Downtown Principal Planner Michael Waidelich lays out a plan to improve the city’s current transportation system in the future, which included bringing a rail service to Madison to connect with other major cities.[/media-credit]

The city’s Transit and Parking Commission outlined plans for improving the city’s transportation networks and increasing the transit choices available to Madison residents during its meeting Wednesday.

Commission members and city officials reviewed a proposed plan that would improve access to high frequency mass transit, increase connection to other cities and potentially create new transit options within the downtown area.

According to Downtown Plan Principal Planner Michael Waidelich, the plan lays out the city’s intended path for the next 20 years of development. Specifically, he said, it includes details for the future of transit within and connecting to the city.

“It is vital that Madison be well-connected to the county, region and places beyond,” the plan says. “An easy-to-reach city and downtown with a well integrated intercity transportation network will help provide connections between those economies and the many resources the Madison area has to offer.”

Part of that idea, Waidelich said, includes a passenger rail to connect downtown directly with Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and potentially other cities.

“Rail service should be important as the nation develops and gets ready to embrace an energy-efficient and more engaging future where you can travel to large metro areas by train,” he said. “[The] recommended location is near Monona Terrace.”

Another component of the connections to and from Madison includes a proposed shuttle service between downtown and the Dane County Regional Airport, the plan said.

Some of the major improvements within the downtown area include expanded bus service in the greater Madison area, new bus service to areas outside Madison, improved service for the elderly and disabled and improved share taxi services for communities outside of Madison.

A key part of the plan to improve transportation within Madison is the proposal of a commuter rail system that connects numerous locations within the city, Waidelich said.

“A well-defined circulator can help ensure that when people arrive downtown, they will be able to move around easily,” the plan said. “This system must be designed to meet a real transportation need and not be viewed as a novelty.”

Many of the new transit options, Waidelich said, are designed to ultimately promote a lower use of automobiles and an increase of carpools, public transit use, biking and walking.

Part of that goal includes providing increased access to bike parking throughout the downtown area and an emphasis on maintaining and encouraging the use of Metro Transit, he said.

After hearing the plan, commission members were able to share their thoughts and criticism with planners.

Commission member Margaret Bergamini said although the plan outlines interesting and potentially highly effective transportation options, she was concerned about the area’s accessibility, particularly for students and residents.

“More and more students are bringing their cars to campus despite all we’ve done to make bike and moped parking easier,” she said. “This is still not an easy place to get around.”