Downtown Rail Station or Bust

Now that we are going to be spending $820 million to bring passenger rail back to Wisconsin, it’s essential that we get things right.  At the top of the list is the location of the stations.  (For more on this, visit this article on station location.)

Here are the top ten reasons that the station should be in downtown Madison and not the airport:

  1. The train will have to pass by the site of a potential downtown railroad station on its way to the airport – whether its stops there or not.  It should stop.
  2. Most passengers will have downtown Madison as either an origin or destination for their trip (or will pass through downtown on their way to or from the airport)
  3. More people will board downtown than at the airport:  In Milwaukee there are two stations, one downtown and one at the airport.  85% of all passengers use the downtown station.
  4. Airport passengers arriving in Madison are highly unlikely to want to board a train to Milwaukee or Chicago.  They are most likely wanting to go downtown or to campus – places that the train will not service.
  5. Train passengers arriving in Madison are highly unlikely to want to board an airplane in Madison since they will be coming from Chicago or Milwaukee – both of which have more destinations with lower airfares than Madison.
  6. Most train passengers departing Madison will have to pass through the isthmus to get to the airport station – passing right by a convenient downtown location for a train station.
  7. Passengers departing Madison will have to either drive to the airport or take a taxi (about $20 each way) adding significantly to the cost of a train ride to Milwaukee or Chicago.
  8. Passengers arriving in Madison will have to take a taxi to get downtown and a taxi to get back to the airport – adding $40 or more to the cost of their roundtrip ticket.
  9. A downtown station can be an important anchor for economic development of the East Washington corridor.  An airport location does nothing for the development potential.
  10. A downtown station is a logical place for a multi-modal transit center – connecting intercity bus, train and local transit services.  The airport is a poor location for such a transit center – it is inconvenient for just about all transit users.