With the recent setbacks by transit agencies across the country funded by sales tax revenue that have seen those revenues dry up in the current economy, I asked Kamp if he was gun-shy about funding that RTA with sales tax revenue.
Kamp pointed to the state government and university as being employers somewhat buffered by downward turns in the economy, making a sales tax less cyclical than in other areas.
?So I wouldn?t say I?m gun-shy, I would say I see that as one of the strongest and most viable options, but as the state is working on legislation I would want there to be some discussion should there be more than one choice to look at this.
?A group of us went over to Michigan two years ago, and we looked at their RTAs and their enabling legislation. And one of the things we heard from all the communities we visited is if you?re establishing this new statutory authority, give yourself some flexibility. Have more than just one funding source and so that?s kind of my philosophy.?
Madison Metro?s fleet is comprised of 200 buses and 20 paratransit vehicles. Five of those buses are hybrid diesel-electrics and they are the beginning of a new trend at the system. Kamp says the vehicles are so popular there is a willingness to look at ways to spend more money for hybrids.
?Because they are green and they are viewed by the entire community as one of the more exciting things Metro is doing because of the green energy, the environmentally friendly aspects of it,? Kamp says.
And if he has his way, he is going to add dozens more hybrids to Madison?s streets within the next five years.
?Right now the city has approved a five-year bus procurement plan with 42 more buses left,? Kamp says.
Kamp says with federal and local funding, Metro Transit already has in place the bus procurement secured, but they?ve asked for money in the pending stimulus package to bridge the difference between regular diesel buses and hybrids ? a cost of about $200,000 per bus ? as part of the president?s energy initiatives and job initiatives.
The five hybrids in Metro Transit?s fleet actually have two paint schemes, the standard Metro paint scheme and a scheme based on the University of Wisconsin, whom helped the agency raise the money to purchase the vehicles.
?[The university] put money on the table and they said we would like to get this going and in exchange we have a few things we would like,? Kamp says.
?One, we?d like to have the red University of Wisconsin badger theme [on the buses]. And second, you?ll see the University Transportation Services advertisements on them.?
Kamp says two of the buses sport the UW colors and get the right of first refusal on any advertising on them. They also sport the University of Wisconsin seal on the nose of the bus, making them distinctive from any direction.
Those buses stay on campus for their runs on a fareless route to get people on and off quickly and not have to worry about payment. The university also requested some added design features to speed up loading and unloading.
?The university [bus] has Manhattan-style seating where you don?t have any forward facing seats in the front,? Kamp says.
?They wanted to be able to have students standing two by two so you can get big loads on this bus and they wanted the rear door to be wider so that two people can get off at once.
?So we did their red paint scheme on the seats, interior and out, different size door and different size of seating pattern to accommodate the university. And they were helping us buy the buses, so we said, yep, that?s a good deal.?
The other three hybrid buses with Metro Transit?s paint scheme are on routes throughout the city, turning heads as they go by.
?It?s generating excitement. It is its own natural marketing tool for us,? Kamp says.
?We don?t have to do anything. We bought hybrid buses and the community is coming to us. It?s neat.?
While Metro Transit?s hybrid buses have been a tremendous success, its Bucky Bus ? buses delivering riders to UW sporting events and local community events ? was shut down as a result of last year?s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) charter bus changes.