Could Madison go up, up and away?

Make no little plans …

… they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope …” — Daniel Burnham 1864-1912. 

Every once in awhile, Madison thinks big. The city and the state thought big when they replaced the burned out Capitol in 1906-17 with the most beautiful statehouse in the nation. Madison thought big again when it completed Monona Terrace in 1997. Brother Mike Blaska chaired the Dane County Board of Supervisors when the decision was taken five years earlier to partner with the City, Tommy Thompson, and private business. Monona Terrace jump-started the revival of what had been a moribund Downtown.

Now Madison is thinking about revitalizing the Lake Monona waterfront between Williamson Street and Olin Park. The Wisconsin State Journal explains:

The coming competition will invite designers to craft a master plan that would better connect Capitol Square and nearby neighborhoods to the lake, improve water quality and aquatic habitat, celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy and preserve the lake’s cultural history from the Ho-Chunk Nation to present.

Including pedestrian bridges or even a terraced park built over John Nolen Drive to the lakeshore, extending Law Park into the lake, creating better spots for shore fishing and other activities, expanding Monona Terrace, and a striking public boathouse and marina designed by Wright in 1893.

No little plans, indeed!

The Madison Common Council will be asked to authorize the design competition 02-01-22. A 13-member ad hoc committee would recommend a preferred master plan by September 2023. Blaska Policy Werkes hereby proposes (mouth the Griswold family Christmas Vacation drum roll) … an aerial tramway! 

Roosevelt Island Tramsway over New York City

It would run between Alliant Energy Center along Lake Monona to Monona Terrace — a distance of 3 miles. Would:

  • Integrate both venues for big shows like World Dairy Expo.
  • Be its own tourist attraction.
  • Help attract conventions and shows to Madison.
  • Operate regardless of weather.
  • Connect visitors to hotels, restaurants and entertainment on either end.
  • Utilize ample vehicle parking at Alliant Energy Center.
  • Alleviate surface traffic congestion on the narrow causeway.
  • Cost an arm and a leg!

Don’t fork me off!

Forking off John Nolen Drive along the railroad tracks toward Brittingham Park another 1.5 miles would take the tram to the Kohl Center, Camp Randall Stadium, and the University of Wisconsin — again connecting to parking at the fairgrounds, avoiding game-day traffic gridlock! (Map here.)

The indentured servants have taken the tramway in Albuquerque, which ascends 4,000 feet to the top of Sandia Peak. Imagine seeing Lake Monona and downtown Madison from on high! With stops to the hotels on the other side of John Nolen Drive and at Olin Park. For a nominal fee, of course. Can operate continuously for big events, on a limited schedule otherwise.

They’re big in Europe: 97 in Switzerland, 59 in Italy, 40 in Austria, 35 in France, 16 in Germany. Only 14 in the United States. Only one-third serve ski hills. (Trams v. gondolas.)

A one-mile aerial tram opened in Portland in 2006; it averages 6,000 riders per day in the summer. Round-trip ticket is $5. Cost $57 million — four times original estimates! Then again, Madison isn’t going up mountains. Only other passenger tramway in the U.S. is Roosevelt Island Tramway in NYC, built in 1976 and upgraded 12 years ago for $25 million. Each cabin holds 125 people.

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Anyway, it’s a big idea.

What’s the big idea, fella?!

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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26 Responses to Could Madison go up, up and away?

  1. One eye says:

    For a second there I thought Mayor Dave hacked your blog.

    “All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.”
    – Yoda

    The “big idea” is to think small … fix all the broken windows before you start in on more vanity projects. Remember any time you hear “It’ll pay for itself” you’re being swindled.

    Judy Faulkner started Epic in a basement with 1 1/2 employees but all people see is the Epic campus and they want that NOW. Humble yourselves.


  2. I really like the Tram idea. Looking at Google Earth, it looks like it would be a straight shot from NE corner of the Alliant Energy Center building, along the back side of the Coliseum, straight over Willow Island, and then straight on to the Monona Terrace.

    I would use it to get from the parking at the Alliant Energy Center to the Square area for dinner and entertainment. I might even start participating again in some of those larger non-winter month events like the farmers market, Art Fair on the Square, Taste of Madison, Concerts on the Square, etc. Right now I’m not too fond of driving and parking in the square area, I know it’s not as bad as some other cities.

    At some point in time they are going to need a decent parking ramp at the Alliant Energy Center to support this year round so riders don’t have to walk from the back forty or trudge through deep snow to get to the tram.

    Security at both ends of the tram would have to be planned ahead.


  3. brynstane says:

    I expect the fatal flaw in this otherwise brilliant proposal is the ridership will eclipse the $185 million Bus Rapid Transit’s and royally piss off Her Blimpiness.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bill Cleary says:

    Spend the money to fix “the broken windows” first. Spend the money to make Madison a safe place again. I don’t like going downtown at night anymore. Would rather be somewhere else. Don’t feel safe wandering around downtown especially at night. Used to go downtown all the time when I was younger.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill Cleary wrote, “Spend the money to make Madison a safe place again.”

      I do agree that fixing the broken windows first should be a priority. There will always be other things that tax dollars can be spent on but that shouldn’t completely prevent us from investing in the future of Madison too.

      Being a “safe place” comes down to pure perception Bill. Madison is actually a pretty safe place even after dark. Is there crime in Madison and are those incidents of crime growing in number, yes to both especially in recent years; however, overall Madison is still a relatively safe place. Yes we can alwaysmake Madison safer place regardless of how low the crime rate would go and we always should make efforts to make Madison a safer place.

      Bill Cleary wrote, “I don’t like going downtown at night anymore. Would rather be somewhere else. Don’t feel safe wandering around downtown especially at night. Used to go downtown all the time when I was younger.”

      I completely understand the feeling. I used to work on the square way back in the late 1980’s and it was perceived by me as being safer after dark back then than it is today. I think they need a some Madison Police Officers walking a beat in the square and State Street area from dusk right up to bar time, that would really help to change the perceptions.


      • One eye says:

        Ya see Bill those are only perceived gunshots.

        The frog has been boiling for years now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • One eye wrote, “Ya see Bill those are only perceived gunshots. The frog has been boiling for years now.”

          I’ll be honest with you One Eye, an intelligent rebuttal to further the discussion on this topic would really be more than welcome but your sarcasm which appears to be a back handed ad hominem is not welcome. I know you can do better than this.


        • One eye says:

          You have no sense of humor. But I knew that so my bad. Hope Bill got a chuckle from it.

          Every crime metric tells us this is not a “perceived” problem. You’re an apologist for liberal/progressive policies.

          Liked by 2 people

        • One eye wrote, “Every crime metric tells us this is not a “perceived” problem.”

          Seriously One Eye; are you just trolling to get reactions?

          No One Eye, the crime metrics don’t tell us whether Madison is a safe place or not, it tells us that crime is on the rise and I acknowledged that in my reply to Bill above. Get your logic together a bit better before you reply next time.

          One eye wrote, “You’re an apologist for liberal/progressive policies.”

          Oh give me a friggin’ break One Eye. That statement is clearly ignorance on your part. You clearly have not read many of the things I’ve written, you’re claim is absolutely absurd. I challenge you right here and now to define one “liberal/progressive policy” that I’m an apologist for. That’s not a rhetorical challenge, I really mean it, back up your nonsense with facts or be labeled an internet troll.

          Maybe you should actually try to read and better understand all of what I wrote in reply to Bill above before you take another step down this slippery slope into a trolling abyss.

          Do better.


      • One eye says:

        Steve can’t handle criticism and screams Troll.

        Big surprise.


        • One eye wrote, “Steve can’t handle criticism and screams Troll. Big surprise.”

          You can’t back up your rhetoric or do better than “trolling”, big surprise.

          Catcha later dude.


  5. One eye says:

    Of course the other option is for Madison to go down (all good lovers do).

    Let’s hire Elon Musk’s underground tunnel company!

    Just think of the merchandise revenue – would you buy a t-shirt with the slogan “Madison: We go down”‽ Of course you would. This will pay for itself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s pretty funny but the water table is too high around here.


      • David Blaska says:

        Water table can’t be any higher than Manhattan Island. Always thought subways made sense in our snowy climate.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Actually the substructure of rock has a lot to do with why Manhattan Island can do a lot of things they do and where they can do things, there’s a lot of rock out there and nearly no fault lines. I have no idea if it’s even reasonably possible to build subways in the Madison area but I do know the water table around here is really pretty high and there’s a lot of high underground water in the Dane County area.


  6. Mark+Lemberger says:

    I’m waiting for an equital, diverse, antiracist, rainbow ribbon panel to rethink a high speed aerial tramway from Madison to the real world.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Almostarepublican says:

    I agree with doing something big that connects the square to the lake front. That project is long over due. Not sure I agree with the tram idea, but it’s interesting.


  8. patrickmoloughlin says:

    I like it David. Beats the hell out Mayor Dave’s trolley cars.


  9. georgessson says:

    Actually very intriguing, as in VERY INTRIGUING. Having spent much time in Mexico, (inland estados, built in the early 1600’s), Guanajuato looms large. While it has recently been the epicenter of cartel crimes, (drugs, gasoline theft and murder), it is also an old city reminiscent of pre-Elizabethean England. Winding hills and streets, “kissing” balconies and narrow stairs, nestled betwixt the mountains. Guanajuato added a cable-car view of the city decades ago, and it is one of its most endearing attributes. The Squire may be on to something here ! And as a tourist attraction, rates could be outrageous but tolerated, as well as subsidized by other tourist attractions that would gain traction. As mentioned, sure beats a useless light rail/trolley car -this would be purely for fun, not mass-transit…


  10. Landon says:

    I would propose a Wild Mouse ride, two person condoles. Much more exciting, and with carnies running the shebang it would turn a profit. Enough to fund a new extravaganza jail.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Bill Cleary says:

    I would not appose the cable car if we as a community decided to clean up our act. When we are fast becoming little Chicago, I worry. I don’t want the city I love to become what I left. The hardest part of this city as well as many others, is that the people of color get painted as thugs. I have had the immense pleasure and respect to serve along with many people of color and those who are in the LGBT community to help others who needed medical treatment.

    I will be forever grateful for that.

    But that said, I still don’t want this community to become another little Chicago.

    Put more Police Officers on the streets and arrest and properly convict and imprison those who break the law.

    What good are our Police Officers if the district attorneys office will not keep the bad people in jail?


  12. Madtownforsure says:

    Don’t forget that high speed rail scam that they tried to bamboozel us on. Never told us the ties had to be made from concrete. High speed thru those bike lanes , ok, sure, they could yield seeing bikers can’t see behind. Was nice just to throw a fishing pole at one time way back when on that shore line.


  13. Mr. Forward says:

    State Street Zipline. Anchor one end on the capitol dome the other end on Bascom Hall. Land in Lincoln’s lap.

    Liked by 1 person

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