UW-Madison student conducts survey into Monona residents’ transportation patterns

With the guidance of Professor Carolina Sarmiento, Maria Castillo expands on research completed by two former UniverCity Year courses to better comprehend Monona resident’s transportation habits and needs.


Devin R. Larsen


Shelly Strom


City of Monona, WI, United States
Community Size
8,045 (2018 Census Estimation)
University of Wisconsin - Madison
UniverCity Year
Case Type
Project Stories
EPA Region 5, USA

The City of Monona, which features 17 public parks and houses 8,000 residents, is an active community, with cyclists and pedestrians taking to roads each day. Yet, while an active city, Monona officials noticed that active transportation might not be as accessible as it could be, with residents oftentimes relying on vehicles for transportation. 

To investigate this, the city embarked on numerous projects—including one in collaboration with UW-Madison’s Department of Urban & Regional Planning (URPL) —to enhance active transportation methods for both pedestrians and cyclists. While they received notable results from these projects, the city wanted to further explore public opinion on active transportation prior to moving ahead with project outlines. 

The UniverCity Year program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an EPIC-Network member, was created to help local government and community partners with identified sustainability and livability projects. Participating University faculty incorporate community-identified projects into classes, and provide students with on-the-ground experience in support of a more sustainable and livable future for the partnered community.

During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the City of Monona was chosen to partner with the UniverCity Year program due to its proximity to the university and for strong support from Mayor Bob Miller. 

Collecting public opinion to understand Monona’s active transportation 

The UniverCity Year program partnered UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Open Education Community Fellowship with the City of Monona to survey residents about their active transportation habits. Under the guidance of Assistant Professor Carolina Sarmiento, student Maria Castillo sought to bridge the gap between “similarly focused [UniverCity Year] Spring and Fall Urban and Regional Planning courses” which worked towards identifying and improving the safety of Monona bicycle paths. Castillo hoped to bridge this gap by collecting “public input on the City’s current environment for active transportation while engaging the community and gathering data that would aid in making fact based decisions” (UniverCity Year project final report).  

Castillo’s approach involved:

  1. Communicating one-on-one with residents at Monona events
  2. Using promotional materials such as PSAs and social media to engage citizens

Results to induce transportation improvements 

Castillo’s survey results provided numerous insights which could be used to inform future transportation renovations throughout Monona. Results and insights garnered included the following:

Preferring a safe, quiet place

  • Cyclists reported preferring riding on bike paths or streets with bike lanes over any other pathway
  • Pedestrians prefer quiet streets with sidewalks and lights due to enhanced safety conditions

Constrained by conditions and destinations 

  • Most residents drive to their destination, except for when going to the park or library, wherein they are more likely to walk
  • Access to active transportation is hindered due to personal time constraints, poor weather, and long distances to destinations

With this compiled survey information the City of Monona can move forward toward implementing safer active transportation pathways which meet resident’s needs. To establish their initiative further, Monona could consider creating a local focus group which could work towards solutions for prevalent local issues, or partner with a national organization for support. 

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

“The goal [of this fellowship] was to effectively communicate the purpose of the survey, the project, and the City’s efforts to listen to the community to understand how they feel in regards to active transportation.”

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