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The Monona Express is a commuter bus service which runs between Monona and the Capitol Square/UW Hospital, Monday through Friday. It loops downtown, through the UW campus and to all three hospitals, running from 6-9 AM and from 3-7 PM.
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The Commission has a responsibility to give the proposal due consideration. Its overall charge is to design and seek to continuously improve bus transit for all in Monona, regardless of who the operator is, within the budget we have, making recommendations to the City Council.
In short, as with any other service the City contracts, the Commission wants to offer high quality service but also get “the biggest possible bang for our buck” and that means always trying to offer service that works better for more residents and businesses.
But it’s not just about economics. For those that want to take a deeper dive, a few other reports and datapoints may be helpful.
To collect more input from the community, the Transit Commission held three Public Information Meetings in late 2022, has accepted comments online and on paper, and is conducting a comprehensive survey. The commission has also created these FAQ’s and has posted all relevant documents. No decisions have been made. After thorough and careful consideration, the Commission anticipates making a recommendation to the City Council for its consideration in late Spring.
What is identified as the C3 route on a much circulated the Madison Metro map is NOT a done deal. The map was created by Madison Metro (i.e. Monona had no say in its drafting) and it is titled a Draft System Map. That said, at the request of the Transit Commission and Mayor, Madison Metro has been asked to change the map so it is not misleading.
Unfortunately, no. Monona issued an RFP for the services approximately three years ago and received only two proposals. Other service providers are not interested or would substantially increase the cost of transit in Monona. Moreover, a consistent complaint from community members has been the lack of seamless service between any contracted provider Monona has and Madison Metro, including but not limited to the need to transfer. Securing another contract provider for Monona would not resolve this issue.
Expanding to the weekends or service hours is cost prohibitive for the City’s operating budget which is where this service must be budgeted.
Monona has discussed this option with Madison Metro and while they are open to adjusting how the route runs through our neighborhoods, the proposal offered is a package deal; they will not just add stops to Monona Drive and Broadway.
The Commission fully understands that more stops on Broadway and Monona Drive are desired due to the increased density of housing and businesses. But it may interest all to know that many of those who currently ride the Monona Express do not live on or near either thoroughfare. The reasons individuals choose bus ridership go beyond economics; based on national research, these reasons are personal necessity, mobility, transit ease, affordability, environmental impact, and comradery.
For a variety of reasons, that is not possible. First, it is cost prohibitive for Monona. Second, it would be more cumbersome and expensive for riders as Express, Lift, Metro and Metro Paratransit do not operate seamlessly or honor each other’s tickets (Monona honors Metro tickets but Madison does not honor Monona’s). Third, valuable time would be spent waiting for buses to connect up with each other at chosen stops. While Monona has found Madison Metro open to working with us, it will not design their system around us.
No, not even if Monona bought one for them. Madison Metro service offered to Monona is part of a system-wide redesign which requires flexibility; the need for Madison to utilize their fleet interchangeably across the system.
Eventually yes. Metro has announced its commitment to be fully electric. And the purchase of the electric buses has accelerated due to funding through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act. The current fleet is hybrid or diesel. The Transit Commission is in discussion with Metro to see if a hybrid bus is possible on Monona routes.
We are in the second year of a five-year agreement with First Student. The final year is 2026. However, as with many City contracts, there is a six-month termination clause that can be exercised by either the City of Monona or First Student.
Both the City of Monona and Madison Metro have indicated a preference for a shorter contract, likely two years, if Monona shifted to Metro service, which would not occur until January 2024. The intention is to treat it as a pilot and make adjustments as ridership dictates or suggests.
All bus drivers in Wisconsin must have a commercial drivers license (CDL) and pass strict licensing requirements to ensure the safety of their driving.
Madison Metro has a very detailed professional safety plan with three full-time, in-house transportation safety professionals overseeing their operations. The safety plan sets measurable targets which are compared to actual results every year (or more frequently as needed). Their safety record is very good. There were three injuries in regular service in 2021 and ten over the past three years, none which entailed pedestrians injured due to driver error. There were zero Paratransit injuries in 2021.
First Student also has a very good safety record, the City wouldn’t have contracted with them if they didn’t. The Commission has requested more details about their safety protocols and oversight and will report on them as soon as they are provided.
Monona Express can sometimes be tracked in real time. While its owner, First Student, advertises this as a feature, current riders report that the App to do so is not very reliable; sometimes the bus doesn’t show up on the App at all. If the bus isn’t showing up on the App, riders have to call First Student (in Mineral Point) to find out if the bus is even running.
Riders can also track a single Madison Metro bus or multiple buses on multiple Metro routes in real time – through the Madison Metro web site or through numerous third-party Apps such as Google, Moovit, and Transit.
Riders can use a credit card to buy a Madison Metro pass online or at various service centers. Riders can also get a multi-ride pass for Monona Express at City Hall. For either Madison Metro or Monona Express/Lift, individual fares on the bus must be paid in cash, using exact change.
As reflected in the previous chart, Monona Express does have a reduced rate for students and seniors. But it does not have a discounted Pass Program with area schools, hospitals and businesses; Monona is just too small.
As reflected in the previous chart, Madison Metro has a reduced rate for students and seniors. It also has a Pass Program with many area colleges, hospitals and businesses. For example, Edgewood students and faculty pay $10/semester for Madison Metro. UW employees pay only $48 for an annual unlimited pass.
Monona contracted with Madison Metro through late 1987. The City stopped contracting with Metro because it became cost prohibitive. Numerous inquiries regarding Madison Metro service returning to Monona have been made since that time; their offers heretofore have continued to be cost prohibitive.
There would be three routes servicing Monona.
Route G will run northbound and southbound on Monona Drive and eastbound and westbound on Broadway west of Monona Drive, every 30 minutes. At Park, it will connect with an express bus to the UW campus and at Rimrock Road, to an express bus to the Capitol Square. This is a larger piece of the overall system redesign that Madison will implement starting in June 2023.
Route L will run northbound and southbound on Monona Drive, north of Pflaum Road and service points northward, including Milwaukee St. and North-east Madison. This is also part of the overall system redesign which Madison has scheduled to begin in June 2023.
Route C3 is proposed to circle through Monona every 60 minutes, clockwise down Stoughton Road, up through Monona, past City Hall/Library/Pool, and past the High School to head downtown. Route C3 is still under discussion and may change. The Transit Commission has developed a new Community Transit Survey to provide guidance for any changes and it will wait for data from that Survey before further discussion.
The C3 Route that Madison Metro has proposed is designed to circulate/complete its route once every hour, going downtown without the need to transfer. Once it leaves Monona, it will only stop if people are at bus stops enroute to downtown.
The time needed when returning from downtown will increase approximately 15 minutes, dependent on the riders desired destination, due to the C3 Route currently being a one- way loop. For example, if the rider lives near Dean and Monona Drive, they would currently be the first stop (on return) for the Monona Express but the last stop for Madison Metro.
The Monona Express is commuter-based, offered specifically for commuters who need a pick up in the morning (between 6-9 AM) and a drop back to Monona later in the day (between 4 -7 PM). It works well for those who work on the Capital Square, at UW, or the three major hospitals, on a traditional 9-5 weekday schedule.
Madison Metro has a wider service area and provides service seven days a week. And with Metro’s more regional redesign, many transfer points have been eliminated.
Monona Lift does not have a set route but provides service on demand, from 8 AM to 3:15 PM weekdays only. It provides rides within ¾ mile of the route service area. Rides are scheduled by calling the afternoon before they are needed. For a map of the service area and more detail on Monona Lift: http://mymonona.com/292/Monona-Lift-Bus-Service-for-Seniors.
Madison Paratransit also does not have a set route but provides service on demand, with service available from 6AM to 9PM every day, including weekends. Rides are scheduled the same way as the Lift; by calling the afternoon before. The service area is the entire Madison Metro service area.
There is a process for being approved to use Paratransit, the door-to-door service, using smaller buses, offered by Madison Metro. Madison Metro reported at the Senior Center Public Information Meeting that they have not denied a single applicant in the past three years.
More information on the application process is at: https://www.cityofmadison.com/metro/paratransit/paratransit eligibility
A goal of the Transit Commission, if we transition to Madison Metro and Paratransit, is to design the regular bus route that would not be onerous to people (not just seniors) who may not qualify for Paratransit but nevertheless would experience difficulty walking significant distances to a bus stop. Madison Metro would have more frequent service without the need to schedule in advance, service anywhere across the metro area (many routes without a need to transfer), short walks to a bus stop, and safe and well-marked bus stops. Madison Metro buses are also all accessible, equipped to accommodate medical devices used (e.g. a walker or wheelchair or oxygen), provide priority seating, and accommodate those who may be challenged with steps or balance.
Paratransit does require the applicant to apply in person to make sure they are who they say they are, and to assess and confirm need. It will also send a driver to pick up the applicant and deliver them for the scheduled assessment. But the assessment is not a medical test or physical; it is a discussion!
The application does not require a physical or anything written from your healthcare provider. The application does ask for the names and contact information of two healthcare professionals with knowledge of the applicant. If contacted, regulations including HIPAA prohibit Madison Metro and the professionals listed from discussing your mental or physical condition in detail.
Madison Paratransit service is available from 6AM to 9PM every day, including weekends. It can take you anywhere in the Madison Metro area, including around Monona.
If you use Paratransit, it will get you where you need to go. If you are a regular Madison Metro Transit rider, you could use the bus to get to or close to many businesses and services in Monona (including the Senior Center); it depends on where you are going.
Other service providers who already provide service to Monona, including Dane County’s Group Access Service (GAS), RSVP, and the Transit Solutions Activity Bus (also offered by Dane County), will continue to be available for Monona. In other words, there are other options available if you need to get somewhere directly that isn’t covered by Madison Metro. You do not have to sit on a regular bus for an hour to get you where you need to go locally. More detail on what each of these alternative providers offer can be found at: http://mymonona.com/292/Monona-Lift-Bus-Service-for-Seniors.
One service Monona currently offers, through a Dane County grant, coordinated through the Senior Center, may continue - free trips to East Towne Mall on the first Tuesday of the month and to Woodman’s East the second Tuesday of the month. If the demand is there, Monona sees no reason why Dane County wouldn’t continue to fund it.
Madison Paratransit is a contracted service, much like Monona Lift. Small, private companies (e.g. Badger Bus) with small buses and vans are contracted and contacted when a ride is requested.