Goyke all aboard MAD-CHI train service

From the pages of In Business magazine.

When you’re a lawmaker turned lobbyist, it helps to have a passion for the things you lobby for. Gary Goyke has a passion for trains.

While the prospective Madison-to-Chicago train service has many advocates, Goyke, 67, might well be the driving force behind it. He recently invited fellow travelers to get a sneak preview of the service as part of an Iowa Pacific excursion ride to Prairie du Chien, and I’d say he created a few rail romantics.

Madison-to-Chicago service can’t happen fast enough for Goyke, who is accustomed to long odds. A Democrat, his state Senate district was located in the heart of a mostly Republican area, but he was elected twice before launching an unsuccessful bid for Congress.

With his train campaign, there are more obstacles to overcome — the precise route and local approvals, the site of the Madison train station, the price point of fares — but they don’t appear quite as insurmountable as winning elections in GOP-occupied territory.

In any event, this fight represents a departure for Goyke, who usually finds himself making the case in his old legislative haunts. “This is the first time I’ve ever lobbied at the local level,” he noted.

Yet if the late Tip O’Neill is to be believed, all politics is local. So while Goyke was already a lobbyist for All Aboard Wisconsin, he was sought out by the Alliance for Madison’s Future, a group focused on economic development in downtown Madison and known for its opposition to a publicly funded hotel as part of the proposed Judge Doyle Square development.

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While he never expected to lobby City Hall, one of the reasons Goyke agreed to work with the Alliance was the issue of connectivity of restaurants, bars, and existing hotels in downtown Madison — connections beyond a fixed-route transit system. Other cities have gone to these connectors, which enhances their attractiveness as a destination.

Our destination should also have better business connectivity with the Midwest’s largest city. Noting the Walker administration’s opposition to publicly financed rail, Goyke believes it can be done largely, if not entirely, without the state’s involvement. Iowa Pacific has got the track, trains, and personnel; the Chicago-based Metra service appears ready to roll, too.

With limited airlift and only a smattering of existing rail options, Goyke believes it’s a 95% possibility. “It puts Madison back in the picture,” he says, “and if this is successful, others will follow.”

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