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New Madison Metro bus routes start Sunday

Bus routes in Madison will change starting June 11 as the Madison Metro significantly revamps its service for the first time since 1998.

In an effort to reduce wait times, confusion over routes and frequent transfers, Madison Metro will change existing routes to become more frequent with longer routes. The majority of routes will change from numbers to letters and the north, east and west transfer points will be closed when the revamp officially starts next week. Bus fare will remain the same.

“The last time that we did a big overhaul of the transportation bus system here in Madison was back in 1998. And just like anybody who’s been around long enough to know the rules of fashion, you will learn something for 25 years to become cool again,” Shanae Meacham of Madison Metro said. “So guess what? We’re bringing back the letter system.”

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Madison Metro started an initiative to tour various neighborhoods around the city to answer questions across the communities and talk about the main points of the metro revamp.

The hottest points from Madison Metro’s meetings around the city were the change in routes and mitigating confusion over the changes.

New routes will be longer with more frequent busses. Routes like A, B, C and D will have buses arrive every 15 minutes Monday-Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sunday. Ride guides in bright yellow vests will be out to assist riders to figure out routes when the revamp goes live. Customer service hours will be extended from June 10-24 from 5:30 am-10:00 pm.

The revamp is only a first step in evaluating optimal changes in the metro system. Feedback on improvements for public transit has been collected since 2020. One important piece of that feedback was that routes were difficult to navigate and did not provide a better alternative to driving yourself. Times to get across the city were exacerbated by the need for frequent transfers.

The new routes still have a ways to go. Another evaluation of routes will be considered in August, according to Madison Metro. It acknowledges that the new routes are not a “1-for-1” exchange, as Meacham calls it.

Changes are not creating a perfect system but are trying to work out as many kinks to make taking the bus more efficient, she said. The frequency of buses arriving and reduced need to transfer improves accessibility, but the new stops can require a longer walk to get to the bus and become a challenge for those with mobility impairments.

“That’s one that we’ve been wrestling with in the outreach. So there’s a couple of different things that we’ve tried to take into consideration with that exact thought,“ Meacham said. “For some people, it may not be accessible or as accessible because the distance between where they are living to where the route is going to be may change that or impact that negatively for some riders. We offer another service called ‘Paratransit’ that is a door-to-door service.”

With the route revamp, Paratransit still offers its service the same as before. The service is available for anyone with a disability unable to access fixed Metro routes.

The new Madison Metro routes officially start June 11. The new routes can be found using services like Google Maps, the Metro Transit website and the Transit app.