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February 08, 2010


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Steve Vokers


According to the maps I've seen, the route for the high speed trains takes it past the First Street location, coming in from the east, and then on to the airport (if that is where the station is ultimately built). So no diversion would be necessary for the train to stop at First Street.


Two more benefits of having the station at the airport:

1. The airport already has the infrastructure and services in place that the intercity passenger needs, regardless of mode - parking, taxis, hotel shuttles, rental cars, etc.

2. The airport is much easier to access for the suburban markets. It's a no brainer for passengers coming from places like Waunakee or DeForest. And if people from Oregon, Fitchburg, Verona, Stoughton or even Middleton need to get in their car to get to a station anyway, it's probably just as easy to get to the airport as it is to get to 1st Street. Remember, about half of Dane County's population is outside of the city of Madison.


Use dedicated buses to serve from downtown to the airport, matching boarding and departure times for the inter-city rail. Seems a no-brainer, but...
Buses also have the great advantage and ability to travel any existing street routes and change routes as required. Tracks, not so much.


I wonder how many people will be coming from Milwaukee to catch a flight out of Madison? Wouldn't it be the other way around more likely? Also, the commuter buses are full during the week with people traveling to and from Madison and Milwaukee. The vast majority of those people work in the downtown areas of the two cities.

It would seem to me that initial deployment of the rail system would serve the most good stopping close to downtown. Once the Madison to Minneapolis line is built shut down the downtown bypass. This would force the city and county to plan for light rail in Madison.

I'll just sit in my far west side neighborhood hoping for a bus route that is less than a half hour walk away...


If there is going to be a station in addition to the airport, I am perplexed as to why anyone is considering putting it on the north side of East Washington Avenue. That location would require trains running to downtown and campus to cross back over East Wash, disrupting traffic and adding to our air pollution. Putting a downtown station on the south side of East Washington would dramatically cut down on pollution as cars would not be required to sit and spew exhaust while waiting for the train to cross East Wash. I understand the desire to spur development at the shopping center next to Burr Jones Field, but that desire should not blind us to the folly of locating a station in a location that is bad logistically and environmentally.


If I'm building a sort of high speed rail corridor from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, the best available corridor is the old Milwaukee Road (Soo/CP) route past Columbus (the current Amtrak route) or the UP route that runs a bit further north. If the Milwaukee Road route were chosen Madison could be a diversion coming out of Milwaukee, starting at Watertown, and connect back at Portage heading west. As such, there would be little problem going to downtown or campus. There is no practical route that puts Madison on the way to Minneapolis from Milwaukee, but there is a route from Chicago to Minneapolis that goes through Madison.


I thought I heard there was going to be 2 Madison stops... One "near east" and one at the airport.

I would think the logical point for the "near east" stop would be the Wisconsin and Southern rail-yard at 1st & Johnson....they have the space. But then again, why put a local stop that close to the airport? Knowing the way the line runs, from having lived on that side of town, I can't really think of any other logical stopping points.'s built over on the Union Corners vacant lot at E. Wash and Milwaukee. The tracks do go right there...however, I bet the Atwood neighborhood would protest that.

...though looking at the map, in freelunch's plan, you'd divert at Watertown, and it would take it through the Atwood neighborhood... So maybe the near east stop would be in that farm field at Milwaukee and Fair Oaks?

If it were to come downtown, I think there'd be all sorts of issues, though, given that trains appear to not be able to run high speed down the existing Wisconsin & Southern lines. I don't know if that's due to track issues or crossings or what.

Really what we need is the high speed + a commuter train that takes the isthmus route to the University Rd. tracks to serve willy st., downtown, campus, west side, middleton, etc.

Ordinary Jill

The Las Vegas Monorail is filing for bankruptcy because ridership is nowhere near the levels needed to pay off its construction debt. It was in trouble even before the recession, mainly because the route and stations were inconveniently located, and that's in a city with a much higher population, many more tourists and enormous problems with traffic congestion. I predict that Madison's high-speed rail project is going to be yet another white elephant that will drain tax dollars for the rest of our lives. The city won't even subsidize Madison Metro sufficiently to provide a convenient public transportation option for most of the city's residents. How in the world can we afford a commuter rail system on top of it? Even with the federal funds to build it, we will still have to operate it. Can anyone say Overature Center on wheels?

Helpful Steve

It's in the WisDOT library at Hill Farms.


Let's not be elitist...what about Allied Drive?


The disadvantages of the airport location apply, whether one drives, takes a cab, express bus or, in the far-off future, local rail to get to the station. From Chicago and Milwaukee, train travel time would be 5 to 10 minutes longer going to the airport. Add another 5 minutes drive time (car/cab/bus) for most of us--Central, South, West, Monona, Verona, and suburbs to the south and west. (North side, Waunakee and Middleton save a few minutes going to the airport.) Those minutes add up and make the train less competitive.

The advantages of the airport location: no land acquisition cost, cheap surface parking and a site that's already gone through the EIS. Synergy with the airport is minimal--rental cars, little else. Its a long hike or a shuttle van ride from the rail station site, most likely the economy parking lot, to the air terminal.

For the initial Chicago-Madison line, it would be more likely that people would take the train to Mitchell Field. Even when service is extended to the Twin Cities, I can't imagine that many passengers from Portage or Tomah would take the train to catch a flight out of Madison.

I'm skeptical about having two stations in Madison. Two or more stations in a city are rare on the Amtrak system, although one of the exceptions is just down the road--Milwaukee's successful airport station.

With the Badger Bus terminal gone, we have a mess of curbside buses at UW Memorial Union and a Greyhound station on Stoughton Road. I think its time to think of an intermodal station, one that serves inter-city rail and bus. Either First Street or Union Corners have potential for intermodal use, with reasonable access to I-90 and 94, the existing Madison Metro system and the East Washington corridor.

For examples of successful intermodal stations, check out the remodeled station in Milwaukee, or the new one in St. Louis. Indianapolis, Champaign and Greensboro, NC are a few other examples. They're more expensive than an a shack and a platform next to an already-existing parking lot, but they're the right thing to do.


The economic advantage for the airport terminal to the City of Madison is that Federal/State funds will be used to construct and maintain the station.

The locations proposed at First Street and Union Corners will require funding by the City of Madison for both construction and operations.

The best solution is build at Truax and then determine if there is enough usage to justify a taxpayer investment.

jim rowen

If the Madison station will not serve people from Chicago and Milwaukee heading for the Capitol, with shuttles or light rail to the campus, the system will not succeed.


Contributor dty's points about infrastructure and convenience are well taken. So are the observations on practicality by freelunch.

The rail project needs to be considered as a regional solution, and one that will dovetail with other transportation systems. It's not going to be an easy task, but neither is trying to retrofit usefulness on to a jumble of systems whose builders were not troubled by rigorous thought or a big-picture view.

Another thought about practicality: I'm not as familiar with the routes as the other commenters obviously are, but I hope nobody is dreaming of running a high-speed rail system at grade. It must go above or below automobile traffic and the paths of people and animals or there will be carnage.

As for the hapless Las Vegas Monorail ... What did they expect? Until we are ready to provide rail transportation subsidies on a par with highways and airports, we should just forget about it. It's a rare public transportation system that can be wholly financed by fareboxes and user fees.

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