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Is Amtrak Coming to Town?

Meeting Details:

Wed Dec 7th, ZOOM, 8:30pm (following the City of Madison's Amtrak Station Presentation:


City of Madison Amtrak Station Presentation:


Faster Headlines

Wheels on Steel:

Channel 3000
CNN Travel
Smart Cities Dive

In the Tube:

Los Angeles Business Journal

Up in the Air:

The Hill
Passenger Terminal Today
AIN Online

Next Week - Movie Night: The Polar Express

For our end of the semester send of, the WiHST group will be hosting anyone who wants to join with free pizza and hot chocolate (soda as well...but hot chocolate goes better with The Polar Express)


Why Madison Wants Amtrak

Tonight the City of Madison will reveal its plan for the Amtrak station. Is it an attempt to bring back the glory days of such trains as the Varsity or the Northwestern 400s?


It is actually being driven by a city trying to reinvent itself into a more modern, walkable and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) community. Yea, it actually about the future and to do this the City of Madison is looking for help from Amtrak.

For the past decade demand for housing has been exploding along the Isthmus in Madison. Originally these redevelopments started along State Street with such buildings as The Hub, The Domain, or The James. Then around 2014 these types of developments headed eastward from the Capitol along East Washington Avenue. Development then pushed from the university along South Park Street to where The Peloton and other residential developments went up. Then in 2019 development started pushing west towards Hilldale Mall and the Madison Yards developments. The city of Madison is literally bursting at the seams and trying to adjust to unprecedented demand for affordable housing.

So rather than just building apartments and then expanding roadways, city planners made the decision to look into Transit Oriented Development. After all, there was no way Madison could retain a car dependent culture along the Isthmus with 100s of residential units being added every year. But we are not talking about just building one location as a TOD, rather the city is turning the whole isthmus into one large TOD.

For example over the last few year the city of Madison commissioned several studies including:

These weren’t just plans for large buildings, but rather is was a large plan to decrease traffic congestion on the Isthmus at the same time as increasing residential housing. How they are planning on doing this? Through a plan called TDM – Which stands for Traffic Demand Management Initiative.

The purpose of the TDM is not to remove automobiles from the Isthmus but rather reduce the incentive to drive and the city is looking at real estate developers to assist. Afterall, under TDM there is a belief that people drive because it is the cheapest and most convenient option to them. That is why under TDM real estate developers are being required to both cut down on the number of parking spaces AND charge for parking. All the while increasing other transportation options.

Currently today, over 2/3 people who live on the Isthmus drive alone with most having to drive to jobs in other parts of Madison, the suburbs, or even other cities. The city of Madison's goal is to reduce those who drive to 50% and to provide residents a range of options for other forms of transportation. This includes everything from enhanced bike paths to the Madison Metro redesign, to the Bus Rapid Transit system that will start in the next 2 years.

The city of Madison is essentially in the middle of a land use face lift for the whole isthmus, using transportation.

That is where Amtrak comes in. It is not that the city just wants to have Amtrak service, but rather the city is trying to address the needs of individuals who drive alone to other cities such as Janesville, Baraboo, or even Milwaukee. While coach busses are an option, with the fresh funding from the Infrastructure on Inflation Reduction Act of 2021. The city wants trains to be part of the facelift.

So that is the reason we are seeing the push by the City of Madison to design an Amtrak Station. Will they be successful, well it depends. It is really up to the State of Wisconsin. However, the city of Madison is going to give it their best try.


Madison Amtrak Station Study Kickoff

Note: This is a shortened version of this article. The full version can be found here.

Be Alex Kofman

On December 7, the City of Madison will be holding its first public event to gauge public opinion on the placement of a station for Amtrak trains to and from Milwaukee, Chicago, and eventually the Twin Cities.

The city released a brief presentation that revealed that HNTB, a large company that has worked on Madison transportation projects in the past, was selected as the contractor for the main station location study. The contractor will review previous failed plans, including the 2010 Milwaukee to Madison higher-speed line that resembles this proposal.

The presentation showed six zones where the station could be placed. Four have been heavily discussed in the past and in WiHST reports: Downtown, First Street, Oscar Meyer, and Airport. The two surprise options were the UW Campus and the Near East Side. Each is a tradeoff of park-and-ride and development space against walkability and transit connections.

The Airport and Oscar Meyer sites are on the route from Madison to the Twin Cities. They have good park-and-ride opportunities, but poor transit connections, and most people do not live or work within walking distance of the sites. It’s unlikely that plane-train connections will be a significant factor for Madison.

The Near East Side and First Street options are located in vibrant, walkable, and growing neighborhoods. They are on the approach to Madison, making them good for trains. However, being in vibrant and walkable neighborhoods adds challenge for placing the station site. The stations may also have poor BRT and other local transit connections and may draw community opposition.

The Downtown and UW Campus zones provide excellent access to the center of Madison, prime positioning along BRT and local bus routes, and great walkability. The two major pitfalls are land acquisition and reverse moves. In the most heavily developed part of Madison, squeezing in a rail station will not be easy or cheap. In addition, Amtrak could struggle with having to back up slowly through Madison, though new trainsets will mitigate this issue. Station options include Monona Terrace, the former Milwaukee Road station by the Kohl Center, or even a new site at Union South, in the heart of campus and at the doorstep of Camp Randall.

If you have an opinion on the station location, you should let the City of Madison know! Civic engagement is an important way to move issues forward in the right direction.

Amtrak’s Corridor ID Program

Amtrak has revealed a new Corridor ID map. The map displays the routes that have community support and comes with some surprises.

Here’s a short list of new routes that were not outlined in the previously released Amtrak Connects US:

North Coast Hiawatha running parallel to the Empire Builder from Fargo, ND to Spokane, WA

● A regional route from the Twin Cities south to Kansas City

● Kansas City regional service from St. Joseph, MO to Springfield, MO.

● Half of the Pioneer from Salt Lake City to Boise, ID

● Service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, continuing to Salt Lake City

● Texas regional services south from San Antonio to Monterrey and to Corpus Christi continuing to Brownsville

● Texas long-distance service from Dallas east to Meridian, MS

● Restoration of the Sunset Limited service from New Orleans east to Jacksonville, FL

● Service from Columbus, OH to Pittsburgh, Toledo, and Louisville.

● Service from Buffalo to Binghamton

A few routes disappeared, at least for now, including the Northern Lights Express from the Twin Cities to Duluth, routes centered around Atlanta, and the Allentown, PA to New York proposed route. The Pennsylvania route will likely find its footing (and funding) soon, and some of the new proposals may lose steam. Missouri and Texas in particular do not have a strong track record of supporting Amtrak routes. As more reports are released and more concrete projects announced, we will have a better idea of which direction Amtrak is likely to grow in the near future.

To Read the Full Analysis by Alex, please check out his full report here.


Youtube we Love:

It isn't a channel, but rather an announcement. After seven years of flying into Washington Dulles and having to take the transfer bus to Reston, you can now take the Silver Line directly from Dulles into DC. Yeah!

And yes, of course we would prefer to fly into Reagan. But Reagan doesn't have as much service as Washington Dulles.


The Faster Badger is produced by students at the University of Wiscosin-Madison to help break through the misconceptions of high speed rail and high speed transportation. This blog is for educational purposes only and all opinions presented are of the students.

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