Airport Location for a Train Station
Offers the Most Benefits to the Most Passengers

BACKGROUND

Since our founding in 1985, ProRail's goal has been to help people travel by train and have more trains to travel.

While our members -- all volunteers -- also drive and fly, we ride intercity trains when we can and have helped thousands of others to do the same.

ProRail has been the only citizens group in this area whose single purpose has been to represent the interests of the intercity train-riding public.

Now, our long-sought intercity train service operated by Amtrak to and from Madison is expected to begin as early as January 2013. When it does, rail passengers will have a way to travel to rail stations in about 1,000 other communities in the U.S. and Canada!

Milwaukee will be one popular destination, as will be Chicago and the Twin Cities. Others will be St. Louis, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Denver, as just a few examples.

Madison will be the location of a regional train station, serving Dane County and surrounding counties.

Initially, service will be between Madison and Chicago with intermediate stops in Milwaukee and five other Wisconsin and Illinois communities, with both conventional and later high-speed rail connections in Chicago for those traveling to other destinations. We anticipate six roundtrips daily to start.

In a second phase, intercity service will be extended between Madison and the Twin Cities on a route still to be selected, with an expected four roundtrips daily.

Milwaukee also will become a transfer point for those traveling to and from Green Bay.

 

WHY WE FAVOR THE AIRPORT LOCATION

The location of the regional station at the Dane County Airport makes the most sense to us because of these advantages:

-- ACCESSIBILITY. The airport is a long- and well-used destination by air travelers – 1.5 million in 2009 alone, including UW students and business travelers, the latter heading to any of several community downtowns and suburban business locations in Dane County.   

It’s also located about halfway by mileage and drive time between downtown Madison and three Interstate entrances/exits – about 5 miles and 12 minutes from downtown Madison and between 5 and 5.5 miles from the Interstate with drive times between 8 and 12 minutes.  The Interstate is important as an estimated 60% of those using the regional station will come from outside the city of Madison.  Substantial area population and commercial growth in recent years has been east of Madison.

(For comparison for those familiar with Madison, downtown Madison to West Towne Mall is 6.8 miles and 21 minutes and to East Towne Mall 5.9 miles and 16 minutes.   And "next door" to the airport is another daily destination for some living downtown and in the UW campus area – Madison College [formerly MATC].)

Madison also gets good marks from air travelers for the airport's closeness to the city. USA Today, reporting favorably on Madison's desirable quality of life, listed the closeness first in its list of benefits of living in Madison.

West side and west of Madison passengers can avoid downtown traffic congestion by driving around Lake Mendota or via the Beltline south of Lake Monona on their way to the airport.

Seventeen area hotels provide shuttle service to and from the airport, while travelers have their choice of seven rental car companies.

Madison Metro already offers bus service to the airport every 30-60 minutes weekdays and hourly weekends and holidays.  That can be increased as demand justifies, for the benefit of both rail and air travelers.   Intercity bus companies such as Greyhound also can be accommodated, according to Wisconsin Department of Transportation proposals.

Moving the Madison Metro north transfer point to the airport, establishing a light-rail route from the airport to and through downtown, and a dedicated "Circulator" bus route serving the airport, downtown, and UW campus are options that might be considered.

Accommodations for bikes similar to those at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station for those making short-distance round-trips should be available.

Frequent visitors to Madison also have the option of stationing company or "second" cars at the train station, for added convenience.

All of this is in addition to parking ramps and surface lots and convenient drop-off and pick-up spots for family, friends or co-workers meeting travelers. 

-- PARKING. The airport already offers both covered (parking ramps) and surface parking. There also is space for expansion.


PHOTO: The Moline, Ill., intermodal transit center may include Amtrak in the future

-- MAXIMUM TRAVEL CHOICES. An intermodal facility offers the advantages of each to all the others – convenient transfers for those changing modes en route.

For others it offers more travel choice and price competition, as well as the sharing of amenities while waiting. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation envisions eventual intercity bus service to and from the airport.

That would mean an intermodal center that would rival those in most other U.S. cities by including air, rail, both city and intercity buses, and possibly a light-rail line.

-- AIR/RAIL TRIPS. It's the most convenient location for those traveling on air/rail trips once service extends northwest of Madison to the Twin Cities. For example, they can fly to Madison and then take the train to the major tourist destination of Wisconsin Dells.

-- RAIL TRAVEL EXPOSURE. Every air traveler using the airport is reminded on each trip of the passenger rail alternative whenever passing the station. In 2009, that would have meant exposure to the 1.5 million travelers who used the airport and untold numbers of others driving to drop off and pick up, or providing other services (taxis, etc.)

-- AMENITIES. The airport offers access to amenities that would not be provided in any Madison train station, regardless of location. Examples: one executive conference room and two training rooms are available at the airport for use by businesses and travelers. Food service and gift shops are other examples.

-- SHOWCASING MADISON. A rail station at the airport offers an even more impressive "gateway" into Madison for both rail and air travelers. (The airport was named one of the "Top 20" of the world's most noteworthy airports for 2008 by Passenger Terminal World, a leading trade publication,) Milwaukee's new downtown intermodal station and the area around it are being developed to be just such a gateway.

-- BAD WEATHER ALTERNATIVE. Air travelers grounded by bad weather would have a ready alternative for continuing their trip – taking the train to Mitchell Field in Milwaukee. Amtrak arrivals and departures also could be displayed on airport screens and airline arrivals and departures on Amtrak screens.


PHOTO: The Chicago-Milwaukee Amtrak train stops at the rail station at Milwaukee's airport.

-- CITY BENEFITS. An airport location supports local efforts to reduce traffic and air pollution in the central city.

-- HIGHEST-RATED IN STUDIES. A 2000 study by the HNTB Corporation of Milwaukee, under contract to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), rated the airport location the highest among the alternatives, as scored for cost, accessibility, parking, utility, and the actual routes that trains to and through the city will take.

- The airport also was rated highest among alternatives by the ProRail Board in 1999, using its own criteria based on the needs of passengers.

BOTTOM LINE: We believe the airport station offers the most benefits to the most passengers who will use the station.

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