Frequently Asked Questions

What is Transport 2020?

Transport 2020 is a study that began in 2000 to develop a long-term vision and plan for improving transportation in Dane County and the Greater Madison Metropolitan Area. The first phase of the study recommended a “full system” of transportation improvements. The second phase is refining transportation improvement options in important regional travel corridors, including 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.

How long will the study take?

This phase officially began in January, and is scheduled to deliver a final recommendation for transportation improvements in late spring 2007.

How much does the study cost? Who is funding it?

The City of Madison, Dane County and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation are jointly funding $2.5 million for this planning stage of Transport 2020. At the end of the study, the sponsors will have a complete the Alternatives Analysis, including conceptual engineering, a land use assessment, ridership and capital cost estimates. This information will be used to complete the federal New Starts application, which is the formal request to FTA to approve federal funding to continue with preliminary engineering.

Who is sponsoring the study?

The Transport 2020 study is sponsored by the City of Madison, Dane County, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Who makes the final decision on the LPA?

The Implementation Task Force, with representatives from the City, County, State, University, area planning organizations and Dane County citizens, will make a final recommendation in the spring of 2007. This recommendation may need to be adopted by various local governments for the project to move forward.

What happens after this study phase is completed?

When the Locally Preferred Alternative is selected, the City and County may decide to apply for federal funding to begin implementing the Locally Preferred Alternative. The reports and work products produced during the study will be designed to meet all guidelines for the federal “New Starts” program. This program provides funding assistance for fixed guideway – usually rail – transit improvements and could become a primary source of capital funds for a locally preferred transit project. New Starts applications from around the country are evaluated by the Federal Transit Administration, which decides what projects deserve funding priority. The Transport 2020 study team will begin the process of applying for New Starts funding as the study progresses.

What happened to Alternative 5?

The Alternatives Analysis process is one of applying successive levels of screening to the alternatives to find the one that best meets the transportation needs of the community. Alternatives 2A, 3 and 5 were evaluated in terms of costs and benefits, including their abilities to enhance economic and community development. The analysis included cost estimation, preliminary operations planning, ridership forecasting and expert analysis of potential real estate development with each alternative. Public input from earlier meetings contributed greatly to developing the measures for this analysis. As a result, the ITF decided that Alternatives 2A and 3 have the best combination of benefits and costs, and that they merit detailed analysis for a start-up rail transit system in Dane County. This does not preclude Alternative 5 from being considered in the future.

What happens to bus service in my neighborhood if this is constructed?

The LPA will include a plan to integrate bus service seamlessly to create a complete transit system. The Transport 2020 team is working with Metro Transit and other stakeholders develop a route structure that will improve service to all transit users. That means that some current routes may be restructured to minimize doubling service in any given corridor. Because of concerns from the public, savings derived from reducing duplicative service will be shifted to other corridors and markets. For example, as some rush-hour routes are converted to station feeders, they will now be able to offer mid-day service too. Furthermore, fares will be integrated with Metro Transit’s fare system, and transfers between modes will be available.

The rail line runs through my neighborhood; it’s noisy and dangerous. Won’t adding more trains just degrade our quality of life?

Noise and safety are two primary factors to be considered in the environmental analysis portion of Transport 2020, and the potential effects of increased rail traffic on neighborhood quality of life will be carefully evaluated, using public input to identify key areas of concern. Impacts will be determined, and avoided to the extent possible. Unavoidable impacts will be minimized and if unacceptable increases in noise or degradation of safety are expected due to any particular transit improvement, means to mitigate those problems will also be evaluated and included in the final recommendation. Generally speaking, passenger rail tends to less noisy than freight rail, because vehicles are lighter; there is also the possibility of implementing technological solutions to noise problems and schedules can possibly be arranged to be less disturbing to neighbors of the rail line. Safety issues can be addressed through controlling crossings and corridor access.

Adding more trains will mean more delays for motorists – they’ll block intersections and prevent cars from crossing the tracks at level crossings.

Traffic congestion is in fact projected to worsen in Madison and Dane County in the future. However, traffic modeling shows that the forecasted growth in traffic congestion and delays will mostly be the result of increased automobile travel in the study area as the population grows, not from the implementation of rail service. In fact, increased transit service may slow the growth of congestion. In general, the Transport 2020 trainsets will be short – only a couple of cars – and even at station locations, they will block traffic only for 30-45 seconds, causing about as much delay as a traffic signal.

How many people will ride on this system?

Alternative 2A is forecast to carry about 3 million riders annually in 2030; Alternative 3 is forecast to attract about 2.6 million riders a year. That represents approximately 25% of all rides provided by Metro in 2005.

Why doesn’t an Alternative run out to Fitchburg (Park Street, Stoughton, Verona, etc.)?

All those places may eventually be served by fixed-guideway transit. Alternatives 2A and 3 represent the “starter” component to the eventual “full system” envisioned in the first phase of Transport 2020. These alternatives serve the core transit area of Dane County; this corridor accounts for nearly 50% of all transit boardings and alightings for Metro’s system. Focusing initial transit improvements in this central, congested area of the county will serve the most transit users right away. As the system becomes more popular, extensions may be constructed.

Why can’t we use buses, perhaps creating a busway in the railroad right-of-way?

Transport 2020 has developed alternatives to be responsive to a series of transportation and community development goals and objectives. A bus rapid transit alternative was considered earlier in the process, and was screened out for several reasons, primarily having to do with its lower potential on ridership, regional land use effects and contribution to economic development compared to rail alternatives. In addition, there are technical considerations that make it difficult for buses to share right-of-way with freight trains. A bus-based “baseline” alternative is being analyzed that features exclusive bus lanes on existing streets and signal pre-emption.

What is the Baseline Alternative?

The Baseline Alternative is a set of improvements to the transit system in Dane County that can be achieved without “major” capital expenditures. In practical terms, the Baseline typically represents “the best that can be done” without installing a fixed guideway, and it is used to assess the cost-effectiveness of the other alternatives. Though they will likely cost more, the Build alternatives will typically have higher forecasted ridership and swifter travel times, greater passenger comfort (thus attracting more new riders) and better ancillary effects on land use, economic growth and neighborhood development. The Transport 2020 team is currently developing a detailed Baseline alternative with FTA and Metro; it focuses implementing bus-only lanes on major streets through the isthmus to improve transit speeds, and features traffic signal pre-emption and improved bus feeder service to the bus priority corridor.

If we don’t know how much the Baseline will cost or if it will be effective, how can we make a decision about the LPA?

The purpose of this PIM [held May 3, 2007] is to gather stakeholder opinion and ideas about Alternatives 2A and 3 as they are currently configured. What do you like and not like about each of them? Which do you think will best serve Dane County’s transit needs as a starter system? What do you think about these operating scenarios? We will continue to refine the Alternatives based on public input, and complete the Baseline analysis with FTA and Metro. [See public comments.]

Will bus service have to be cut in order to implement rail? Will the systems work together?

The Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) will recommend transit improvements that are fully integrated with Madison’s bus service. There will be opportunities to transfer between the two modes, and the LPA will likely provide increased service and faster service for some types of transit trips. While some bus routes may be reconfigured to avoid doubling up of service, Transport 2020 staff is working with Metro planners to ensure that, overall, transit service is enhanced in the entire community, not reduced.

How will the system operate? How many trains will there be in a day? How fast will they go? Will disabled riders be able to get on the vehicles? Can we bring our bikes on board? How much will it cost to ride the system?

Detailed operating scenarios for a transit system are currently being developed based on issues raised by the public at the neighborhood workshops and in the scoping process. These operating scenarios must also take into account federal rail regulations, regional travel patterns and local transportation needs to maximize the level of transit service provided, system ridership and cost-effectiveness. Operating scenarios will be refined as Transport 2020 planning proceeds; details will be presented at public workshops early in 2007 for public input.

Will the Locally Preferred Alternative create negative impacts on traffic, safety, the environment, noise or neighborhood quality of life?

The first step in the Transport 2020 study process is to review the broad range environmental issues that distinguish the alternatives from each other for the New Starts application with Federal Transit Administration. This review includes evaluates numerous environmental, social, economic and quality-of-life impacts of the proposed transit systems to allow the Implementation Task Force to compare them to one another and select a Locally Preferred Alternative that best meets the needs of the Madison metropolitan area. Identifying likely positive and negative impacts of the proposed system early in planning allows issues to be addressed with the input of local stakeholders. Findings from the initial environmental review will be presented to the public in early 2007. The subsequent Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Locally Preferred Alternative will go into greater detail on specific impacts and potential mitigation of impacts such as noise, traffic and safety.

How Does the Transport 2020 Fit in with the Madison Streetcar Study?

Transport 2020 and the Madison Streetcar Study are being undertaken concurrently. Both arose from the full system recommended by the first phase of Transport 2020. Streetcars would initially be designed to serve local transit markets (primarily shorter trips), and would be integrated with the commuter transit system undergoing analysis by this study. Both systems could have beneficial effects on Madison’s environment and economy. More information about the Madison Streetcar Preliminary Feasibility Study is at the City of Madison web page.

What happens after this study phase is completed?

When the Locally Preferred Alternative is selected, the City and County may decide to apply for federal funding to begin implementing the Locally Preferred Alternative. The reports and work products produced during the study will be designed to meet all guidelines for the federal “New Starts” program. This program provides funding assistance for fixed guideway – usually rail – transit improvements and could become a primary source of capital funds for a locally preferred transit project. New Starts applications from around the country are evaluated by the Federal Transit Administration, which decides what projects deserve funding priority. The Transport 2020 study team will begin the process of applying for New Starts funding as the study progresses.

Who makes the final decision on what the locally preferred alternative is?

The Transport 2020 Implementation Task Force (ITF) will make a recommendation based on the results of the operations and environmental analyses, with particular emphasis placed on the results of the study’s public participation activities. Local government recommendations will need to be approved by resolution. ITF members include:

  • University of Wisconsin
    • LaMarr Billups, Special Assistant to the Chancellor
    • (*UW alternate: Lori Kay)
  • Governor
    • Chris Klein, Executive Assistant to the Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
  • Madison Metropolitan Planning Organization
    • Ken Golden, District 10 Alderman, City of Madison Common Council
    • Supervisor Al Matano, Dane County Board of Supervisors, District 11
  • Joint City & County Appointment
    • Jesse Kaysen, Transit Dependent Citizen
  • City of Madison Mayor
    • John DeLamater, Professor of Sociology, UW-Madison
    • Dick Wagner, Citizen Representative, City of Madison
    • James Berkenstadt, Vice President and Corporate Counsel, The Wisconsin Cheeseman
    • Stephen Hiniker, Citizen Representative, City of Madison
  • Dane County Executive
    • Supervisor Chuck Erickson, Dane County Board of Supervisors, District 13
    • Atty. Kristine A. Euclide, Madison Gas and Electric Company
    • Michael Blaska, Wisconsin Counties Association
    • Supervisor Scott McDonell, Dane County Board of Supervisors, District 1
  • Wisconsin Department of Transportation
    • Sandy Beaupre, Director, Bureau of Planning
    • Joseph Olson, Director, Southwest Region

How can I get involved in making sure the LPA addresses my transportation needs and concerns?

A high level of public participation is essential to the DEIS phase of Transport 2020 in order to ensure that transit system planning furthers community goals and positively impacts neighborhoods and Madison’s quality of life. This phase of the study will include many opportunities for stakeholders – from transit riders to station area neighbors to commuters, businesspeople, developers and students – to learn about the alternatives under consideration, to provide information on transportation issues that affect them, and to guide the development of a comprehensive transportation system that meets their needs. These opportunities will include newsletters and a project website, public information meetings, neighborhood meetings, walking audits of station areas, focus groups, open houses and a study presence at community events to answer questions and gather feedback. Click here for more information on meetings and others ways you can get involved.

We welcome your comments and questions any time, and the first major opportunity for Madison residents to learn about this phase of the study and to provide guidance will take place on April 26, 2006, when the Transport 2020 team will host an Initial Public Meeting.

How Can I Find Out More?

Continue to check this website at for updated information regarding the study. You can send email to, or call or write David Trowbridge, Transport 2020 Project Manager, City of Madison Department of Planning, 215 MLK Jr. Boulevard, Madison, WI 53703; tel: (608) 266-4635 / (608) 266-4747 (TTY).

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