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In comparison to reports that fewer people are riding buses in some Wisconsin communities, Metro Transit experienced its second highest ridership of all time in 2013.

In addition, with its implementation of new routes to the Owl Creek and Grandview Commons neighborhoods, Metro Transit was one of the only transit systems in Wisconsin to add service versus reducing service areas and hours last year.

In 2013, Metro recorded more than 14.7 million rides, a one percent increase compared to 2012. This ridership comes in second to Metro’s record mark of 14.9 million rides in 2011.
Metro staff attribute a slight dip in ridership from 2011 to 2012 to a 10 percent reduction in service made in 2012 to circulator routes that operate on the University of Wisconsin campus. Excluding these campus circulator routes, Metro’s 2013 ridership on the rest of its fixed-route system increased 2.7 percent.

According to numbers recently released by The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent since 1995. In comparison, Metro Transit’s ridership has increased approximately 52 percent from 9.7 million rides to 14.7 million.

Currently, Metro’s high and growing ridership has contributed to overcrowding on buses to the point it has become one of Metro’s most frequently received complaints from passengers. A recently completed study on bus size efficiency and effectiveness indicates Metro should purchase 40 articulated buses to help address this problem.
In 2013, another transit study was completed that examined the possibility of implementing a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) in the Madison area. This study was undertaken to identify ways to alleviate overcrowded buses, reduce travel times, and meet a goal set by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin to double ridership in the next 10 to 20 years.
Like other transit systems in Wisconsin, Metro Transit is experiencing a lack of funding for basic equipment and facility replacement needs. However, Metro additionally is in need of extra funding to keep up with its increasing ridership demand.

Due to an expected drop in federal funding in the coming years, Metro Transit staff are concerned there will not be resources necessary to invest in a Bus Rapid Transit System or continue its yearly practice of replacing buses.

In the past, Metro has received enough federal funding to replace approximately 15 buses each year. However, with this expected reduction in funding, there will only be enough to purchase four buses per year.

Metro is also in need of additional funding to undertake the construction of a much-needed bus garage.

Metro’s currently houses 214 full-sized buses and 17 paratransit vehicles in a garage designed to only hold 160 vehicles. Even if funding were available to purchase extra buses, Metro currently does not have the space to store them.

Metro representatives have recently met with federal and state legislators to discuss its increased need for funding to grow the transit infrastructure in the Madison area. Additionally, Metro is seeking the approval of regional transit authorities in Wisconsin, which would further provide the funding and governance structures needed to better serve the increasing transit needs of the community.


  • Mick Rusch, 608-266-4466