On Tuesday, Aug. 18, Metro Transit will remove the bus stop and shelter at the top of State Street, a decision that has drawn mixed reactions from bus riders, business owners and advocates for homeless individuals.
Madison’s Transit and Parking Commission gave its approval for the removal in July, following concerns about people hanging out in the shelter and a desire to make the transit system more efficient.
The decision allows Metro Transit to take out the shelter and corresponding stop at West Mifflin and State streets, rerouting bus pick-ups about 250 feet away to a shelter on the Capitol Square at Carroll Street that officials say is underutilized.
Commissioners said that change makes sense from a transit-oriented perspective and a desire to avoid a bottleneck on the sidewalk, but much of the push for removal has stemmed from concerns about loitering and negative behaviors surrounding the bus shelter and adjacent Philosopher’s Grove area.
As concerns grew from downtown business leaders last summer about crime and loitering in the area, city officials and committees began exploring ways to address the issue. This week, Mayor Paul Soglin directed removal of all of the bronze and granite stones from the seating-like art installation in the area and the Madison Central Business Improvement District has started programming initiatives to draw more traffic to the space. Removal of the bus shelter is part of those efforts, but some call it another “band-aid” approach and say it will not solve any problems.
“This is a community-wide problem and moving it around the corner to another shelter is going to adversely affect those businesses,” commissioner Margaret Bergamini said at a meeting in early July.
She and other commissioners voted for the move, some clearly stating it was due to transit reasons, not behavioral ones.
At that July 9 meeting, nine people registered in support of the removal while only two registered against it. In written feedback submitted beforehand, however, four supported removal while 10 opposed it.
Many of those in favor cited behavioral concerns and concern over a lack of safety at the bus stop, while those opposed said they frequently use the stop and argued removal would do nothing to resolve the behavioral problems.
“It’s really going to benefit Madison Metro more than people want to admit,” said Downtown Madison, Inc., president Susan Schmitz.
The close proximity of the two bus stops has been an issue for Madison Metro for quite some time said Schmitz, who is unsure how the stops came to be located so close together since Downtown Madison, Inc. has been in favor of having only one stop since the drafting of the 1999 State street strategic plan.
Schmitz said “it’s too early to tell” how much recent changes have lessened loitering and negative behavior in the area. But downtown business owners support the new programming initiatives she said.
“When the programming comes bad behavior leaves," she said.
Metro Transit Marketing and Customer Services Manager Mick Rusch said the stop will be closed Tuesday and removal of the shelter will begin on Tuesday and be completed on Wednesday.
Jordan Gaines assisted in reporting this story.