Metro Transit general manager Chuck Kamp, who led the city of Madison’s bus ridership to an all-time high and oversaw the expansion of the system to neighboring communities despite tightened finances and limited facilities, is retiring in November.
Kamp, 63, said he’s leaving to spend more time with family, do other things, and allow for a fresh manager to bring new ideas and creativity.
After taking the position in 2006, Kamp led Metro to a record ridership, including a peak of 15.2 million rides in 2014, and extended the system to Middleton, Fitchburg, Verona, American Center on the Far East Side, and soon, Sun Prairie. He oversees a $56.8 million budget with about 460 employees, including 310 bus drivers.
During his tenure, Kamp supported real-time bus tracking technology, which lets passengers plan and follow trips on their mobile phones. He brought service to the isolated Owl Creek community on the Southeast Side, added weekend service between the north and east transfer points, and extended service to improve access to grocery stores for the Southwest Side. He added drivers and spread out overtime to address a spike in six-figure-salary bus drivers, including one driver who was the city’s highest paid employee at $159,258 in 2009. In that year, he also rolled out a security program that put police officers at transfer points during peak travel times.
He also led environmental efforts with Metro becoming the first system in the state to buy hybrid-electric buses in 2007 and moving to add three all-electric buses next year.
“I am also proud of the focus our 460 employees have on day-to-day safety, reliability, customer-service issues, and so much more,” he said.
In 2012, Metro was honored as Best Transit System of Its Size in North America by the American Public Transportation Association.
“I have appreciated Chuck’s integrity and commitment to public service that I have seen as a resident, an alder, and now leading the city,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “Chuck and I worked together in my first city appointment, a planning committee for Metro, and I have always been impressed by his dedication to transit and his openness to new ideas.”
In recent years, Kamp has promoted efforts to implement Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, a high-frequency, high-capacity, limited-stop but costly service that would run on city streets and dedicated lanes.
Meanwhile, he’s focused on upgrading facilities, including $57 million for repairs at Metro’s sprawling bus garage at 1101 E. Washington Ave., and $15 million to $30 million for a satellite bus storage facility, a precursor to BRT. The city is negotiating with owners of the former Oscar Mayer facility on the East Side to buy part of the property for that use.
“In some ways, I am leaving at one of the most exciting parts of my career,” Kamp said.