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The following are commonly asked questions submitted to our customer service center. If you don't see an answer to your question below, email Metro Transit.

Why do Metro drivers switch shifts in the middle of a route, with passengers on the bus, rather than waiting until the end of the route such as at a transfer point?

How Does the New Wisconsin Concealed Carry Law Affect Metro Transit?

How do automatic audio stop announcements on buses work?

How do the electronic signs at Capitol Square bus stops work?

What happens during severe weather such as heavy rains, thunderstorms or possible tornadoes?

What happens during bad weather like heavy snow?

Does service stop during bad weather?

When dealing with weather delays, should I wait to go out to my stop?

During severe weather, can I find out exactly how late my personal bus is running?

Who clears out the bus stops after a heavy snow?

Why does Metro advertise gambling and liquor on buses?

Why does Metro use 40 foot buses? Or run small buses on some routes?

Then why not run small buses during other times? Wouldn’t that save money?

Where can I get route and schedule information?

Where can I buy Metro passes and 10-ride cards?

How do 31-Day passes and 10-Ride cards work?

How long is a transfer valid?

Do you give senior citizens and people with disabilities a discount?

How do I know which side of the street to stand on to catch the correct bus?

How can I sign up for paratransit service?

What do I do if I left something on a Metro bus?

Are Metro fixed-route buses accessible to people with disabilities?

Are all Metro fixed-route buses equipped with bicycle racks?

Do you have a bus that goes to the airport?

Can I take my luggage on the bus?

What is the difference between peak and off-peak service?

Can I take my pet on a Metro bus?

How can I find information about a detour?

What is the “Square”?

What is the “Capitol Loop Detour?

How can I provide feedback?

What is Bus Rapid Transit?


Why do Metro drivers switch shifts in the middle of a route, with passengers on the bus, rather than waiting until the end of the route such as at a transfer point?

Driver reliefs are scheduled to minimize overtime in driver assignments and amount of travel time necessary to get to their starting location. Drivers are required to report into Metro’s dispatch area before their shift. Drivers are compensated once they report into work, and are scheduled a set amount of time to get to their bus.

Driver switches are scheduled near Metro’s facility, because every attempt is made to maximize the part of the driver’s assignment where he/she is working in revenue service (with passengers onboard) and minimize the time it takes for the driver to report to their starting location.

Driver switches are also done in the middle of the route to keep Metro driver assignments between 8-10 hours and minimize overtime.

Having drivers switch at transfer points would increase the amount of paid travel time they receive driving out to these locations. What may seem like only a few minutes here and there can add up to many extra hours of paid time over the course of just a day, given the number of buses that are in service.

If there weren't driver relief points along the route, it would be necessary to drive the bus and passengers to the Metro facility to make the switch.

Not only would be more inconvenient to driver passengers further out of their way to Metro for a driver relief, another bus would need to be on the road to cover service missed while the first bus is traveling to/from the Metro facility.

This would greatly elevate the number of driver hours worked and also require many more buses than Metro has in its fleet.


How Does the New Wisconsin Concealed Carry Law Affect Metro Transit?

Metro Transit will continue its policy of “No weapons are allowed of any kind” on Metro buses as listed under “Passenger Conduct – While You’re Riding” on page 8 of the Ride Guide or at this link.

Weapons are also not allowed at Metro Transfer Points or in any of its bus stop shelter locations and these locations will be posted in accordance with the law.

Violators of this policy will be subject to Metro’s Transit’s Code of Conduct/Exclusion Policy which lists penalties that can include exclusion from use of transit facilities and/or bus service.

Individuals who enter or remain in Metro transfer points or bus shelters while armed with a weapon contrary to a posted sign are subject to receiving a citation for unlawful trespass while carrying a weapon under the Madison General Ordinances.


How do automatic audio stop announcements on buses work?

Announcements are triggered through data processed by the GPS satellite antenna on each bus, as well as schedule and spatial data associated with our "bus stop intervals".

Each travel path from an origin bus stop location to any other subsequent bus stop location is surveyed in a staff car (again with a GPS antenna) - recording a distance travelled (odometer reading in feet), a compass bearing upon arrival (90 degrees due east), and the specific latitude/longitude coordinate of the staff car when stopped at the bus stop location. 

For example, the staff car first collects the coordinates for an origin bus stop (like southbound on Junction Road at Old Sauk, for Route 15), and zero out the odometer data.  The staff car then drives to the next stop, on Junction across from the City Center West building, and collects how far this distance was (853 feet), what the heading was once stopped (153 degrees), and the coordinates of this stop. 

By populating all the possible intervals between bus stops used in operations in this manner (which thereby allows application across different routes that happen to serve the same two bus stops in a row) - a dataset can be loaded onto the buses that essentially maps out, foot by foot, stop by stop, where it might be scheduled to go.

  On any given day then, when the bus driver logs the bus into a particular route/run the active GPS data received as they drive the route is compared against the database of what it supposed to be doing - and to the extent the bus actually drives those 853 feet from its start point and is then generally headed 153 degrees and is within a certain radius of the stop location.

Once the bus has verified its location in this manner, it plays the appropriate prerecorded stop announcement.

If after this verification process, the bus is not in the correct location, no announcement is played.


How do the electronic signs at Capitol Square bus stops work?


Two electronic information displays are now available at Capitol Square bus shelters on Main St. at Carroll St. and Mifflin St. at Pinckney St. Using programmed schedule information and live GPS location data, buses send on-time performance updates to these signs approximately once every minute.

Based on the remaining travel distance to the sign/bus stop location, signs then display when the bus is expected to arrive. A sample message would read: "Route 2. Arriving in 5 minutes."

Important service messages and notes will also be occasionally posted on these signs.


What happens during severe weather such as heavy rains, thunderstorms or possible tornadoes?

Metro runs even during the most severe weather.

Buses will detour around heavily flooded streets that are no longer safe for vehicle travel.

When a tornado is issued by the National Weather Service, drivers will stop their bus in a safe area and alert passengers to the emergency. They will then seek safe shelter for both themselves and their passengers.

Service will resume as soon as the all-clear is given by the National Weather Service.

Sign up for e-mail and text message alerts to stay on top of all weather-related detours and service deviations.


What happens during bad weather like heavy snow?

Metro travels in the most inclement of weather, but sometimes snow and weather-related traffic conditions can affect service.

During periods of heavy snow, buses like traffic, will fall behind.

Passengers are encouraged to plan extra time into their commute, take earlier trips, and allow for extra time to get home. Buses not only get slowed down by snow and other bad weather, but also by surrounding traffic.

Rest assured, drivers are working to reach your stop as soon as possible.

Allowing for extra time is the best way to get around during winter weather travel.

"How to ride during periods of heavy snow".


Does service stop during bad weather?

Metro runs during even the most extreme of circumstances. However, on occasion, service may be discontinued due to heavy snow and ice.

During these rare times, Metro does its best to keep buses running as long as possible so that everyone is able to get home.

Go to Metro Transit or City of Madison or check your favorite radio or TV stations for delay and other inclement weather service information.

Sign up for e-mail and text message alerts.


When dealing with weather delays, should I wait to go out to my stop?

During poor weather, drivers maintain schedules as traffic and weather conditions safely allow. If the weather is extreme, buses can fall behind.

During bad weather, Metro encourages people to take an earlier trip and arrive at bus stops at regularly scheduled times. At bus stops, please be prepared for a possible wait.

Drivers work to maintain schedules as best as conditions allow. However, weather and traffic can cause delays to any individual bus at any time.


During severe weather, can I find out exactly how late my personal bus is running?

The on-time adherence and mapped location of scheduled buses is available on Metro's Transit Tracker.

General run time information will continue to be posted at Metro Transit, sent in Rider Alert e-mails, and communicated to the media.

Drivers work to maintain schedules as best as conditions allow during severe weather. However, road conditions and traffic can cause delays to any individual bus at any time.


Who clears out the bus stops after a heavy snow?

During snowy weather, the City of Madison Streets Department works hard to clear streets, roadways, and bus stops as quickly as possible for commuter travel.

Metro Transit asks for assistance from residents and businesses to help clear bus stops on their property.

If you have a concern about a bus stop or street not plowed or cleared in a timely fashion, Report Snow/Ice Problems.


Why does Metro advertise gambling and liquor on buses?

Advertising on Metro buses is subject to the freedom of speech rights as provided by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Content that can be restricted and not provided protection under First Amendment rights are advertisements for tobacco products and messages that are fraudulent, obscene, or libelous in content.

Gambling and advertising for alcoholic beverages do not fall into these restricted categories.

The City Attorney’s Office and Metro Transit have carefully reviewed all aspects of these rights as they pertain to advertising on city buses. Metro also communicates with its advertising partners to ensure content is appropriate in terms of commercial advertising and freedom of speech rights.

Further, in other areas of the country where transit systems have been embroiled in expensive legal battles with advertisers, the advertisers have prevailed.

Metro has allowed advertisements for gambling establishments and alcoholic beverages for several decades.

Metro's advertising program brings additional revenue to the transit system, which helps to preserve current service levels and fares.


Why does Metro use 40 foot buses? Or run small buses on some routes?

This is a recurring question. Residents look out their window during midday, weekend or evening hours and see a small number of passengers scattered through a 40 ft. bus. The bus they see looks like a needlessly expensive way to provide transit service, and a ‘small bus’ feels like the right sized package.

The simple answer to the question is that our ridership is too high; ridership during the peak exceeds the capacity of small buses.

Transit systems in general, including Metro Transit, tailor their fleets to meet peak hour needs. The average ridership per hour in Madison is over 30 passengers per hour, making us the envy of our peers. During the AM and pm peak hours, we have standing loads on core routes and commuter routes.


Then why not run small buses during other times? Wouldn’t that save money?

No, not necessarily.

The main cost of putting a bus on the street is driver wages. The skills needed for driving a bus - safety, customer-orientation, judgment, reliability - are the same regardless of the size of vehicle. Wages would not be lower for small bus drivers. And swapping out the big bus for the little bus after the AM peak, and then back again in the afternoon will increase labor costs due to the put-of-service time spent driving buses to and from the garage.

There are other added costs to small buses; you not only have to purchase buses that are only used part of the day, you also have to buy insurance for two vehicles instead of one, and keep parts on hand for another type of vehicle.

A further complicating factor is the federal regulation concerning spare ratio. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provides 80% funding for vehicles, and regulates the fleet size they will fund.

The FTA will not fund a duplicate fleet that allows changing buses off due to fluctuations in ridership over the course of the day.

A transit system is allowed a 20% spare ratio. Out of this spare ratio we need to accommodate buses out of service awaiting parts, buses damaged in vehicular accidents, buses held out of service for the day to allow for routine maintenance and repairs, buses in reserve to replace vehicles that encounter mechanical problems on the road, etc.

These negatives outweigh the slight savings in fuel cost of operating a small vehicle.

Aren’t there any routes that could be served all day with a small bus?

It is true that routes in the periphery and new routes have lower ridership. Some of this service may not carry loads that exceed the capacity of a small bus. These routes do not stand alone, however.

There is an extensive amount of interlining across the entire service area. This is an important factor in providing service cost-effectively and is fundamental to how transit service is structured and scheduled.

If constraints were placed on interlining, service itself would change significantly. It would require a detailed study to determine the cost that would be incurred.

Anything else?

Interestingly, we are exploring the other end of the spectrum – larger buses. Ridership is so high on the campus circulator routes (standing loads virtually all day) that the University is interested in exploring articulated buses on campus, to avoid the cost of paying for additional buses on their routes.


Where can I get route and schedule information?

Contact our customer service center at (608) 266-4466 or email Metro Transit.

Representatives are available:
Monday through Friday: 6:15am - 6:00pm
Saturdays: 8:00am - 4:30pm
Sundays & Holidays: 12:30pm - 4:30pm



Where can I buy Metro passes and 10-ride cards?

Prepaid passes and 10-Ride cards may be purchased at the Metro Transit Reception Office, 1245 E. Washington Ave., at one of over 50 conveniently located Metro Sales Outlets and at Metro Transit.



How do 31-Day passes and 10-Ride cards work?

The 31-Day passes are activated the first time you swipe it through the farebox. They are valid for 31 consecutive days, including the activation day, for one person only.

10-Ride cards may be used for 10 rides at any time you choose. The number of remaining rides will be printed on the back of your card each time you insert it into the farebox. There is no time frame for use and they may be used for more than one person at a time.



How long is a transfer valid?

Transfers are good for two hours after the driver issues them. The fare box tone will alert the driver if a transfer is swiped after it expires.



Do you give senior citizens and people with disabilities a discount?

Yes. However, proof-of-eligibility must be provided upon request of the driver. Medicare cards are acceptable forms of ID and reduced fare applications for senior citizens and people with disabilities are available at the Metro Transit Reception Office, 1245 E. Washington Ave.

Cash fare is discounted from $2.00 per ride to $1.00; 10-Ride cards cost $10.00 and 31-Day Senior/Disabled Passes cost $27.50.


Print Applications



How do I know which side of the street to stand on to catch the correct bus?

Most of our routes travel South to North or East to North and East to West and South to West.

Following the flow of traffic is the best visual way to know which direction you need.

You can also go to Bus Stop Departures and click on the bus stop ID number for information about that stop.



How can I sign up for paratransit service?

Metro provides paratransit service for passengers unable to use fixed-route buses in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Applications are available by calling (608) 266-4466, WI Relay Service.

If your application is approved you will receive notice in the mail. You may then book rides by calling the Customer Service Center.

All rides must be booked by 4:30pm the previous day.



What do I do if I left something on a Metro bus?

Call Metro Transit Lost & Found at (608) 266-6524. Items are generally turned in to the Lost & Found the day following the day they are lost.

Due to space constraints, Metro keeps items in Lost & Found for two weeks. Items not picked-up during the two-week period are then donated to charity.


Are Metro fixed-route buses accessible to people with disabilities?

Yes. Metro provides accessible fixed-route service on all routes. Service animals are allowed on Metro buses to assist people with disabilities.

Metro’s schedules, brochures and flyers are available on-line and will be provided, upon request, in accessible formats, such as Braille and large print.


Are all Metro fixed-route buses equipped with bicycle racks?

Yes. Go to Bike racks on buses or watch "How to Use Bike Racks"


Do you have a bus that goes to the airport?

Yes. Route 20 departs from the North Transfer Point every day of the year.



Can I take my luggage on the bus?

Yes, as long as it fits in front of you or on your lap and does not block the aisle.


What is the difference between peak and off-peak service?

Peak service runs during “rush hours” approximately 6:00am to 9:00am and 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Off-peak service runs during mid-day and later in the evening.


Can I take my pet on a Metro bus?

Pets can be taken on Metro buses as long as they are secured in a pet carrier small enough to fit on your lap. Service animals are allowed to assist passengers with disabilities.


How can I find information about a detour?

Metro is sometimes required to detour without advance notice.

However, detour flyers will be posted on buses in advance when possible. Sign up for detour text message and e-mail Rider Alerts

Call our Customer Service Center at (608) 266-4466 or go to the Complete Detour Listing


What is the “Square”?

The "Square” or “Capitol Square” is the center of the downtown Madison, where the State Capitol is located.

It is bounded by Mifflin, Carroll, Main and Pinckney streets.


What is the “Capitol Loop Detour”?

The Capitol Loop is a reference to the four streets (Webster, Dayton, Fairchild and Doty streets) that are one block off the Capitol Square.

Buses are detoured to the Capitol Loop when there are special events such as Concerts on the Square, Art Fair on the Square, and Taste of Madison that prevent buses from traveling on the Capitol Square.


How can I provide feedback?

Email Metro Transit or contact our Customer Service Center at (608) 266-4466.

Please provide date, time, location, route number, bus number (located inside and outside buses) and direction of travel when providing feedback regarding Metro drivers.









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Metro Transit: (608) 266-4466; E-mail: mymetrobus@cityofmadison.com