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New bus garage should be on West Side -- Colin Conn

April 4, 2019

Metro Transit’s current garage is located 11 blocks east of the Capitol Square in Madison. It’s ancient, inefficient and does not meet current or future needs.

Metro Transit needs another garage, and the city is considering a second one, also east of the Square. This makes no sense because there’s little opportunity to reduce costs with a second garage east of the Square.

Buses travel without passengers from a garage to start a route and return when finished. A 20-minute trip for an empty bus to and from the West Transfer Point costs $13,000 at the end of the year, at a rate of about $75 per hour. If the city refitted the old Copp’s grocery store (across Tokay Boulevard from the West Transfer Point) to be a garage and light maintenance facility, the cost of driving a bus without passengers would run about $700 annually (saving $12,300).

Of course, this is just an operational view and the site may be too small, but eliminating 10 or 15 minutes (each way) from 50 or more buses deadheading west every school day would save over $300,000 annually. This could offset the cost of a new garage.

Metro needs a second garage now, and it should be located on the West Side. Large transit systems strategically locate garages around a large city to reduce deadhead costs. Madison should do likewise.

Colin Conn, Madison, retired Metro Transit schedule planner

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