Last night, at the city’s transportation and parking committee (of which I am a member), the public was invited to speak about any specific thoughts they had about Madison Metro. Of course, the public are always welcome to speak about specific items we’re discussing, but this was a sort of anything goes type evening. About 15 people spoke and were limited to three minutes of time. I found most of their comments interesting and incredibly thoughtful. The bus system means a lot to a lot of people. One of the most interesting speakers, though, was someone who has been in Madison only a month and seems to have a more academic interest in public transit than a personal one. His name is Jan and he is studying here for a bit, but he hails from the Czech Republic. I believe he said he runs some NGO back home that works on transit projects. He had some suggestions for the bus system, all of which made a lot of sense. For example, he suggested that after a stop, the speaker system should immediately announce the next stop (instead of waiting until about a block from the next stop, which is what the system currently does). He also suggested some improvements for bus stop signs and other things. One of the best parts of his mini-presentation, though, was when he began by saying, following his introduction, “The Madison bus system is very good for an American transit system.” Pause. “But, when compared to European systems….” Hee hee. So kind. And true.
I actually really commend Jan’s confidence and bravery. I can’t imagine being a young person, studying abroad, seeing a flyer for a public conversation at a city committee meeting, taking my time to go and share my thoughts on the ways my new city could improve itself. But I think we were all so glad that he did just that. In fact, when the beeper went off signaling the end of his three minute time period and Jan started to stand up to go, our chair said, “Uh, keep going. I want to hear this.” Bravo, Jan.