New effort to speed up public transit in Madison

Aboard a city bus driving along Washington Avenue in Madison (Source: WMTV)
Aboard a city bus driving along Washington Avenue in Madison (Source: WMTV)(NBC15)
Published: Feb. 7, 2020 at 8:03 PM CST
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A ‘jump queue’ now stands at the intersection of East Washington Avenue and Fourth Street.

It was installed in November as part of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan to improve traffic flow.

"It saves us much more than seconds," Madison bus driver Lon Bjornstad said.

Bjornstad has been a bus driver for 25 years. He's talking about his experience using what's known as a 'jump queue' over the past 3 months.

"It helps us get through and get the people who need to connect on the West Side," Bjornstad said.

The new queue on East Washington Ave. gets drivers to their stops on time, Bjornstad said.

"During that time when the traffic is so heavy, we've had trouble getting to our connection destinations, this has helped us out immensely."

The jump queue is located on the right side of the stop lights perpendicular to East Washington. It displays a light with a horizontal and a vertical line.

A bus driver will pull the bus into a specially marked right lane and pick up passengers. When the horizontal jump queue line is lit, and the light red, the bus driver will wait.

As soon as the jump queue light changes from horizontal to vertical, the traffic light will remain red, allowing the bus to move out in front of the other cars, before the traffic light turns red.

"We need to be able to shave off every possible second so that the experience of the rider is one that's very quick and efficient," Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said.

Rhodes-Conway added that the city is looking at expanding to more intersections along bus routes.

"Once we're absolutely convinced that this works well, then we'll be looking at where is it going to work for the first bus rapid transit route, where is it going to work for the second and are there other places that will make the entire system function better," Rhodes-Conway said.

"It's been a big help to us and if we could have more, I'd welcome them," Bjornstad said.

The mayor said giving residents a faster transit system helps relieve congestion for everyone on the road, including other drivers.