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Madison Metro Bus Project

Colorful Shuttles debut downtown today.

by Jacob Stockinger, The Cap Times, Jue 28, 1999

You can call it the Flower Bus.

You can think of it as one big bumper sticker.

Best of all, you can ride it for cheap.

Four city buses - featuring images of the State Capitol and various flowers by Mount Horeb artist Peggy Zalucha - were unveiled this morning and started working the "Downtown GetAround" shuttle route.

Beyond beautification, the mural buses have a specific purpose: to get people to use the shuttles (25 cents for the public, 10 cents for seniors and the disabled) that run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays and connect University Avenue, State Street, the capitol Square and the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

"We hope the new look will get people to notice the buses and learn what they are for," says Julie Maryott-Walsh, the marketing and customer services manager for Madison Metro.

Wrapping the buses with the unusual designs should prove especially helpful to out-of-towners and tourists, she adds.

It all started by accident.

The city bought some used buses from Philadelphia, Phoenix and Oshkosh and put them into service before Madison Metro's own colors of blue, red, and yellow had been put on them.

Isthmus newspaper columnist Dave Medaris called Madison Metro about the new buses with odd colors and was told that the bus designs would gradually be changed as the city got around to it.

But, Medaris wondered aloud in print, why not have a bus with a flower design by Zalucha.

Zalucha, who is best known for her annual poster for Concerts on the Square, and whose work is featured this summer in a show at the Mount Horeb Area Museum- read Medaris' remarks and thought it was a good idea.

Then one day last December, she was dismissed from jury duty and walked down the hall of the City-County building into Mayor Sue Bauman's office to chat about the idea.

"They thought it would be fun," Zalucha says. "And it has been."

The rest, as they say, was details.

To work out the technical problems, Zalucha consulted with Jeff Rank, the owner of Large Format Digital, who works jointly with her new business Millennium Murals (which will host an open house in Mount Horeb on July 17th - 18th). Then she went to Madison Metro and the city transit committee, which first authorized one bus, then three more.

To get the images on the vehicles, four of Zalucha's floral watercolor paintings were combined with photographs of the Capitol, then scanned into a computer, digitally formatted and finally outputted on to a special plasticized material that was also used for the University for Wisconsin Sesquitennial promotions on city buses. It cost about $8000 for each bus to get a mural, which is applied like a jumbo decal or bumper sticker. During the day, part of the mural will cover a few windows, but people on the bus can look out while people outside the bus can't look in. At night, however, passers-by will be able to see in through the mural.

Zalucha, who has one of her digital murals hanging in the Bank of Cross Plains - designed the bus murals for free, asking only copyright fees.

Each of the four buses focuses on the Capitol in a specific season. Tulips are used to mark spring on the first bus. Then come prairie flowers for summer; mums and a bouquet for fall; and evergreens and carnations for winter.

The murals are tough enough to be guaranteed for five years on the streets, but will be changed annually to incorporate new images.

Each year, Zalucha says, the old mural will be peeled off and discarded and a new one put on.

I'm excited to see them," Zalucha says. "I think they will generate a lot of interest."

"But the most important thing is that Madison is not succumbing - as many cities have - to turning buses into huge, ugly billboards. I give them credit for that."



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