City responds to State Street business concerns with smaller bus stop designs for new rapid transit

The city of Madison unveiled new State Street bus stop designs on Monday for the planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system coming in 2024. The plan includes smaller, transparent bus stops in response to State Street business concerns that previous larger concept designs would block storefronts and be bad for business.

“I believe that we can and in fact must accommodate the legitimate concerns raised by businesses owners, and at the same time reap the benefits of a rapid transit system for our residents, economy and our transportation system,” Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said at a Monday press conference.

The system is set to replace parts of and seamlessly connect with other parts of the city’s Metro Transit and begin operation in 2024, using $80 million in federal transportation funds and use higher-capacity, higher-frequency buses with dedicated lanes to connect the West Towne, Hilldale, Capital East District, and East Towne areas.

Some business owners had called for the BRT routes to be removed entirely from State Street, a proposal the city pushed back on, saying it would delay development and leave BRT without a connection to one of the city’s most popular destinations.

“State Street is a cultural and regional destination. It is part of the heart of the city that we want all residents from far east to  far west, from north to south to have easy access to,” Rhodes-Conway said.

The proposed bus stop designs for State Street would replace the existing ten stops with two, with a smaller design than the original concept as well as transparent walls. The route would run from the 100 to 300 blocks on State Street, likely leaving the lower part of the street with no buses running at all. The new design replaces the original BRT 75-foot platform concept with a 50-foot platform designed with differently-abled riders in mind. The shelter sizes would be no larger than those on the street today, according to the city’s press release.

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New design for BRT bus stops on State Street, released July 12

“We have been listening to, and working to address the concerns of State Street businesses over the past several years,” Transportation Director Tom Lynch said in a statement. “Today we are releasing a modified BRT station design which is more context sensitive and will improve the transit situation for the entire street.”

About a quarter of a million people used busses on upper State Street in 2019, according to city data. The city estimates that portion of State Street will have about 60% fewer buses during peak hours than in 2019 due to the nature of the system, with most of the buses being quieter and being zero emission electric vehicles.

The plan includes consistent service to State Street every five minutes, from 6am to midnight.

BRT plans have been in development for years, with the current plans the result of 14 public input meetings and 7,000 contacts and responses, the city said. They have also been approved twice by the city council.

Click here to view the older BRT concepts, the newer BRT proposals unveiled Monday, and the existing bus stops on State Street.