job as executive director of Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison. And while I believe public transit is both an equity issue and a sustainability issue, I have received emails from folks who have made assumptions on my stance on this issue without talking with me first. There will always be false information circulating on your local candidates. We're a small town — you remember the telephone game, right? That game is big in small towns! I grew up in a very small town of 1,000 people and know how it works and know firsthand how information gets distorted as it circulates through the conversations.
When vetting your candidates for local government, you should always reach out to them via email or phone to have a conversation. This is the best way to learn about your candidates and determine who they are and what they believe. My stance on this issue is that we must have public transit in our city but what I haven't determined yet is what that transit system looks like and who our provider is. I'm waiting to see the data that is gathered and shared and listening to the forthcoming conversations at the Transit Commission. I know Metro provides people far more opportunities to fully participate in society, especially for our seniors who could take the service to Middleton or Sun Prairie if they want to. And riders can use the system in the evenings and on weekends saving on gas and reducing their carbon footprint (motorized vehicles are the number one source of carbon emissions). I know the business community is struggling to get employees and having a more regional option will help them greatly. But as public policy is filled with tradeoffs, I also know that rides to downtown will take longer than they do with Monona Transit. I know that big buses on our small streets seems daunting.
So what is imperative, is that we be prepared to make compromises to come to the best solution for all involved. It's also imperative that we develop creative solutions and unique solutions that benefit our unique community needs. One creative solution that could be explored by the Transit Commission is the option of us having a small bus to serve our community. All of these suburbs will be the customers of Metro. They need us and will have to meet our needs if we sign on with their service. Their service will save us approximately $30,000 a year and with our budget challenges, that is some much needed relief. But I won't want to see big buses driving through town every hour empty or with only one rider. That defeats our commitment to sustainability. Would Metro be open to us helping them purchase a small bus to serve our internal Monona route? Can we test drive a big bus on the route for a few days to see how that feels? What other creative problem solving ideas might exist? While my public stance is that I absolutely do want to see public transit in Monona, I am not married to a solution. I am open to hearing ideas, learning from data, and working with constituents to develop a solution that is yet to come.
So when you're asking yourself what you want to see in a Mayor, know that I am open to healthy dialogue even if that includes conflicting viewpoints, being open to ideas that may be opposed to my own, open to working together to develop a solution that provides the best option for the majority of our community. I haven't made my mind up yet on which way to go because we don't have all of the information we need to make the best decision. So the bigger question you should ask yourself is not, "Does this candidate agree with me on this one issue?" but instead, "Does this candidate have the ability to listen, hear my views, compromise on a solution, and willingness to work together to devise the best solution for our community?" I have proven in my years of service that I am the type of leader that will do exactly that.
Yours in service,
Kristie Goforth, Candidate for Monona Mayor 2023
I have over 100 endorsements listed on my About page but it also takes donations to make this a reality. Will you donate today? No amount is too small! For Venmo users, use @KristieGoforth.
I have set a personal goal of knocking every door in Monona. Would you like to volunteer to be on my team? If so, please email me because the work starts now.