ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT: STATION LOCATION

Questions we've been asked:

Q: Why do you support an airport location for a train station?

A: We believe the airport location is the best of the sites studied because, in our view, it provides the most benefits to the most intercity rail passengers in our area. That's the lone standard by which we make our judgment.


PHOTO:The new Amtrak station at the Baltimore-Washington Airport is connected by a shuttle bus with the terminal.

They are the ones who will be traveling to and from many of the 1,000 destinations served by rail in the U.S. and Canada. That includes our own members, who have experience not only riding Amtrak, but also driving, flying, and using intercity buses (including Amtrak Thruway buses to around 500 other communities). We value having transportation choices.

Read our detailed explanation here.

Q: An airport station would be too far from downtown Madison.

A: Actually, it's not far to the downtown – just 5 miles and 12 minutes by car from Capitol Square. That's a shorter trip than most other station users will have as they come from throughout the five-county region (and some beyond).

For comparison, downtown to West Towne Mall is 6.8 miles and 21 minutes and to East Towne Mall 5.9 miles and 16 minutes. Both are frequent destinations for those in or near downtown. "Next door" to the airport is a daily destination for many – Madison College (formerly MATC) which, like the airport, serves a multi-county clientele.

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.

Also keep in mind that the downtown will be only one of many destinations throughout the area for those using this new service.

Q: The trains will use tracks in my neighborhood; why shouldn't the station be located there?

A: Intercity trains serve cities and regions, and stations should be located wherever possible where they benefit the most passengers in that wider area, as well as attract enough passengers to justify the service.

Neighborhoods can influence local decision-making about local transportation stops to and from the intercity train stations.

No matter where a station is located, the vast majority of the riders will come from other than the immediate area around the station.

Q: Why should I take a train if there's no way for me to get around once I get off the train in Milwaukee?

A: Besides the local transit options which exist today, there will be more options after the train service begins as the public and private sectors respond to the needs of riders.

Options today include taxis, city buses, and rental cars for all passengers, as well as company pickups or vehicles for employees. Future options might include commuter rail, increased bus frequencies, "community cars," "pool" vehicles owned or rented by two or more frequent riders, and others yet to be identified.

(Here's one Web site showing a variety of existing ways to get around Milwaukee without a car.)

Q: I'm coming from Milwaukee. I don't want to go to the airport; I want to go downtown. The airport is not a destination.

A: You're right. Airports are not destinations, neither are intercity train stations (unless using a train station at an airport to make connections with a plane). You'll need some form of transportation to get where you're going, no matter the station location. While you want to go downtown, others on your train might be headed to a business park on the outskirts of Madison, to Sun Prairie, Middleton, Waunakee, Stoughton, DeForest, Portage, etc.

With a station at the airport, you can go downtown, to the UW campus, or any other location in the area you choose, just as you would if you traveled by air to Madison. If a friend of co-worker doesn't pick you up, you'll have access to taxis and city buses, as well as rental cars or even "community cars."

Staying in a hotel while here? Currently 17 hotels provide shuttle service to and from the airport. As more hotels are built in the area, others probably will do the same.

Eventually, you may have your choice of commuter rail from the airport to downtown and perhaps west of Madison.

Q: People want to get off the train close to their destination.

A: Many who would use commuter rail want to be within close walking distance to their destination. But this new intercity train service is not commuter rail, just as Amtrak's Milwaukee-Chicago route, about the same length as a Milwaukee-Madison route, is not commuter service. Because only a small percentage of users of I-94 commute to work between Madison and Milwaukee, it also is not regarded as a "commuter highway."

Those arriving at or departing from a station in Madison will be coming from or going to many destinations throughout the five-county area. No matter where the station is located, most of those passengers using the train will not arrive within walking distance of their destination.

Q: If the train doesn't run downtown, people won't use it.

A: Some people won't, just as some people won't if the station is located downtown. But the question is not who uses it but whether enough people use it to make it economically viable and to provide a useful public service.

Studies of this route's ridership potential and experience with similar service elsewhere convince us the train will prove very popular with residents throughout the five-county area and those traveling to our area. As studies estimate two-thirds of those taking the train from Madison live outside the city and this is a regional, not city, station, the airport location makes the most sense to us.

Requiring the train to run downtown adds more time to the schedule, and a major selling point of this Chicago-Twin Cities high-speed rail route is being able to make fast trips. We also realize that the fastest route between Chicago and the Twin Cities does not include Madison; adding Madison to the route already results in a detour and added time.

(We'll be adding other questions and answers in the weeks ahead.)