APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Madison - September 2004

[Back to Madison]

Madison, WI — Rail Transit Shift

Rail Transit Online, September 2004

The new mayor of Madison wants to switch the region’s rail transit emphasis from commuter rail to streetcars because, he believes, trolleys would better serve the city and be more environmentally responsible.  “I was saying this when I was a member of Transport 2020,” Mayor Dave Cieslewicz told The Capital Times.  “I think that streetcars are the most promising of the technologies we looked at.”  Transport 2020, a committee with members representing the city, county and the state of Wisconsin, developed a comprehensive transportation program that included both regional rail and streetcars.  Prior to leaving office early this year, Mayor Sue Bauman and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced support for the first leg of a commuter system linking Middleton and East Towne Mall that could be financed without federal grants and that could be ready in less than five years.  But Cieslewicz showed no interest in the project after he assumed office and now says commuter rail is more suited to large cities with distant suburbs.  “They work fine for moving people greater distances at higher speeds,” he told The Capital Times.  “The job of the committee (Transport 2020) is to figure out exactly what technology to use, the exact routes and the exact phasing.” 

Dane County elected officials, anxious to get started on an affordable rail transit system, have downsized a previous proposal for separate commuter rail and streetcar systems and now are looking at DMU or diesel light rail technology that could be used both on an interurban right-of-way and city streets.  County Executive Kathleen Falk, Madison Map Supervisor Scott McDonell and other local officials on Aug. 23 held a news conference to propose a 12-mi. (19.3 km), 10-station route from Middleton along an existing railroad corridor to the near east side of Madison, including a one-mile (1.6 km) downtown loop along Wilson and Main streets and a spur to the Alliant Energy Center.  The estimated cost of the “Dane Train” is $52.8 million, including a park-and-ride lot, rail vehicles and a maintenance facility, far less than the $242-million commuter rail and expanded bus proposal made earlier.  No funding sources have yet been identified but Falk and McDonell hope to attract state and federal dollars.  The two politicians pointed to the recently opened RiverLine in southern New Jersey and the Sprinter in north San Diego County as examples of the type of rolling stock that could be employed.  This is a viable, forward-thinking proposal,” said Falk. “Imagine a train system that provides an alternative to congested auto travel for county-wide commuters and serves as a downtown streetcar for residents and the daily Madison workforce.  This is it.”   McDonell, who is also co-chairman of the regional Transport 2020 Commission, said diesel light rail would provide a “…fast and reliable regional commuter service.”  The Middleton line could be the first phase of a rail network serving much of the county. 

Web site: http://www.countyofdane.com/danedept/press/ppt/transit_presentation.ppt

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has also endorsed the plan, although he still wants a downtown streetcar system.  He is looking at a north-south alignment that would start at Warner Park and run to Sherman Plaza, the east isthmus, Monona Terrace, the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus, Park Street and the Alliant Energy Center.  “That would give you a system linking several important existing centers of activity and also creating redevelopment opportunities,” the mayor told The Capital Times.  However, he warned, the streetcar scheme is now little more than lines on paper.  “This is at the level of my sitting down in my dining room with maps of the city — I don't want to pitch it as more than that,” he told The Capital Times.  Cieslewicz said the line could eventually be extended east to Sun Prairie and west to a new neighborhood near the West Beltline and Mineral Point Road, and even to Middleton.


[Back to Madison]