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Madison shows first draft for new Bus Rapid Transit line

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MADISON, Wis. - If the bus is your normal way to get around, a new bus rapid transit system could get you there 25 to 40 percent faster.

At least, that's the plan.

Achieving the goal depends “on what kind of investment we make in the corridor to speed up the buses,” said David Trowbridge, the principal transportation planner for the city of Madison. “And that's a big part of bus rapid transit, is ‘rapid.’”

To do that, the buses would make fewer stops and get special signals at lights.

New BRT-only lanes would start at East Towne Mall, come down East Washington Avenue and hit Madison College before getting downtown.

Then, the city isn't sure which way the buses will take around the Capitol -- either the square, or one of the other roads around it.

University Avenue will take you to the west side, where the route weaves down Segoe Road, Sheboygan Avenue and Whitney Way.

The rapid transit route would end either on Mineral Point Road or Odana Road, ideally right around the West Towne Mall.

“Ultimately we'd like to get all the way from West Towne to East Towne,” Trowbridge said. “Not sure if the budget would be able to accommodate that, but certainly we have an idea of where we'd like the buses to go, where we probably don't have the ability to add a special lane, for example, for the buses, so we just want to hear what the public thinks about these early proposals.”

Trowbridge and others did that at a meeting Tuesday, going over their thoughts for the $50-$100-million project they hope to get federal funding to help back.

The rest of the money will come from the city, meaning taxpayers and Common Council, but the one who oversees both is already on board.

“I'm really excited about the prospect of having bus rapid transit here in Madison,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “Like, I don't think I can articulate to you how excited I am.”

The city hopes to make these buses 100 percent electric, and officials want them to run every 10 to 15 minutes and on nights and weekends.

Though plans are in the works now, the system likely won’t begin until 2024.

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