Madison, Wisconsin, Keeps Making Sustainability Strides

Madison, Wisconsin, Keeps Making Sustainability Strides

Homeowners relocate to a new city for any number of reasons: a job change, to be closer to extended family members, the quality of public schools, and the social and recreation scenes. Increasingly, they also consider how active a community is in the sustainability movement.

Madison, Wisconsin, is very active — from the recent launch of a Sustainability Research Hub on the UW-Madison campus to a planned $14.3 million sustainable visitor and education center at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve’s popular Picnic Point.

Of particular note is a recent ranking by CommercialCafe — an online commercial real estate listing service — that placed Madison second among mid-sized U.S. cities in green commuting options (behind only Honolulu!) “with a strong emphasis on cycling, supported by a dedicated bike infrastructure and sustainability initiatives.”

The ranking was determined based on points awarded for a city’s performance in a variety of metrics that included percentage of workers commuting by public transportation, walking, bicycle and carpool, as well as green amenities such as the number of electric vehicle charging stations and number parks per 10,000 residents, plus air quality and carbon emissions. Madison scored 51.9 points, nearly 10 more than Minneapolis (42.1) — the only other Midwestern city in the top 10.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Given its reputation as a biking haven, it’s no wonder that Madison topped the list of cities with the highest percentage of cyclist commuters. While 2.6% may seem like a modest number, it’s a significant leap from the national average of just 0.5%. And, thanks to an extensive network of bike lanes and cyclist-friendly policies, the city has transformed into a cyclist’s paradise.

Similarly, Madison ranked third for walking commuters, indicating a strong local preference for car-free living and a welcoming environment for alternative transportation options overall. This dedication to sustainability was further reflected in the city’s second-highest ranking in terms of parks per capita, which showcases the interest of the city in its environment well-being, as well as promotes active, healthy habits for its residents.

No wonder the city recently was recertified as a Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

“In Madison we are always working to make every mode of transportation safer and more inviting for our residents and visitors, whether that’s walking, taking public transportation or biking,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said at the time of the recertification announcement, which marked nine consecutive years Madison has earned the Platinum designation. “This recognition is an honor that reminds us how lucky we are to have miles of bikeable and walkable paths right in our own backyards and how important it is that we keep them safe, accessible and welcoming for everyone.”

While bicycles are a common sight in Madison, residents also will begin seeing new 60-foot articulated all-electric buses around the city — if they haven’t already. The buses are part of the city’s new bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which officially will launch this fall. The buses will help reduce diesel fuel use by about 250,000 gallons each year, according to city officials, and their lightweight electric traction system boasts up to 90% energy recovery to make them more energy efficient.

Implementing all-electric vehicles is part of the City of Madison’s MetroForward initiative to improve air quality and reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint.

Other recent “sustainability wins,” according to the Mayor’s Office, include the following:  

The city became Wisconsin’s first municipality to adopt a building energy benchmarking and tune-ups ordinance. In March 2023, the Common Council unanimously approved a new ordinance to create the Building Energy Savings Program (BESP) to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon pollution from large commercial buildings community-wide. 

Madison has the largest municipal electric fleet in Wisconsin. Five years ago, the City of Madison had no electric vehicles in its fleet. Now, [it aims] to become the first large government fleet in North America to get out of gas engines altogether by 2030.

Madison celebrated the largest ever class in the GreenPower workforce training program. In October 2023, the City of Madison started its largest ever class of GreenPower Program trainees in preparation for a big year of projects in 2024. The Engineering Division’s GreenPower program prepares participants for employment opportunities in the solar energy and electrical industries while also increasing the City’s generation of renewable energy and decreasing its carbon footprint.

 • [Madison] had a record-breaking year for food scraps collection at Farmers’ Markets, with more than 18,800 lbs. of food scraps composted instead of ending up in the landfill. For the second year in a row, [the City] partnered with local nonprofit Sustain Dane to provide free food scraps collection at the South Madison and Eastside Farmers’ Markets from June through October.

If a city’s sustainability efforts are important to you, Madison should be at or near the top of your list of relocation destinations.

Image by Anja from Pixabay

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