One Month In: Transit Network Redesign Proves Positive with Plans for Improvement
Now that we’re more than a month into Madison’s first full-scale Metro’s service redesign in more than 25 years, I wanted to share some insights with you about the rollout, exciting successes from our first month of service and how we’re addressing the issues we’re hearing from riders in real time.
Riders tell us they love the more direct routes that allow for easier trip planning and greatly reduced travel time, not just for many Madisonians, but also for residents who access metro from neighboring communities like Middleton and Sun Prairie. We also hear that people like the more frequent service on a number of routes.
Preliminary numbers show us that ridership this June when compared to June of 2022 increased by 5%. That is a great initial indicator that better service encourages greater ridership, especially since this increase occurred while we had almost a full week of bad air quality due to the Canadian wildfires, when a number of people may have chosen to stay home. This increase can be seen in an even more positive light, as Metro has greatly reduced the number of transfers that riders need to make to complete a trip. A ride is recorded every time someone boards a bus. So, a trip that requires a transfer is counted as two rides. By focusing on one-trip rides with no transfers, you’d expect ridership to possibly go down – instead we’re trending up.
Of course, there are still some things that we need to improve. We know that some of our routes are running late. We’ve heard complaints about the lack of direct service from the west side to the UW Hospital area. Metro is experiencing some issues with their apps and on-time data. And road construction has been more of a challenge than anyone was expecting.
Madison launched our new service in June, when ridership isn’t as high, so that we could see how the new route system operates on the street and make quick adjustments before high school and University students return in the fall and significantly increase ridership.
Because Metro is only able to make service changes four times a year (June, August, December and March, when drivers officially pick their shifts) they’ve been monitoring how things are going, listening carefully to feedback from the public, looking for issues, and preparing adjustments so that they are reflected in time for drivers’ August shift pick.
On Sunday, August 20, Metro will be implementing the first round of service adjustments. These updates include schedule tweaks to help make connections, added trips to better hit morning work shifts, some adjustments to help keep routes on time, and restored service to complete trips to the UW Hospital. Updated schedules and trip planning data are in development and will be available soon.
Once students return in the fall, Madison will have more people riding buses and more traffic on the street. Metro will continue to review boarding and on-time performance data and gather additional input from passengers and staff. They will bring some additional adjustments to the Transportation Commission for review and potential implementation in December, making additional changes in March 2024, and then again in June 2024 as we get ready for the launch of our Bus Rapid Transit system later in 2024.
We’re also looking at accessibility issues within the new system. There are some stops in need of accessibility improvements like installing concrete boarding pads, curb ramps, pedestrian crossings, and sidewalks. About 87% of Metro’s 1,400 stop locations are now considered accessible. Some stops are being worked on right now during construction season. But, there are still about 70 that will need, at minimum, wheelchair boarding pads.
We want to hear from the public on this issue specifically, so Metro and City Transportation staff have recently implemented a community outreach plan to get feedback on which bus stop areas are the most in need of improvements. Once they get that list, they’ll assemble the list of problematic areas, prioritize the locations, and then--providing budget allows--make improvements.
Metro is also experiencing some issues with their bus tracking and trip planning data. This is the first wholescale redesign Metro has done with this type of technology, and they’re actively working to identify the issues and make the necessary fixes.
And after some manufacturing delays, Metro is working to get old bus stop signs switched out with new signs that reflect the new route letter system.
I assure you, Metro is working hard to make these changes and appreciates the patience the Madison community has shown as they work through these issues.
I encourage all riders to let Metro know how your ride is going. How’s your trip working? Are there accessibility issues that we need to know about? What’s going well? What could be improved upon? Please let them know by giving Metro a call at (608) 266-4466 or by emailing email@example.com
This service change has already helped a great deal of people. It will help even more once we implement bus rapid transit. Metro and I want these routes to work as best they can to provide better access to jobs and easier travel for as many people as possible throughout the region. I’m excited to see that the service is already encouraging increased ridership when compared to last year and deeply appreciate Madison Metro’s dedication to improving the system quickly based on your feedback.