Frequently Asked Questions
What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a frequent, faster, and more reliable bus system that uses larger buses to transport more riders. BRT’s features include frequent all-day service and direct routes with fewer stops.
It utilizes special traffic signals to help buses get through intersections faster, dedicated bus lanes, and stations with off-board fare payment kiosks.
Madison's proposed BRT will also feature real-time schedule information, quiet zero-emission electric buses, and comfortable vehicle seating.
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Why do we need BRT?
Metro Transit currently offers leading ridership nationally, providing 13 million rides each year on 62 routes with 218 buses. However, by the year 2050, Madison anticipates 85,000 new jobs, 100,000 new residents, and nearly 800,000 new road trips to work, school, and recreation.
Adding BRT into the Metro Transit system will help alleviate passenger overcrowding on the buses, improve travel times throughout the City and simplify the system—to make taking the bus easier and better—helping to prepare for the expected increase in public transit demand over time.
When will it begin?
Metro’s Rapid Route A will be the first official BRT route and is expected to launch in the Fall. Rapid Route A will run east to west along its currently scheduled route. Metro’s north to south Rapid Route B is currently being developed and expected to go online in 2028.
How frequent will BRT service be?
BRT headway will vary along the corridor to better match the ridership demand. In portions of the corridor with the highest demand we will operate the most service, while on the ends of the corridor the headway will be approximately every 15 minutes.
What will the larger, articulated buses be like? What does articulated mean?
As part of the BRT project, Metro is adding 62 all-electric (60-foot) articulated buses into its fleet. Articulated buses are longer buses that have an accordion style section in the middle. They have multiple doors – one front, two middle and two rear doors – for quicker, more efficient boarding.
Larger buses will help address overcrowding in busy corridors by providing more seats than Metro’s current standard fleet (40-foot buses) and more standing room for people to comfortably ride. A standard 40-foot Metro bus can transport approximately 80 passengers at capacity. An articulated bus can hold about 120 people.
These new larger buses are starting to arrive in Madison from the factory. Look for them out on the streets in the coming weeks as our staff begin to train and become familiar with operating the new vehicles.
Will buses have doors on either side?
Some BRT stations are located in the median. The new BRT buses will have doors on either side so that you can easily board no matter which way the bus is traveling. Passengers will board BRT buses in the middle and rear doors, different than how they currently board in the front door only. New fare readers will be located at each door for payment.
Why are some of the BRT stations in the median? How are people supposed to be able to get to them?
Stops such as on East Washington Ave. and Mineral Point Rd. have adequate right-of-way to accommodate BRT stations in the center of the street. When compared with side running BRT, center running is considered to be faster and more reliable due to fewer conflicts (bikes, turning vehicles, parked delivery trucks) and consequently is more attractive to transit riders.
There will be signalized crosswalks at each station so that people can safely travel to the median.
With Metro’s current curbside stop locations, riders need to cross the entire street once when making a roundtrip. With center-running stations, or stations in the median, a rider will cross half the street, twice.
Once the new BRT buses arrive, staff will create training videos to give riders a better idea of what accessing station and boarding a bus will look like. Training sessions with staff will also be available.
Will the new articulated buses only be on BRT?
No. All-electric articulated buses will be available this coming year on Rapid Route A, as well as Routes B, F, R, 75, and UW campus service. Some of these routes will also board at BRT stations. Complete information will be available in the coming months.
Will Rapid Routes allow me to connect with buses traveling beyond the East-West corridor?
Yes. Metro’s current Route A is being converted into Rapid Route A. The service redesign implemented last June was designed so that regular Metro routes connect with BRT routes for easy boarding between the two. The Rapid Route A will operate the schedule and route it currently runs now, but with the added benefits of BRT – more capacity, more speed, more efficiency.
How much will it cost to ride BRT?
Fares will not increase due to BRT. Metro’s existing fare structure will remain the same. However, Metro will also be rolling out new fare collection technology that will launch prior to BRT. There will be a lot of new and convenient features that will make it easier to ride ALL of Metro buses including fare capping options, the ability to use credit cards as payment on the bus, online accounts, smart cards and more.
Do I need to have a phone or computer to use the new fare technology?
It will not be required to have a phone or computer to pay your fare. There will be several payment options available. However, to make boarding on BRT faster, passengers will board at middle and rear doors of the bus. New fare readers will be available at all doors to pay your fare.
Can I board with cash?
Ticket machines will be placed at new BRT stations for riders to buy paper barcode tickets with cash before you board the BRT bus. Riders will then scan the barcode ticket upon entering the bus.
Passengers can still board with cash on Metro’s standard 40-foot buses, where riders can board at the front door of the bus by the driver.
What are advantages of implementing BRT, as opposed to other transit investments?
The Madison East-West BRT project is eligible to receive at least 50% of its start-up funding, including the construction of a new bus maintenance garage that would serve the entire BRT fleet, through a grant program administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The federal program is called “FTA Small Starts”, and the majority of projects funded by the program nationally are BRT projects.
This 50% start-up federal funding for vehicles, BRT infrastructure and maintenance garage would not be available if Metro chose to address the problem by simply adding additional buses to its fleet.
How will this be paid for?
The initial cost of $195 million will be paid for by a combination of federal and local funding sources. More than half of these initial capital costs will be paid for by federal funds, including a Small Starts grant which was secured at the end of 2023. BRT fares paid for by Metro Transit customers will be used to offset operating and maintenance costs.
Why is the first phase of BRT the East-West corridor, when there are many low-income people living on the north and south sides of the City?
The successful implementation of BRT is entirely dependent upon a federal grant, therefore the City must meet certain system performance criteria. The FTA uses existing and projected ridership to evaluate projects, and the East-West corridor performs much higher in that regard with more than 120,000 jobs and 80,000 residents residing within a 10-minute walk of the proposed BRT route. A successful Phase 1 will allow the City to more realistically expand the BRT system over time.
A second BRT route that runs north/south is in early development and hoped to be completed in 2028.
How many people are expected to use the East-West BRT system?
It is projected that approximately 13,000-14,000 riders will use the service.
What impact will BRT and its construction have on businesses along the corridor?
The BRT line along the East-West corridor and new transit stations will complement downtown business locations and provide opportunities for increased customer traffic. BRT will allow more people to go farther faster, and increase the timeliness of employees who rely on transit. Businesses along the corridor will be engaged throughout the design phase to ensure business needs, such as efficient loading and unloading, are met and that construction does not negatively impact business. On-street parking, which is utilized by customers of some businesses, may be impacted in parts of the BRT East-West corridor. Parking impacts will be evaluated in the next phase of BRT project development.
How will BRT alleviate congestion along the corridor?
One of the key benefits of BRT is that larger buses travel in dedicated lanes where possible, which will improve traffic flow for drivers. Increased BRT and bus ridership will also decrease the number of drivers in the corridor, helping to mitigate increasing roadway congestion.
How will the changes to the corridor benefit cyclists and pedestrians?
Bicycle connections and pedestrian walkways will be enhanced throughout the corridor, both along and crossing the corridor. These improvements will be necessary in order to improve and support safe access to the BRT stations on both sides of the roadway. Details of these enhancements will be evaluated during the BRT project development process.
Will BRT be extended to the surrounding suburbs?
The East-West BRT line will connect to existing Metro service to Middleton. Without the ability to establish a regional transit authority, which would provide the mechanism for municipalities to work together to plan and fund a regional transit system, the extension of BRT routes will have to be negotiated and paid for by the individual communities in the future.