The Bus Stops Here: Going to Madison College is not Just a Technicality















A supposedly big controversy these days is whether or not to sell Madison College’s downtown campus in order to help finance a much bigger south campus. It is a false controversy from a bus rider’s perspective however. Both locations are ideal and should be expanded. The location that chafes is the one out at Truax Field, which virtually requires students to have cars.

A developed South campus would be very close to the South Transfer Point and thus easily accessible to public transit all seven days of the week and for longer hours. Likewise, the Downtown campus is close to Metro’s main transfer point, the Square, and is also highly accessible.

Also known Madison Area Technical College, Madison College has been a major educational institution in Madison since 1912. It started as an alternative trade school for 14 to 16 year olds but soon became a vocational and technical school for people of all ages. In downtown Madison since 1921, its headquarters were relocated to a campus on Madison’s outskirts in the mid-1980s on abandoned land of an Air Force field called Truax.

Relocation to the Truax Campus in 1986 occurred after years of assessment. Of various criteria by which different possibilities were evaluated, the need for more land apparently outweighed the transportation challenge a suburban location would pose to students and staff who lived in Madison. Ironically even now, buildings occupy less land on Truax Campus than do parking lots.

Perhaps relocation made the campus easier to access from the highway, and consequently more accessible to students outside the city of Madison. Perhaps, but car driving requires that the destination have parking, and despite all the land allocated to parking, parking is a headache for students.                                  

The president of the student senate wrote recently, “A common concern that students have expressed ... is that there is insufficient parking at the Truax Campus ... I ... see students resort to parking in the fire lanes, with the risk of getting a $20 ticket, or in nearby neighborhoods.”

In what might be considered a self-fulfilling prophecy/vicious cycle, she then recommends building a parking structure for 390 more spaces, adding to an already huge number of spaces – approximately 3,500.

What are the viable alternatives to needing even more parking stalls – selling the downtown campus or expanding it and a South Campus? Ridesharing for one. Ridesharing to the Truax Campus reduces the need for parking and is less taxing on students financially compared to driving Single Occupancy Vehicles. Fast and usually flexible, ridesharing still requires a lot of parking space and still costs considerably more than walking, biking or riding the bus.

Located where it is–outside a dense urban area and without significant on-campus housing–most Truax Campus students live too far away to bike or walk to school. What about the bus?

Metro Transit operates three routes that stop at the Truax Campus–the #6, #20 and #34. There also is a shuttle between the Truax and Downtown campuses.  But their operating hours and/or range are limited.

If you can work within that limitation, perhaps by taking another bus first and then transferring to one or another line, fine. But if not, you are back to depending on a car and wrestling with the parking issue.

For instance, library hours at the Truax Campus are 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Mon-Thurs, but the shuttle between Truax and downtown stops running at 5:10 p.m. on those days while the #34 bus stops running at 5:40 p.m.  The library is open Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, but the only bus stopping at Truax on the weekends is the #20. 

So it is possible to read about how good using the bus is:

I have been riding route 6 for about a month now while attending school at Madison College. The melting pot ideal of the United States is most easily experienced in Wisconsin by riding Madison Metro.

It is much more common to hear such comments as:

The bus gets here like three minutes before class and it usually runs a couple minutes late, so I have to take a bus that’s an hour earlier just to be here on time.

Would such service as that of the #20 be available to more Madison Area residents as it runs seven days a week and with long hours between the North Transfer Point and East Towne (with a jaunt to the airport).

Metro’s "popular destinations" web page lists three MATC destinations: Downtown, Truax, and West campuses (but not South Campus or Commercial Avenue).  The page lists twenty seven buses stopping by the downtown campus. In contrast, it lists only three for the Truax Campus (and only two for West Campus).

 So is it surprising that a downtown campus makes a whole lot more sense to a bus user than a campus out at Truax Field?  And given its proposed location by the South Transfer Point, is it surprising that a much bigger South Campus makes a whole lot more sense too?

The Bus Stops here is produced by members of Madison Area Bus Advocates