A consultant is recommending the city explore building an inter-city bus terminal near West Washington Avenue and Bedford Street.
The project is envisioned as a multi-modal system, serving inter-city and municipal buses and having adequate car and bike parking.
The city has been without an inter-city bus station since the fall of 2009, when the old Badger Bus Depot, in the 600 block of West Washington, was razed to make room for a mixed-use development. Since then, bus companies have been using various curbside locations to drop off and pick up passengers. The UW Memorial Union was the preferred choice for a while, but the companies recently began using University Avenue in front of the Chazen Museum of Art.
"Wherever they go, complaints ensue," says Ald. Mike Verveer. "It really would be nice to have amenities for bus passengers and hopefully some day train passengers."
Kimley-Horn and Associates looked at three potential places the city could locate a bus station. Aside from the West Washington site (which is across the street from the old Badger Bus Depot), the consultant looked at the city-owned Brayton Lot on East Washington Avenue and property at East Wilson Street and South Pinckney Street, currently owned by the state Department of Administration.
David M. Trowbridge, a city planner, writes in an email to the South Capitol District Planning Committee that "there is no perfect site and there are clearly further discussions that will need to take place," but adds that that the West Washington site scored the highest among the three locations.
Based on accessibility, development potential, size and other factors, the West Washington location scored the highest, slightly ahead of the Brayton lot. It scored highest in part because it is the closest to campus, a high priority for bus companies.
"The [South Capitol District Planning] committee has agreed that the number one criteria for a site is whether the facility will be used by the passengers and bus companies alike," says Verveer, who sits on the committee. "Unless it's near campus, that won't happen."
But the West Washington area is not without complications. Numerous entities own parcels in that location. Acquiring property would take work and money.
The committee will hold a public hearing Sept. 5, 6-9 p.m. at the Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St.
Aside from the location of a bus depot, the committee has been looking at several other downtown issues, including how to improve bike and pedestrian access to Lake Monona from downtown. The committee is looking at building a pedestrian bridge over John Nolan Drive to the lake and improving the intersections along the drive. It is also looking at possibly turning the one-way section of East Wilson Street into a two-way street. And it is looking at how to improve the busy, confusing intersection of East Wilson, Blair, Williamson Streets and John Nolen Drive. (These issues are covered in a recent presentation for the committee.)
Of course, all of these ideas will cost money. Verveer notes that "The issue of funding looms large over our committee."
But he adds that the council has already approved the concept in the Downtown Plan. "Much of what we're studying now were top recommendations in the Downtown Plan, approved by the council. So policy makers have already gone on record as saying these are priorities," he says. "The Downtown Plan simply didn't get into the detail that we're getting into now."