Last week, members of the Sun Prairie City Council approved a resolution committing the city to being a Madison Metro Bus Rapid Transit hub. Even though a Federal Transit Administration grant will reimburse the city for 65% of costs associated with the BRT hub, the city could still incur $200,000 in costs including a new restroom facility, a new electric bus and an electric bus charger.
The outlay will be for service that won’t even start until 2024.
City officials, including alders Al Guyant and Mike Jacobs as well as mayor Paul Esser, say the dollar amount is well spent. Esser cites the future population as well as potential traffic congestion in approving the expense.
But, in order to get local service, the city will have to pay more to Madison Metro at a future date.
Allow us to be the voice of reason in advising caution and advising the City of Sun Prairie to continue to plan for all transportation options.
• The political pendulum of Sun Prairie politics. Less than seven years ago, Dane County leaders put plans for commuter rail on hold as the future of a Regional Transit Authority fell apart.
In 2009, Sun Prairie’s own Transit Commission rejected bringing Metro service into Sun Prairie, and in 2010, discussed express bus service into Madison.
In other words, it is nearly impossible to predict what the will of elected politicians will be, especially when faced with a potential tax increase to offset lost revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Add to that the multitrillion dollar proposal made recently by the Biden Administration that includes a wide array of funding for other transportation options, and you can see why caution might be advised until Congress takes final action.
• Other transportation options. One would wonder what might happen in Metro approached the council and asked for $200,000 to address possible light rail transportation options.
But there is a more popular option gaining attention all the time: bicycling. Commuters are biking from Sun Prairie into Madison. In fact, the $200,000 to be spent on the new bus charger, electric bus and restroom will be paid for by park-development fee dollars because the building is also a trailhead for the city’s bike trail network.
Before last week, few politicians would have given the potential of Amtrak locating a hub in Madison about the same as a snowball outdoors on a 100-degree day.
But that Amtrak proposal, which Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is taking seriously, could also include rail service through Sun Prairie to Madison from Milwaukee.
If there is a chance, that transportation option should also be explored. For years, city planning officials have labored under the potential of a downtown Sun Prairie train-station location.
A downtown Sun Prairie train station could not only bring visitors to downtown Sun Prairie, but also result in additional spending by commuters or those board Amtrak to Milwaukee, Minneapolis or Chicago. Leaving budget dollars available for train station planning will benefit Sun Prairie in both the short and long term, but that can’t happen if Madison Metro takes any available transit money.
Sun Prairie has seen an unexpected price increase from Metro before, so knowing the full cost for any service before signing a final agreement will be beneficial for current and future city residents.
If city officials are truly interested in future Sun Prairie residents, they need to explore and plan for all transportation alternatives, and not just bus service.