Madisonians look to Arlington Heights for ideas on train station

Friday, March 19, 2010

Village of Arlington Heights Director of Planning Charles Perkins (facing camera) briefed a Madison delegation in front of the Metra train station, designed to fit into the transporation oriented design of downtown Arlington Heights.

From an article by Joe Tarr on the Isthmus Daily Page:

When Ed Blume saw Arlington Height’s downtown area, he realized that Madison had some work to do if it hoped a high-speed rail station could be an impetus for development.

“I guess I was thinking we’ll just plop the station down some where and let development happen around it,” says Blume, a representative with RENEW Wisconsin, which organized a field trip Wednesday to the Chicago suburb. “Well that’s probably not the best way to do urban planning.”

“You have to have a vision,” he says. “And if you want it to work really well, you’ve got to lay that vision out. And then you’ve got to look for developers who want to fulfill that vision.”

But Blume was inspired by what he saw in Arlington Heights, which has a downtown station on Metra’s Harvard commuter line. And he thinks Madison could learn a lot from the community. The city is looking for examples on how to develop its own train station as it prepares for a high-speed rail link from Chicago.

The Arlington Heights downtown area is a new urbanist development, with lots of shops, offices and retail surrounding the train station. It’s high-density neighborhoods constructed of red brick.

“If the development around a [Madison] train station could mirror what they have done, it would be a remarkable success,” he says. But not every community on the Chicago commuter line has made a train station work for them. “In other locations where the train stopped all you would see is a field of cars in this gigantic parking lot,” he says. Like Dutch Mill park and ride, only 10 times bigger.”