Parking, Safety & Buses

Parking, Safety & Buses – Community Planning Discussions

August 31, 6:30 – 9 p.m.

Hosts: Alder Marsha Rummel & Marquette Neighborhood Association

Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spaight Street, west side entrance, lower level.

There will be several small-group focused discussions and information sharing on the topics of parking, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, bus service, traffic, and quality of life issues, and the impacts on Williamson Street and Jenifer Street businesses and residents, among others.

The intent is to strive toward finding constructive solutions to temporary and long-term problems and to improve the prospects for the neighborhood under the demands we face. Suggestions for issues and topics are welcome.

This is intended to draw the participation of people living and/or who have businesses in the vicinity in order to have an opportunity to speak our thoughts and observations, to listen to those of others, and to have questions addressed.

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Background: Parking, Safety and the Bus Route Question

By Dayna Long and Gary Tipler, Marquette Neighborhood Association Board

In the interest of transparency, the Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) Board of Directors would like share some background information for those wondering about a study to examine the issues, costs and benefits to permanently move bus routes from Jenifer Street to Williamson Street. We have received lots of feedback about the potential change and we want to be very clear that at this time, neither Alder Marsha Rummel nor MNA has made a recommendation to Madison Metro. We’re very invested in making sure that all affected parties have a chance to weigh in on such a significant change. We hope the following will provide some clarity and perspective for our neighbors. This account doesn’t discuss in detail the merits or problems associated with the route being on either street. That is yet to come, beginning with a public meeting, August 31, 6:30-9 p.m. at the Immanuel Lutheran Church, (lower level, west side rear entrance).

In January and February of 2015, the neighborhood process for planning a safer and better Jenifer Street, had been conceived following the presentation of a proposal by City Engineering to largely reproduce the existing Jenifer Street pavement without consideration for safety improvements to reduce vehicular speed of both buses and commuters cutting through the neighborhood, to halve the number of bus stops and to cut 44 shade trees, mostly on three of the four blocks of Jenifer Street. The community response was to have a grass roots planning study in the fall and winter of 2015-2016, developed by volunteers of the Marquette Neighborhood Association Traffic Committee and funded by a small city planning grant to hire professional consultants. The effort primarily had the attention of people who lived along Jenifer and others in the neighborhood who rode the buses.

During the fall 2015 and winter 2016 planning sessions on the reconstruction of Jenifer Street, among the many changes that were suggested, the idea of moving the bus route was a resurgent idea brought up from earlier Marquette Neighborhood plans, and suggested again by several residents and business owners. However, the concept of changing the route was taken off the table by Madison Metro staff — not to be discussed. The Jenifer Street planning sessions involved three well-announced public meetings from November through January.

The meetings engaged people from throughout the neighborhood, garnering their thoughts about bus routes, speeding, and traffic related to Jenifer Street. The MNA Traffic Committee undertook great efforts to solicit feedback from the neighborhood long before the reconstruction project began. Based on the input of folks most impacted by reconstruction, we recommended a number of traffic calming measures (to slow traffic speeds) to make Jenifer Street a safer space for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers – one of the highest priorities that was expressed by participants. We received lots of feedback from neighbors about the impact of bus routes on Jenifer Street from pedestrians, cyclists, and families with children, concerned about the safety of the speeding of buses and through traffic on Jenifer, and about idling buses and blocked driveways. However, no traffic calming measures were included in the reconstruction — speed humps and stop signs were not allowed due to the fact that Metro had priority over “traffic calming methods” and wanted no changes that would reduce the speed of buses. Finally, neighbor’s recommendations for a minor narrowing and a few curb extensions at pedestrian crossings on Jenifer Street were made.

A temporary bus route during construction to be on East Washington Avenue that was supported by Metro staff was opposed by Marquette neighbors, who considered the half-mile slog through the rail corridor particularly problematic and dangerous at night. Neighbors persisted in convincing the Transit and Parking Commission of the issue, so Metro staff was asked to find an alternative temporary route. That is when Williamson Street route was first investigated and planned, in April and May, long after the public Jenifer Street planning process had ended. Alder Marsha Rummel requested that Madison Metro evaluate the feasibility of permanently moving buses to Williamson if it was to be used as a temporary bus route. Neither Alder Rummel nor MNA requested that a permanent change be made.

Reconstruction started on May 23, shortly after the University let out for the summer, and the buses began using the temporary routes on Williamson Street. For some residents and business owners, the change has been positive. For example, bus riders have commented on faster commutes. For others, the transition has been rough. Our understanding is that this change has especially impacted businesses on the eastern half of the 1200 block of Williamson Street where a west-bound drive lane was created to bypass the left-turn entrance to the Williamson Street Co-op. That resulted in the removal of about half of the parking spots on the block that were previously used by customers and delivery services outside of morning and evening rush hours. During the construction, Jenifer has been closed and much of the local and through traffic added to Williamson Street, some to Main or East Washington Avenue.

At the time that the Williamson Street detour route was implemented, Madison Metro staff considered the possibility of a permanent change based on improved route time. They let us know that we could help garner feedback for their evaluation. MNA’s recommendation this summer has been that folks share their thoughts on the temporary re-routing, so that they could weigh neighborhood opinion when making a final decision.

We recognize that permanently moving the buses from Jenifer Street to Williamson Street would be a big change for our neighborhood. That’s why we think it’s crucial that MNA, Alder Rummel, and Madison Metro hear from all groups that might be affected. It’s important to get perspectives from a variety of stakeholders so that ultimately, we do what’s best for everyone – the unique businesses that make our neighborhood a great destination, the families and residents whose presence makes this a great place to live, and our neighbors who rely on the bus serve in their day-to-day.

We think it’s important to remember that whether the buses run on Jenifer Street or Williamson Street, there are still solutions to explore for many of our transit challenges, from pedestrian and cyclist safety to the parking crunch and marketing issues. Folks who are interested in tackling some of these traffic issues might consider working with our experienced and dedicated Traffic Committee. As a board, we will continue to work hard to preserve the character and quality of our fantastic neighborhood.  Both the Traffic Committee and the board meet during the third week of every month, and our meetings are open to public participation. Thank you all for your passion for our terrific community.

We welcome feedback via email at mnaboard@marquette-neighborhood.org. Watch for information to be published on the yahoo listservehttps://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/MarqNA/conversations/messages, and uploaded on the MNA web page as it becomes available. http://marquette-neighborhood.org/