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Driving the Budget: Politics of Bus Transportation in Madison, Wisconsin By Kelly Kohrs, Jessica Shen & Katy Vosburg

Who rides the bus in Madison, WI, and how


Data Collection We tallied selected demographic characteristics for all Route 80 and Route 6 bus riders. The data was organized spatially and temporally.

We documented bus rider demography and compared our observations to the census tracts of neighborhoods adjacent to the Route 80 and Route 6 corridors in Madison, WI. All major demographic groups are potentially affected by proposed fare increases and service changes. Our interviews and surveys, however, indicate that the demand for public transportation will not be adversely affected by proposed changes to the Madison Metro budget.

State & Gilman Ridership by Ethnicity (7:17a.m.)

State & Gilman Ridership by Ethnicity (7:48a.m.)

White Black Asian Other

Fare increases

Fare Type Adult Cash Youth Cash Senior Cash One Day Passes Adult 10-Ride Card Youth 10-Ride Card Senior/Disabled 10-Ride Card Adult 31-Day Pass Senior/ Disabled 31-Day Pass Low Income 31-Day Pass EZ Rider Pass Summer Youth Pass Day Tripper



White Black Asian Other

$2.25 $1.50 $1.10 $5.00 $17.50 $11.25 $11.25 $62.00 $40.00 $32.00 $170.00 $35.00 $48.00

12.50% 20.00% 10% 11% 16.70% 12.50% 12.50% 12.70% 45.50% 16.40% 13.30% 16.70% 14.30%

Paratransit Rides $4.00 (peak) $3.00 (non-peak) Pass Program Average Fare Rate $1.15

$4.00 (all rides) $1.25






Asian Other

State & Gilman Ridership by Ethnicity (9:14p.m.)

White Black Asian Other

Base map from

Percent Increase

$2.00 $1.25 $1.00 $4.50 $15.00 $10.00 $10.00 $55.00 $27.50 $27.50 $150.00 $30.00 $42.00



State & Gilman Ridership by Ethnicity (2:16p.m.)

In 2012, Mayor Paul Soglin proposed a Capital Budget that mandated a 5% tax levy on all government departments. Metro Transit proposed fare increases to compensate for reduced budgets. Likewise, UW Transportation Services and the Route 80

State & Gilman Ridership by Ethnicity (10:47a.m.)

campus body. Levels of diversity change spatially across the housing trends in Madison.

The census indicates that few Blacks live along the Route 6 corridor. Yet, Blacks constitute 44 and 39% of the riders during the mid-morning and early afternoon. Nearly all riders during the early morning and evening along the same route were White. The time of day, therefore, is an important consideration for understanding the specific social impacts of any proposed service changes along Route 6.

Proposed fare increase under discussion at 7 November 2012 public hearing

Results Area of Study Our analysis focused on Route 80 and Route 6, the backbones of the UW campus and the Madison city center respectively.

Proposed service changes to the Madison Metro could disproportionately affect minority communities, depending on the route and the time of day. Overall, Madison Metro Transit is well-liked. Our survey results (see graphic below) demonstrate that even people who opposed the proposed price hikes had an overwhelmingly positive attitude about bus service in Madison, WI.

We distributed a 10-question survey to gauge the attitudes on the Madison Metro system and to assess demographics of usage. By gathering public opinion and comparing it to information coming from transportation consultants and experts, we determined that Madison Metro

access to public transportation there is a general expectation that ridership will persist at the present rate or increase as a result of fare elasticity. Community groups who would be most disadvantaged by fare increases such as the poor, minorities, the elderly or disabled will continue to need access to the bus regardless of expense. In addition bus ridership is expected to increase on college campuses across the nation. Our study demonstrates that bus ridership on the campus route 80 and metropolitan area route 6 are not representative of the demography of the city of Madison. However, ridership does demonstrate a geographic pattern of households. Demand increases in the future.

Special Note At the end of our study period, the Madison Metro decided to alter the fare increases such that the impact would not be as great. Fare increases occured only for four categories of fares, particularly monthly unlimited ride passes.

Route 80 and Route 6. Base maps from and

One of the more poignant responses was that changes in the cost will not affect ridership. This was due to dependency on the Metro system. Most respondents also had alternate modes of transportation available when using the bus was not an option.

Methodology In order to analyze Madison’s public transportation landscape, we used the following methods: • Photography • Public Hearings - we attended two hearings, one conducted by Madison Transportation Committee and one conducted by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Firm • Interview with Margaret Bergamini, Policy and Program Analyst for ASM Bus Pass Program and appointed Madison Transportation Committee member • Data Collection on racial, ethnic, age, sex trends • Participant Observation on bus routes across time • Surveys distributed to a variety of ages, sexes, and races/ ethnicities

racial distribution of Madison residents is not homogenous. Both the census and our research indicate that the Route 80 bus serves a large East Asian community.

- Fare elasticity - Limitations on paratransit - Access to stops, including that for disabled passengers - Access to other forms of transportation

Fare Type Adult 31-Day Pass Senior/Disabled 31-Day Pass Paratransit Rides Commute Card rate


% Increase Previous % Increase $55.00 5.45% 12.70% $58.00 $27.50 5.45% 45.50% $29.00 $4.00 (peak) $3.25 (all rides) $3.00 (non-peak) $1.15 8.79% 8.70% $1.25 New Fare

Acknowledgements We would especially like to thank the Geography Department, Professor William Gartner and Neslihan Atatimur for guiding us through the research process. In addition, we are very grateful to Margaret Bergamini, Madison Transportation Committee, and the UW-Madison Applied Population Laboratory for providing great insights to our research. Our full research paper can be downloaded at

Driving the Budget  

By Kelly Kohrs, Jessica Shen and Katy Vosburg

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