I noticed that the Van Galder bus is now stopping in front of the Chazen Museum of Art.
Think about traveling through the major airline hubs in Minneapolis, Chicago or Detroit. You might hate the airlines (stomp out United!) and the experience of being packed into the plane, but you'd probably have to admit that the airports themselves have come a long way in the last couple of decades.
They offer plenty of natural light, public art, some decent restaurants, and good places to sit and work while you wait for your flight to Madison to be cancelled. And even smaller cities have very pleasant off-boarding areas to greet you to their town and tell you something about its history. The Dane County airport really has a nice feel in that regard.
But what happens if you arrive by bus in Madison? You get dumped out at a filling station. Now, maybe it's the nicest gas station in town, but still that's what it is. Since the Badger Bus depot was replaced by a mixed use building a few years ago, we have had no official place for buses to land. Instead, they scatter around passengers at the ugly parking lot at Dutch Mill Road, on Langdon Street), and the Kelley's Market and gas station on West Washington Avenue, among other places.
Don't get me wrong. The old depot was a scruffy, dimly lit hovel. In some respects I'd rather get on and off at the gas station.
Now a new bus depot doesn't need to be as fancy as an airport. People won't spend as much time there. If you're leaving town, you might spend 15 minutes waiting for the bus. If you're arriving, you might spend a few minutes waiting to be picked up. But why do we treat bus passengers like second-class citizens? Why don't they deserve a nice place to wait? Why don't we care about the impression our city gives travelers as they arrive by bus?
I thought about this again the other day as I was walking on campus. I noticed that the Van Galder bus is now stopping in front of the Chazen Museum of Art. It was so pretty that I took a picture. I thought to myself, now that's a great place to arrive in the city. It's elegant. It makes you feel like you've arrived someplace that you want to be and that wants you to be there.
I know the Chazen stop is just a temporary fix while the Union is being rebuilt. What's needed is a simple, elegant building where travelers can make easy connections between their intercity buses, local Metro buses, taxis, friends picking them up, and B-cycles. It doesn't have to be very big or very expensive. Location is the key. The main thing is that, just like an airport, the place says: "Welcome to Madison -- we're happy to have you here."