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District 1

Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney

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Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney

Contact Information

Home Address:

1209 Dayflower Dr

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service

Alder Harrington-McKinney’s Updates

Bus Rapid Transit, Police Budget

November 9, 2021 1:58 PM

On Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)? - Please read the communications on BRT, POLICE BUDGET

1. Communication to ALL ALDERS

Dear alders,

A few State Street business owners are trying to sabotage our city's much-needed, overdue mass transit system, out of a stereotype, rooted in racism, that transit riders and their clientele do not overlap. That's abhorrent.

Now we have a proposed budget amendment that would halt transit spending, based on that same racist rationale. This halt in funding would come at a crucial time in the project, where we've already secured matching funds at the federal level. 

Those of you who try to sabotage mass transit in Madison, know this: your constituents will remember. The people who contributed time and/or money to your campaigns last time will remember. The city residents who are engaging with the BRT project and helping shape it to be equitable, sustainable, and an economic boon for the city, we'll all remember. The people sitting in traffic years from now, instead of on a fast, reliable transit vehicle, will remember. The people who are still commuting 2 hours each way in 2025, because it takes 3 buses to get across town with long waits at transfer points, will remember. Don't think it'll be taken lightly.

This city has been waiting for mass transit for decades, and we've reached a point in our city's growth where we cannot continue to put it off for the next generation.

In redesigning the bus system around BRT, the city was given designs prioritizing ridership vs. coverage, and was tasked with finding a balance between these two priorities--something between 1/99 and 99/1. 

If you interpreted that choice as an unreconcilable binary (100/0 vs. 0/100), then I'm urging you to go back and rub a couple more brain cells together, and salvage your reputation. You are capable of understanding this.

We know who put forward this amendment:

Alder Abbas
Alder Carter
Alder Harrington-McKinney
Alder Myadze
Alder Verveer

I'm not shaming you. I'm not bullying you. I'm just pointing out that if this sabotage succeeds, city residents will know who led it. And we'll add to this list anyone else responsible.

The damage to our city's infrastructure hasn't been done yet though. You still have a chance to correct your mistakes. You can bury this amendment. You can withdraw your names as cosponsors while you still have an opportunity to do so. I hope you do the right thing.

Thank you,

Name Removed for privacy


2. BRT: Cutting Corners to Save Time, Not Money.  The result: wasting time and money.


Around 2015 Metro staff began working on two changes to the bus system. One was to introduce BRT.  The other was to provide new routes to underserved communities, particularly communities of color.

The staff worked on BRT and introduced the concept to the public the winter of 2018-19. They wanted to public to understand how it would change transportation in Madison.  Bus stations would be like train stations with platforms, drivers could control traffic signals so there is no stopping for red lights. Tickets or passes would be purchased remotely or on the platform and there would be no congestion entering the buses.  There would be exclusive lanes which in many instances meant removing car lanes, parking lanes and possibly terraces in order to widen a street.

Simultaneously the staff worked with the community to develop equity routes. The best example was the implementation of the Owl Creek service. Equity routes are usually more costly than most routes because they have lower ridership and serve less dense areas. The hope is that by providing low-income communities, communities of color better bus service it will improve shopping, employment, and education access and eventually build greater ridership.


With the election of Mayor Rhodes-Conway in April, 2019, work on BRT accelerated since this was one of her highest priorities. In February, 2020 the council operating remotely under the pressure of Covid- 19 approved a resolution conceptually approving routes that staff was working on since 2018.

This council approval is at the heart of the debate.

The routes staff examined were based on three main service areas: (1) a Park Street service for the south side, (2) an East-West service, and (3) a northeast service.  All the routes would come through the downtown.  Staff looked at options which include on the Square, the Outer Ring, on State Street, and off State Street.

The locally preferred alternative presented in March,2020 was on the Square and State Street.  Prior to the vote staff and the Mayor made it clear at the time that these routes were conceptual and not final. Since that date at every step of the way the mayor and the staff argue that vote was a final decision on BRT routes.

That is not true. For that to be true, we have to believe that in this politically active, city not a single member of the public was concerned enough to speak, that every member of the council had no questions and was accepting of this so-called FINAL DECISION.


Over the past year many members of the council repeatedly asked for review and discussion of the routes – not just downtown but at the edges of the city and in our neighborhoods. We are stonewalled. 

Here is the substance of our concerns:

1. Move the buses off of all of State Street – create a better Mall for pedestrians and bicyclists.
2. Move the buses to the Outer Ring which is closer to more destinations than the Square.
3. Reexamine the proposed service to the Northeast side
4. Disclose the nature of the modification to the non-BRT routes so we know what we are giving up in exchange for BRT. We are told that our future is either fewer bus routes with those surviving routes getting more frequent service or service to less areas and people walking further to bus stops. Before anyone locks in BRT and its immense capital cost we want to know what we are buying. 

Here is their response:

1. Our efforts are called "clumsy" by the Mayor.
2. BRT is good for economic growth.
3. The Mayor: "negatively impacting not only the most marginalized in our community who rely on bus service..."
4. Loss of federal funding
5. A future change in leadership at the State Capitol or Washington D.C. will kill the project.
6. Our delay will cause a $5 million inflationary cost.


While there have been updates, briefings and reports, the city council is frozen out of the decision-making process when it comes to examining routes. We are never shown our alternative routes. 

Let me repeat. We have the imagine of process but that process does not allow the legislative body of the city to exercise any say in the decisions. 

This is not a bus program it is a railroad job.

This city is building the fastest BRT system in history not the best.

Every time we raise a concern we are told, "NO." 

The administration and the city staff never make an effort to solve a problem.

Here are the facts.

The City Council approved the routes in legistar 59665

We are told that the routes were approved when the council adopted legistar 59665, March 31, 2020. Here is what the Code of Federal Regulations says   Sec 611.105 Definitions

Locally preferred alternative means an alternative evaluated through the local planning process, adopted as the desired alternative (emphasis added) by the appropriate State and/or local agencies and official boards through a public process and identified as the preferred alternative in the NEPA process.

What part of the word preferred do people not understand? What part of the word alternative do people not understand? Not only is the language clear that we adopted a locally preferred alternative but discussion with the Mayor and staff before the adoption made it clear that this was not a final decsion

Then on January 5, 2021 , legistar 63184 we approved modification to again, a "locally preferred alternative." Clearly modifications to our routes are possible, without jeopardizingthe grant, at least when the Mayor and transit staff want them 

East Washington:

We are told a delay might risk the project because a new governor will not approve the use of East Washington, Highway 151, a state highway for BRT. If that happens then we cannot get federal approval.

Any time this past year and through the next year we can submit a plan for approval to the State DOT for the use of Highway 151. Once that is received it can be submitted to the U.S. DOT and we have the necessary federal and state approvals. Any modifications around the Square and the Outer Ring are not impacted since that portion of East Wash is not a state highwaywhich stops at Blair Street.

State Street and the Square with wide sidewalks.

We are told that State Street and the Square have wide enough sidewalks and the alternatives do not and that is one of the advantages.

What a cruel irony. The widened sidewalks were achieved by taking right-of-way away from cars to give to pedestrians and now sidewalks for pedestrians are being taken away from buses. 

Why not do the same thing on our alternatives? Take away parking on the Outer Ring and where Gorham and Johnson cross State Street for the transit stops. How big a deal is that for a pro-walkability, pro bicycle, pro-transit, anti-car city. It has been done before, there is no right-of way- to acquire.

Loss of Parking Revenues

We are told the Parking Utility cannot afford to lose the revenues from these parking spaces.

There are parking ramps and surface lots near all of these locations. There are tons of empty spaces. The loss of revenue argument was used to sop the original State Street Mall. Fortunately, in those days, city leaders valued the pedestrians and bicyclists more than the parking revenues.


A Delay one year will increase the cost $5 million

We are told that a delay of one year will cause a $5 million inflationary increase of the cost of the project.

First, any delay is not our fault. If our concerns were addressed from the beginning there would be no delay. Secondly, that assumes the project is properly timed to start in 2023 which is a premature schedule. 

This project was rushed from the beginning. Evidence of that is seen in the failure to obtain a door-to-door survey of passengers. We have no idea where passengers are coming from or going. Yes, we know what bus stations passengers presently use, but the absence of a door-to-door survey in light of the magnitude of the BRT system is negligent. To do this right we need the survey, we need to look at alternative BRT options and we need to evaluate the impact on the non-BRT routes before approving any major funds other than to get answers to these questions.

There is no delay caused by us. If our requests for information were heeded a reasonable schedule can be maintained.

Finally, the history of the city capital budget is filled with projects that get put off for a year or more. There are tens of millions of dollars of capital budget projects that are delayed. It is estimated that 40% of the capital budget is delayed every year and that include plenty of Transportation projects.

A Delay will jeopardize the federal grant.

We are told that a delay can cause the federal government to pull or rescind the grant whether it be the Biden Administration or a change of administration in Washington D.C.

This statement is totally and unequivocally false. Worse than that the city staff and the Mayor are derelict in their duty in making the statement and not reporting to the city council and the public that that simply does not happen.

Show us an example of where a federal transit grant is pulled unless the grantee agency by legislation and executive approval turns it down (Wisconsin legislature and Governor Walker on high-speed rail).  

The evidence is clear in city after city, including the ones staff and our highly paid consultants name as examples of BRT success, that numerous delays running over three and four years do not result in loss of federal funding. 

Not only is there evidence to refute this fraudulent claim, but staff knows better and this city administration blocked our requests to bring in FTA officials so we can get direct answersrather than the filtered false claims. 

Non-BRT routes

We are told that a significant modification to existing non-BRT routes is forthcoming. Some routes will be less frequent other will have changes in bus stops. We are told that BRT will make up for these cuts. We are told:

The BRT project is replacing existing local service only in the BRT corridor, which is equivalent in cost and has no effect on coverage of other parts of the City. Any changes that may or may not happen in other parts of the city would happen through the Network Redesign project, which is separate from the BRT and must already be separately

??If we follow your recommended course of action, we will be locked into the BRT routes and will not be able to make any adjustments to the non-BRT routes as well for the obvious reason – budgetary constants. As the elected representatives of the people of Madison we are not going to give the mayor and the staff a free hand in establishing the largest overhaul in the hundreds of millions of dollars of the Madison bus system.  That is why we insist upon a full disclosure of the all on the routes before any capital improvements are made.

And that raises an interesting question from us: If this administration is so committed to equity, why are we expected to continue to approve irreversible approvals and expenditures on a transportation system we do not know will serve communities of color?  We only have promise and you know what they are worth. 

The Race Card.

We are told that the new system will provide that:

The average person of color could reach 47,000 jobs, a 120% increase, and the average low-income person 103,000 jobs, a 28% increase.

What does that mean? Instead of giving us meaningless statistics why not show us where these average persons of color live and what their bus routes will look like before and after the redesign?

If we want an example of institutional racism all we have to do is look at transportation planning at the national, state and local levels for highways, public transit and commuter systems. Legislative bodies at all levels, Congress, the states, and locals make promises and after the bulldozers and improvements are constructed it seems the promises are rarely if ever kept. 

Maybe the promises will be kept this time. But if the promises are not kept, we are not going to be complicit in institutional racism by approving, the funding, creating a situation where  toomuch money is spent to change the plans from consultants, and then find we cannot serve our constituents, 


We support BRT. To tell the public otherwise is not honest.  We support a different BRT system than the Mayor.  We are skeptical of the present leadership on this project because at every step of the way our input is thwarted, we are stonewalled, and we are not given access to the resources of the Federal Transit Administration as you and your consultants have withheld critical information from the public and the city council. 

Worst of all you have taken the original approval language which the federal government uses in defining approvals, that included, "preferred," "alternative," and "desired" and said that less than firm language was the final determination of the routes.The Mayor says, 

The amendment gives conflicting direction to staff from the Council who have twice already approved the routing after extensive community-wide engagement.

That is not true. 

In addition, the mayor says about our amendment:

It conflates the BRT project and the Metro Redesign, which are two separate (related) projects.

That is true., but do not understand how the Metro Redesigncan be separated from the BRT project when the designers, the mayor, the consultants all make it clear that the regular non-BRT routes will be changed and we do not know what it will look like as we spend almost $200 million.

3. From the Mayor ON BRT

4.  Do you really want a transportation system that considers the well-being and inclusivity of all communities vs seen as an attack against,  attempt to sabotage or derail a mass transportation system. Do you want a mass transit system that works? Works for who?  Of course there will be trade offs, let's be sure that the necessary trade offs are made for the greater good. 

How long have you sat in the space of rooted racism? It may not be the intent to shame or call out Alder's who disagree with the Mayor. No one gets to define me or name me...only I have permission to do that. I committed to serve this Community. I am not seeking my own self interest. 




The Madison Alumni Chapter
7285 Fountain Circle
Middleton, WI   53562

November 2, 2012

City of Madison
Finance Committee
210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Room 210
Madison, WI   53703

RE:  Police Department 2022 Operating Budget Proposal

Dear Finance Committee Chair:

The Madison Alumni Chapter is forwarding this brief yet important correspondence in support of the 2022 Operating Budget that was submitted by the Madison Police Department.

More specifically, we fully support Chief Barnes his proposal and his team's justifications for each of the line-item elements within the Operating Budget outline.

It is our hope that the full council will provide the necessary fiscal support to enable the Department to install new initiatives that will better serve the Madison Community going forward.

We look forward to continuing to provide staunch support for the women and men within the Madison Police Department.

Respectfully submitted,

George Tervalon, III, Polemarch (President)
Madison Alumni Chapter
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

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