It Actually Makes a Difference Where a Train Station Is Built

Congratulations, it looks like your city is going to be getting high-speed rail service.

Just
one thing. Because of various political and economic considerations,
the station is going to be located out at the airport — far from any
walkable destination and a $12 cab ride from downtown.

That’s
the scenario that’s currently facing Madison, Wisconsin — unless a
more sensible plan prevails. A high-speed rail connection between
Madison and Milwaukee is in the stimulus pipeline, but many of its
benefits could be compromised if the Wisconsin Department of
Transportation plows ahead with the airport station plan. Two members
of the Streetsblog Network have written about the issue in recent days.
First, Logan Nash at Congress for the New Urbanism:

yaharastation.jpgThe Yahara location: Will WisDOT do the right thing?

Thankfully, it seems clear that livability and sustainable transportation planning
are part of Obama and DOT head Ray LaHood’s plan for American
transport. So why is Wisconsin using the excuse of federal funding to
forge ahead with its shortsighted plan to locate Madison’s HSR station
at the airport?

This is the question being asked by planner Barry Gore, who
has researched and is pushing for an alternative site on unused land at
the intersection of First St. and E. Washington Ave. Yahara Station, as
it is being called, would bring passengers into an urban area much
closer to the capitol without changing the path of the train. It would
be a compromise between the airport site and an even closer downtown
alternative that WisDOT rejected because it would require trains to
back up in order to continue on to the Twin Cities. But the city and
the state are fretting over any changes to the current plan for fear of
jeopardizing the current “shovel-ready” nature of this Midwest HSR
segment.

Urban Milwaukee
has more details on the advantages of the Gore plan, and why placement
of the Madison station is important to Milwaukee as well:

Why
does this matter to Milwaukee?  The station’s location significantly
affects the mobility of travelers from Milwaukee and Chicago upon
arrival in Madison.  A more central location affords flexibility for
spouses to work in different cities, greatly increasing the number of
available jobs.  It allows students to more reliably get from one city
to the other. A downtown-to-downtown connection also greatly increases
the ability for businesses to collaborate and grow in both cities.

CNU’s Nash adds:

The Madison Capital Times
sums the general spirit up well with their opening depiction of a
future where President Obama is on the inaugural Midwest HSR ride. He
is so flabbergasted by the fact that the train will veer away from
Madison to stop at the remote airport that he jumps off downtown for a
beer. The administration has stated that we need to be investing in the
future of our cities. Surely the feds will accommodate a minor change
that will bring this arm of the Midwest HSR project in line with their
own urban principles.

More from around the network: Tom Vanderbilt at How We Drive writes about Texas’s misbegotten ban on cell-phone use in school zones. Walk Bike Berks County writes about the forensics of crash investigations where a bicycle is involved. And Tempe Bicycle Action Group
has the story of a hit-and-run driver in Phoenix who killed a cyclist
and then tried to turn his car in as part of the Cash for Clunkers
program. Apparently, that move caught the eye of someone who had heard
the vehicle description on a news report — and then called in an
anonymous tip that got him arrested.

  • Track Legs

    Madison Wisconsin is not the only place that is this ignorant. San Diego is in lock-step with this thinking.

    The SD Airport Commission and the Mayor’s office hired a planning team to design a transit hub at the airport to encourage more people to use public transit versus clogging-up local arteries. The airport is located about 1-2 miles north of downtown.

    Well, along comes California High Speed Rail… and the Airport Authority includes an HSR stop in their plans… seemingling truncating the option to end the line downtown and ignore the greater benefits there. Their argument… well, they just want to make the transit terminal appear to make more sense.

    But to whom… other ignorant people.

    For those not in the know, San Diego is in the extreme southwest corner of the country. The airport has one runway, is at sea level, and is too short for larger heavier aircraft that could take travelers to far far off places. There are airports close to the north that have much greater capacity and options for such, LAX and Ontario. Ontario airport will only be about 5 stops to the north.

    With that said, who would ride southbound HSR trains, past other airports, to an airport in San Diego? Likewise, who would fly into San Diego and get on an HSR train to go north? I tell ya… lost people. There is absolutely near zero synergy in San Diego between HSR and the local airport.

    I don’t know what the thinking in Madison Wisconsin is… maybe geography; however, in San Diego the local thinking is just plain dumb.

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