Articulated electric buses coming to campus this summer

Photo of an articulated bus parked on the side of a road in front of a tall building on a sunny day.
An articulated bus parked in front of the WARF Building on Walnut St. Photo: Jake Stottler, FP&M

You may have already spotted the shiny new buses winding their way through campus and the streets of Madison. Sightings will become more common, and you may even get a chance to take a ride as the new buses begin serving UW–Madison campus routes later this summer.

The impressive 60-foot articulated vehicles are longer than regular buses, with two sections connected by an accordion-like structure to maneuver around corners. They are part of the City of Madison’s all-electric fleet, which will serve the city’s new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes.

The new buses are expected to become fully operational on campus circulator routes beginning in fall 2024.

Transportation Services, in partnership with UW–Madison and the City of Madison, has contributed to matching efforts to secure federal funding for the new buses. 

Photo of a group of people seated inside the articulated section of an articulated bus.
Interior view of the “accordion” section of an articulated bus. Photo: Jake Stottler, FP&M

What is new about the articulated buses?

The new buses are fully electric, zero-emission vehicles. They will recharge at stations located at the Madison Metro bus depot. Additional recharging stations will be located throughout the city.

A regenerative braking system also recharges the batteries during operation by reclaiming the bus’s kinetic energy when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator.

According to the manufacturer, a zero-emission bus can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 135 metric tons – equivalent to the emissions produced by a 40-foot clean-diesel bus each year.

Being battery-operated, the electric buses also run more quietly than traditional buses.

Photo of female-presenting student in a mobility device stationed at a self-securement area in a Madison Metro Transit bus.
UW–Madison student Brelynn Bille tests out the self-securement space on a test ride in May. Photo courtesy of Shanae Meacham, City of Madison

Improved ADA accommodations

The buses are kneeling buses with wide doors and ramps for passengers with mobility devices. There will be two areas to accommodate wheelchairs, including a new self-service wheelchair securement space. 

More elbow room

According to Mick Rusch of Madison Metro Transit, the new buses can comfortably carry up to 120 passengers — approximately 40 more passengers than standard city buses.

The additional capacity is expected to alleviate strain on campus routes by reducing instances of drivers bypassing people waiting at stops because the bus is too full.  

What about the hairpin turn? 

Transportation Services is working closely with UW campus partners and Madison Metro to ensure the larger buses can safely navigate campus roadways. On a recent test drive, the driver successfully maneuvered around Route 80’s tight corners — including the hairpin turn on Observatory Drive.

Photo of the front end of an articulated bus taken from the perspective of the rear section as the bus turns a sharp corner.
View from the rear section of an articulated bus as it climbs the hill on Observatory Drive. Photo: Jake Stottler, FP&M

More information coming soon!

Details regarding bicycle transport, accessibility and tips for campus bus riders will be shared throughout the summer. Also follow Madison Metro Transit for updates.

Photo of an articulated bus stopped on a busy city street on the UW-Madison campus.
An articulated bus stops on W. Dayton Street during a test ride. Photo: Jake Stottler, FP&M

— by Lauren Hawley