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The big decision: What to Do About Monona's Public Transit

It’s clear that the BIG issue this election cycle will be what to do about public transit in Monona. I would find it hard to believe that anyone in Monona is anti-transit. We are a car dependent region and most of us must realize that reliable transportation is a necessity to participate fully in society. Pushing an agenda that states that people are anti-transit is not productive and only serves to divide us as a city. No thanks! So let’s continue with thoughtful, respectful, and data driven dialogue.

A vote on this issue will NOT take place until after the election. So new council members may be seated as well as a new Mayor.

The Transit Commission will be issuing a survey soon and you can see those questions on this agenda. A list of frequently asked questions will also be posted online on the Transit Page of the City’s website soon. It’s a very good list and will be helpful to you so you have the needed background information and can make informed decisions.

If this decision/vote were to be tied at City Council, the Mayor will break the tie. Therefore, I need to hear from YOU to see where the majority of people in our community sit on this issue. I have now knocked 654 doors in Monona and have had about 100 conversations on doorsteps regarding this issue. I have heard people loud and clear. Only three people I have spoken with want the service on Winnequah Road. 312 people have submitted a petition to City Hall opposing the switch due to it being routed on Winnequah Road.

*Please note that this post focuses on the Madison Metro service, not the Metro Paratransit service. I 100% believe that paratransit service is needed to serve our most vulnerable. They deserve to have access to transportation as much as anyone else, if not more.

The solution being put forward is concerning. Does having 40’ long buses rolling through each hour with only a couple riders help move us toward our sustainability goals? And the big buses versus the small buses we are all used to raise safety concerns. And for some riders, the loop would take an hour for riders to get from the post office area to Metro Market. These are all concerns that must be addressed.

I’m a BIG believer in public input. I’ve experienced the disenfranchisement that I frequently hear others speak of. When a new parking ordinance was being implemented on my street, myself and a group of my neighbors went to the public works meeting expressing our concerns. The requests and input we provided were ignored and the ordinance was implemented despite asking that something different be explored. This is how I became a homegrown politician.

Advisory referendums are an excellent and fairly easy way to solicit input from the majority of people in our community. Think about the controversial sidewalk issue. We’ve been debating it for decades but we still don’t know what position the majority of the community holds. An advisory referendum would clear this up and provide the much needed data needed to make the best decisions for citizens in Monona. We should have had an advisory referendum on the ballot for THIS important public transit decision. Why didn't we?

It’s a fact that marginalized groups are the most transportation challenged individuals. View this article from the Pew Research Group. The image below was pulled from this article and summarizes the details in the article.

I run a charitable organization called Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison that serves marginalized communities to assist with transportation challenges. And as an Ojibwe woman, I myself am a member of a marginalized group. I have firsthand knowledge of these groups in Monona because I have provided many of them with bikes.

Here is a sample of the most common marginalized groups:

  • Senior citizens

  • Racial/Cultural minorities

  • LGBTQ+

  • Military Combat Veterans

  • Hearing, visually, and Physically Challenged Persons

  • Persons with serious and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI)

  • Persons with Cognitive Impairments

Now let’s take a look at where those marginalized groups reside or are concentrated in our community. In the image below, I have identified (to the best of my knowledge) the areas where marginalized groups are concentrated in Monona in the heat map below. They are indicated by the purple circles. Please let me know if I missed any areas. I didn’t focus too much on Monona Drive itself because the bus will be there regardless of the selected interior route. And the same goes for West Broadway. The purple circle east of Ahuska Park indicates an area where a proposed workforce housing development is being planned (at the Chief’s Auto Parts site on East Broadway). Although high school students aren’t necessarily marginalized, I included them because they are transportation challenged.

For your reference, this orange hand drawn map is of the Madison Metro route that existed in Monona prior to 1998.

In 1998, it would be safe to assume that not many people in Monona were concerned with issues regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). So why in 2023, are we using a route very similar to the route used in 1998? Why do we have buses running on Winnequah Road providing high level access to some of the most resource rich in our community? I’m not slamming those who’ve worked hard to get where they are or, who have had the good fortune of being blessed with wealth. I’m simply asking if a person who may have two or more cars, a boat, an eBike, bicycles, and other modes of transportation at their disposal would need the highest access to public transportation? Above, I included a heat map of who uses public transit the most—the marginalized groups. I am hearing DEI being a frequent topic of conversation in the bus route planning yet the proposed route doesn’t seem to serve them very well.

For example, with the current proposed C3 route (see image below), the residents at the Monona Hills Apartments, which is one of our 55+ affordable housing complexes, would have to ride the bus for one hour to get to Metro Market. Monona Hills is located near the Post Office (see bus stop 5 in the image below). This is a residential complex with marginalized groups. Why are we further marginalizing them by making them take an hour out of their day to travel about a half mile? Are these things that result when no representation of marginalized groups have a seat at the table? Can you tell how much I like asking questions? ;) I like asking questions because I like listening. Actively listening and truly hearing is one of my strengths.

My personal belief is that the bus should NOT run on Winnequah Road. Adding a large bus to the volume of bikers, BCycles, walkers, lack of bike infrastructure, lack of sidewalks, and tight roadway would exacerbate the dangers on this roadway. What data have we collected that illustrates that a large number of people living on Winnequah Road would ride the Metro bus? We should be prioritizing the most vulnerable in our community and the majority of them live closer to Monona Drive, Broadway, and on Femrite.

Additionally, the next time you’re on West Dean Avenue, look up. You’ll count over 50 low hanging wires above the street. Do we know if the bus will fit under those low hanging wires? What additional costs might this incur? Has this been discussed? We have more work to do in this very important decision. I hope you’ll hang in there and keep providing input!

Below is my proposed route idea. The gray areas heading north would need to be fleshed out through public input. I love taking incremental steps especially when decisions as impactful as this are being made. We can ease in with a route similar to the one I propose here, then if people on Winnequah Road decide they want the service on their street, we can adjust the following year.

On February 6th, 2023, the Wisconsin State Journal published an article on Monona's hot button issue this election season—what to do in regard to our public transit system.

If you have not yet provided feedback to our elected officials, I encourage you to do so. Click here to email the City Council and the Mayor.

Please email me if you'd like to discuss this issue. I love this city and am always excited to talk about it! I also love our small town vibe and am committed to maintaining it while we balance the needs of our growing region.

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