At least for now, the dream of turning the entire State Street into a pedestrian center has come true.
Madison City Council failed to push through on Nov. 10 a budget amendment that would force city officials to seriously assess the possibilities. The Council voted in favor of the 10-9 amendment, but required 11 votes to proceed (a majority of 20 members).
This means there are plans to build two bulky bus stations with long concrete platforms in the upper half of State Street within a year. By 2024, the stations will be served by faster and longer buses called Rapid Bus Transit (BRT).
But that leaves the lower half of State Street available for something more creative and exciting. Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said all local bus routes could be removed from 400 to 600 blocks of State Street. This should create a true downstate pedestrian hub with winding paths, trees, sidewalk cafes, public art, performance areas and small business kiosks.
The city needs to start planning big changes at the lower part of State Street to bring more people to our city center, which has been hit by the pandemic and online shopping and needed help before. For decades, the Library Mall was a small but successful outdoor pedestrian space at the end of State Street near the UW-Madison campus. Expanding this pedestrian center – but with more public amenities – further up State Street makes sense if buses are no longer there.