Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

The Transport 2020 Alternatives Analysis study, initiated in 2000, is entering a new phase of project development. The study evaluated various transportation system improvements for Madison and Dane County. Transportation improvements evaluated in Transport 2020 ranged from improvements to the existing street/highway system and Madison Metro bus services, to the initiation of new passenger rail and express bus services.

The long-term transportation system vision proposed in Transport 2020 is a multi-modal system consisting of commuter rail, electric streetcars, express bus services, park-and-ride lots and improvements to local bus service. This “Full System” transit vision will represent significant progress toward meeting the regional transportation, economic development and growth management goals established at the outset of the Transport 2020 project (goals that are also reflected in the adopted plans of numerous Dane County communities).

The first piece of this long-term transit vision (the Locally Preferred Alternative, or LPA) recommended to move forward to the next phase of analysis — the Preliminary Engineering/National Environmental Protection Act (PE/NEPA) study — is a 13-mile commuter rail line operating within the existing railroad corridor connecting Greenway Center (in the City of Middleton) and East Towne Mall in Madison. This commuter rail line will traverse central Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus area, and could potentially be expanded to other Dane County communities. Near-term commuter rail system extensions could include McFarland, the Dane County Regional Airport and Sun Prairie. Additional future extensions might include Fitchburg, Stoughton, Oregon, DeForest, Cross Plains, Waunakee or other interested Dane County communities. The LPA will be reviewed and refined during this PE/NEPA process.

This transit service is expected to be supplemented by new express bus service, park-and-ride facilities and improved local bus services. Some new bus service between Madison and Dane County communities is already being planned, such as service to the cities of Verona and Sun Prairie. The City of Madison, Dane County and the Madison Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) have all adopted resolutions endorsing the recommendations contained in the Transport 2020 Final Report and have recommended moving forward to the next phases of study — the PE/NEPA environmental documentation process, in accordance with all applicable local, state and federal regulations.

The current phase in the development/implementation of the Transport 2020 Start-Up System is the Preliminary Engineering (PE) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental documentation as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This process entails more detailed analysis of alternatives, further refinement of the operating plans for the recommended transit system and further evaluation of the funding and management mechanisms under which the new transit system will operate.

The PE/NEPA evaluation will develop detailed information regarding how the recommended system will impact the community and affected environment — including how auto traffic flow will be affected, how existing neighborhoods might be affected and what mitigation measures might be implemented to help alleviate the impacts. It will also include a detailed analysis of the impacts of transit improvements on a range of environmental and cultural resources, such as air quality and noise. Finally, the PE/NEPA process will also evaluate the governance structure for owning and operating the proposed system (including how Madison Metro transit will be integrated into that entity) and will evaluate funding sources for the proposed system, including levels of participation where appropriate.

1.1. Role of Public Participation in this PE/NEPA Study

Public participation is a fundamental component of the Transport 2020 Alternatives Analysis. Giving the public opportunities to guide the study will result in transit system improvements that are directly responsive to the needs and predilections of stakeholders. All components of the public participation activities and the decision-making process are designed to provide information, actively seek and consider public comments, incorporate comments and concerns in feedback to decision makers and ensure the public remains informed throughout the project, from beginning to end. To achieve this, the study must create a transparent, open and understandable process to inform the public in a timely manner and enable them to participate in the study process.

Public involvement is integral to moving the Transport 2020 project through this next planning phase. The input and feedback of elected and appointed officials, business and civic leaders, environmental and community groups, community based organizations and concerned and interested citizens is essential for identifying issues of concern and for making informed decisions.

1.2. Purpose of this Report

This plan describes anticipated public participation activities keyed to tasks, issues, and stakeholders. The Public Participation Plan also includes public participation goals and expectations as they relate to project tasks. Table 1 highlights stakeholders and issues as a basis for selecting appropriate public participation tools for the study. Because the public participation component is expected to continuously inform the technical planning and design aspects of the project, the key issues, stakeholders, public participation goals identified in this report and appropriate public participation tools selected to best gain the public input needed at each task may be updated as the study progresses.

Section 2 of this report describes the various public participation tools and activities that will be employed during the course of this study and Section 3 highlights media activities. The public participation program is fully integrated with the study’s technical planning and design activities and Section 4 of this report highlights specific public participation goals for each study task.

The public involvement activities and tools have been selected to maximize public participation and to gather the best quality insights from stakeholders. The public involvement process integrates the NEPA/EIS Scoping and public hearing process with more informal and localized opportunities for involvement. The primary purposes of the various public participation activities supporting the Transport 2020 PE/EIS are as follows:

  • Build on the technical work and outreach from the prior studies;
  • Actively involve affected parties, including minority and low-income communities, from scoping through submittal of the final study documents by establishing multiple effective sources of communication to encourage and obtain input and provide information;
  • Identify issues and provide input from affected parties and the community at large to the City of Madison, Dane County, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Implementation Task Force in a timely, accurate and unbiased manner so it may be considered in making decisions;
  • Report findings and alternatives to the public and those affected by the study recommendations; and
  • Communicate with others involved in transportation initiatives in the greater Madison Metropolitan to enhance community understanding and build consensus.

If the Transport 2020 plan is to win broad based support and continue forward to implementation, it must build upon lessons learned during prior studies as well as from successful transit initiatives in other cities, identify, involve and address appropriate constituencies and weave these experiences and activities into a successful, consensus-building public involvement program.

1.3. Previous Public Participation Activities

The public involvement program during previous study phases encouraged the active participation of public interest groups and involved agencies early in the decision-making process. This element of the study focused on providing elected officials, community groups, governmental agencies, and the public the opportunity to identify issues and concerns and participate in the study progress. Public input was invited and encouraged to help define the study area and design transportation alternatives before considerable time and effort was spent on their technical development and drafting an environmental document. This allowed the public, their elected officials, governmental agencies, and community groups to have information on the study, and provided them with an opportunity to help direct the study’s course. Through newsletters, information fliers, public meetings, and Transport2020.net, the public has had ample opportunity to participate in and comment on the study.

Two committees — the Oversight Advisory Committee and the Technical Advisory Committee — were established specifically to give direction to the Transport 2020 study. Both committees played important roles in project development by frequently meeting to review technical information, solicit citizen comment and provide direction regarding alternatives that should undergo detailed analyses. The committees also discussed how the Transport 2020 study and its alternatives might coordinate with other ongoing planning efforts in the greater Madison metropolitan area. David Trowbridge, Transportation Planner for the City of Madison’s Department of Planning and Development, was the Project Administrator.

Over the course of the previous study, many meetings were held in a variety of formats to encourage dialogue by disseminating information to the public and enabling the receipt of comments and concerns from the public by those working on the study, including:

  • Stakeholder meetings,
  • Community briefings,
  • Oversight and Technical Advisory Committee meetings,
  • Public information meetings, and
  • Technical workshops

Public outreach included publishing newsletters and fact sheets that were distributed to a mailing list of approximately 700 people.

In addition, press releases distributed through the City of Madison, Dane County and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced the study and public information meetings. Media coverage included articles in the Wisconsin State Journal and public service announcements on various radio stations. Some committee meetings were broadcast on local access cable television. A local radio station attended one of the public information meetings for live coverage. Committee members wrote editorials to Madison’s local publication the Isthmus. Briefings were held with the Capital Times and the Isthmus.

The consultant team established the Transport2020.net Web site to add another public information tool. This Web site was updated regularly with newsletters, fact sheets (information fliers), meeting dates and past meeting minutes. The Web site linked users to a number of pages discussing the problem, goals and objectives, study corridor, alternatives under consideration, photos of the transit alternatives and maps of the routes under consideration. The maps, which may be enlarged for better viewing, are available for printing or saving from the Website at the click of a button. Updated project meeting information was also included.

This PE/NEPA phase will include all these Public Participation tools and others to reach the broadest possible audience.

1.4. Environmental Justice

On February 11, 1994 the President of the United States signed Executive Order 12898, requiring that each Federal agency, including the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority and low-income populations in the United States and its territories. During the course of the Transport 2020 PE/NEPA phase, the study team will engage in outreach activities that ensure that such effects are pro-actively identified, addressed and mitigated to the greatest extent practicable. In addition to meeting Federal standards, greater involvement of minority and low-income populations will help in reaching decisions that support the needs of the population within the corridor most dependent on public transportation.

Minority and low-income persons have been documented to have less access to personal vehicles than the general population and to have disproportionately higher dependency on public transportation to access jobs, education and basic services such as healthcare and shopping.

The consultant will actively seek the participation of minority and low-income populations in all public involvement activities. The Transport 2020 mailing list will be reviewed for inclusion of groups within the corridor providing services to minority and low-income population. If available, the City of Madison’s and WisDOT’s current list of environmental justice organizations will be incorporated and input sought from community representatives and the Implementation Task Force to identify key organizations.

In addition, the study team will seek out neighborhood leadership to identify individuals for early stakeholder interviews. These individuals may then serve as community liaisons that can participate in meetings, including any targeted in a particular community as well as be a local contact for community concerns.

As the study proceeds, information regarding the study alternatives will be made available to minority and low-income populations. The public scoping meeting will be held at a well known, readily accessible location within the corridor. All meeting facilities will be handicapped accessible. Meeting notices will be placed in mainstream publications as well as those smaller outlets serving minority and non-English speaking populations. Mailings and publications produced by the study team will offer to provide, upon request, meeting translation services for non-English speaking attendees or sign language interpreters for the hearing impaired. Mailings and publications will also provide information about locations such as libraries providing free internet access to the study Website. Special outreach activities will seek out opportunities for one-on-one and community group briefings in minority and low-income neighborhoods.