Transport 2020 is a study of transportation improvement alternatives for the Dane County / Greater Madison Metropolitan Area.

The Madison Metropolitan Area has experienced marked population growth in recent years, estimated at 23 percent since 1990 by the U.S. Census Bureau. This growth puts increased pressure on the region's transportation network, and many travel corridors are experiencing transportation challenges. Madison's isthmus, in particular, has experienced increasing traffic congestion, safety problems, and pedestrian and bicycle challenges. Efficient transportation is essential if Dane County is to meet its community and economic development goals and maintain the region's high quality of life.

Transport 2020, now in its second phase, is refining transportation improvement options in important regional travel corridors. The study will include a careful examination of a range of alternatives centered on a 13-mile railroad corridor connecting Greenway Center in Middleton, the University of Wisconsin campus, downtown Madison, and the city's East Side. Various transit options including combinations of commuter buses, commuter rail and park-and-ride lots will undergo thorough assessment of how well they address the problems and challenges facing transportation in the study area. Transport 2020 will determine likely costs, benefits and impacts of those transportation improvements, and create a blueprint for the future of transportation in Dane County and the Greater Madison Metropolitan Area.

Check the front page regularly for the latest updates on the Transport 2020 study.

Study Area

This study area map shows the study location and highlights activity centers of interest to the project. Starting on the west, the study area includes locations like the City of Middleton, West Madison, The Madiston Isthmus, East Madison and Sun Prairie. Highlighted activity centers include Greenway Center in Middleton, West Towne Mall, University of Wisconsin Campus, The Capitol, Monona Terrace Convention Center, Dane County Regional Airport, and East Towne Mall. (click to view large version)

The current study area extends from State Trunk Highways 12/14 on the west to Madison City Limit on the east, and from the Beltline Highway (STH 12/14) on the south to Lake Mendota on the north, including the city center, located on a three mile long isthmus that is one-half mile to one mile in width. The study area includes portions of the Cities of Madison, Middleton and Monona and the Village of Shorewood Hills. It also includes the main campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The remainder of Dane County constitutes a secondary study area for this evaluation.

Project Background

The Madison Metropolitan Area has experienced marked population growth in recent years, having added nearly 100,000 residents since 1990 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, Madison is the fastest growing metro area in Wisconsin. Along with an associated upswing in employment and travel, this growth pressures the region’s transportation network. The travel corridor through the isthmus, the heart of the greater Madison metropolitan area, has experienced increasing traffic congestion, safety problems and pedestrian and bicycle challenges.

The Transport 2020 study has been investigating options for improving transportation for all people who use this important regional travel corridor. The study arose from recommendations made in the Vision 2020 Dane County Land Use and Transportation Plan. Completed in 1997, Vision 2020 recognized that without improving transit, regional growth would affect mobility for Dane County residents, students and workers. Earlier studies had concluded that high capacity transit is feasible, and the first phase of Transport 2020, completed in 2002, evaluated numerous options for improving transportation, from highway expansion to light rail.

The first phase of Transport 2020 recommended a “locally preferred alternative” comprised of commuter rail, expanded regional bus service, park-and-ride lots, and electric streetcars. This “Environmental Impact Statement & New Starts Application” phase will refine those recommendations and determine their impacts on the community and environment.

Study Timeline

This project timeline chart summarizes the project activities and highlights important dates. It lists activities from winter 2007 through the fall of 2007. (click to view large version)

The “Draft Environmental Impact Statement & New Starts Application” phase of the Transport 2020 study began in January 2006 and will conclude in spring 2007. At that time, stakeholders will have a much clearer idea of the specific costs, benefits and impacts to the environment, traffic and economic and community development that improving transit will have in Dane County and the Madison Metropolitan Area.

Purpose and Need for Transportation System Improvements

Dane County and the Greater Madison Metropolitan Area is a growing region whose residents enjoy a high quality of life. The citizens of the region have outlined their desired future in numerous plans and studies that focus on maintaining that quality of life while controlling growth, improving mobility and maintaining the area’s identity. Many of these planning processes have reached the conclusion that improving transit, particularly for travel into and through the isthmus, is an essential component of achieving regional goals.

If the Greater Madison Area does not improve transit in this corridor, the region’s forecasted growth will lead to degraded mobility, undesirable development patterns, and worsening prospects for economic development. Several factors inform this conclusion:

  • The Greater Madison Metropolitan Area is the fastest growing metropolitan area in Wisconsin.
  • A vast majority of employment – along with cultural activities, much of State Government and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus – is located on the isthmus. The densely populated central portion of Dane County, with its concentration of jobs and activities, creates a natural transit corridor.
  • Continued growth and the unique geographical features of the isthmus are leading to ever worsening traffic congestion in the region’s center. The lack of available land, high costs and public antipathy make expanding roadway capacity unfeasible.
  • Improvements to Madison’s transit system may relieve pressure on roadways and contribute to the desired community development while improving mobility for all Dane County residents, including those that are transit dependent.

Current Study Phase

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) phase of Transport 2020 will refine the details of the initial start-up transit system. The focus of this phase is a 13-mile-long rail corridor connecting Greenway Station in Middleton, Shorewood Hills, the UW Campus, Downtown Madison and East Towne Mall, as well as other potential lines in the study. Almost two-thirds of the county’s population lives in the study area, and 80 percent work there. It also includes many of the region’s largest cultural and special events destinations.

The 16-month DEIS study will focus on locations for transit stations, bus stops and park-and-ride lots; detailed operating plans for the system and vehicle options along with funding and management mechanisms. This phase will include detailed analyses of the system’s expected impacts on traffic movement, the environment, noise, community development and safety. In particular, this phase will:

  • Document the purpose and need for transit improvements, including:
    • existing and future transportation problems in the corridor
    • the desired development and redevelopment scenarios for the region
    • goals and objectives for those transportation improvements.
  • Define alternative transportation improvements, including the Locally Preferred Alternative from Phase 1 and several variations of it. Descriptions of the alternatives will include conceptual engineering, station and stop location and design, vehicle options, projected ridership and complete operating plans.
  • Evaluate alternatives in terms of:
    • social, economic and environmental impacts
    • estimated capital and operating costs
    • their effects on transportation in the Madison area
    • the region’s financial capacity to construct and operate the system
    • impacts on Dane County’s land use and economy
  • Complete a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to formally summarize all relevant analyses in the framework required by the federal government.
  • Prepare an application for New Starts funding to begin implementing the locally preferred alternative.