Madison, Wisconsin

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Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol

Madison is the capital of Wisconsin, a state in the United States of America. As of the 2000 census, it has a population of 208,054, making it the second largest city in Wisconsin. It is the county seat of Dane County. Madison is also home to the University of Wisconsin.

Together with surrounding communities, the Madison metropolitan area was, according to the 2000 census, home to 366,950 people. The city forms the core of the United States Census Bureau's Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Dane County and neighboring Iowa and Columbia counties, had a 2000 census population of 501,774.

Madison is 77 miles west of Milwaukee.

Madison, Wisconsin
Flag of Madison, Wisconsin
Seal of Madison, Wisconsin
Nickname: "Mad Town"
Location of Madison,  Wisconsin
County Dane County
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
 - Total
 - Water

219.3 km² (84.7 mi²)
41.5 km² (16.0 mi²) 18.91% 
 - City (2000)
 - Density
 - Metropolitan

Time zone Central (UTC –6)
WGS-84 (GPS)
 43.0746° N 89.3842° W
Official Website



View of Madison. Taken from the Water Cure, South Side of Lake Monona, 1855.
View of Madison. Taken from the Water Cure, South Side of Lake Monona, 1855.

Madison was created in 1836 when a former federal judge named James Duane Doty purchased over a thousand acres (4 km²) of swamp and forest land surrounding lakes Mendota, Monona, Kegonsa, and Waubesa, then known as the Four Lakes region, with the intention of building a new city on the site. Wisconsin Territory had been created earlier in the year, and the territorial legislature had convened in Belmont, Wisconsin. One of the legislature's tasks was to choose a permanent location for the territory's capital city. James Duane Doty lobbied aggressively for the legislature to select Madison as the new capital, offering buffalo robes to the freezing legislators and promising choice Madison lots at discount prices to undecided voters. He had James Slaughter plat two cities in the area, Madison and "The City of Four Lakes", near present-day Middleton. Despite the fact that Madison was still only a city on paper, the territorial legislature voted on November 28 in favor of choosing Madison for its capital largely because of its location halfway between the new and growing cities around Milwaukee in the east and the long established strategic post of Prairie du Chien in the west, and because of its location between the highly populated lead mining regions in the southwest and Wisconsin's oldest city, Green Bay in the northeast. Being named for a much-admired founding father who had just passed away, and having streets named after every founding father, also helped attract votes.

Madison's skyline as seen from the shore of Lake Monona
Madison's skyline as seen from the shore of Lake Monona

The cornerstone for the Wisconsin capitol building was laid in 1837, and the legislature first met there in 1838. Madison was incorporated as a village in 1846, with a population of 626. When Wisconsin became a state in 1848, Madison remained the capital city, and it became host to the University of Wisconsin. The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad (a predecessor of what would become known as the Milwaukee Road) connected to Madison in 1854. Madison became a city in 1856, with a population of 6,863.

During the American Civil War, Madison served as a center of the Union Army in Wisconsin. Camp Randall was built and was used as a training camp, a military hospital, and a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. After the war ended, Camp Randall was absorbed into the grounds of the University of Wisconsin. Camp Randall Stadium was built over the site in 1917.

Madison continued its growth throughout the 20th Century. Today Madison is the second largest city in Wisconsin, and continues to grow fast, and steadily.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 219.3 km² (84.7 mi²). 177.9 km² (68.7 mi²) of it is land and 41.5 km² (16.0 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 18.91% water.

The city completely surrounds the smaller Town of Madison, as well as Maple Bluff and Shorewood Hills.


View of Lake Monona from Monona Terrace
View of Lake Monona from Monona Terrace

The city is often described as The City of Four Lakes, comprised of Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Wingra and Lake Waubesa, although Waubesa is not actually in Madison, but rather immediately south of it. The downtown is located on an isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona, but the city has long since expanded far beyond. The lakes are connected via the Yahara River to Lake Kegonsa. Eventually the Yahara flows into the Rock River and beyond to the Mississippi River.


City of Chicago
Population by year [1]
1840 172
1850 1,525
1860 6,611
1870 9,176
1880 10,324
1890 13,426
1900 19,164
1910 25,531
1920 38,378
1930 57,899
1940 67,447
1950 96,056
1960 126,706
1970 173,258
1980 179,616
1990 191,262
2000 208,054
2005 221,735

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 208,054 people, 89,019 households, and 42,462 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,169.8/km² (3,029.7/mi²). There are 92,394 housing units at an average density of 519.5/km² (1,345.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 83.96% White, 5.84% African American, 0.36% Native American, 5.80% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.67% from other races, and 2.32% from two or more races. 4.09% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. The metropolitan area of Madison as of 2003 is 526,742 inhabitants, which is the 2nd biggest in Wisconsin. With all the universities and colleges in Madison, the population exceeds 260,000.

There are 89,019 households out of which 22.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.0% are married couples living together, 7.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 52.3% are non-families. 35.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 7.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.19 and the average family size is 2.87.

In the city the population is spread out with 17.9% under the age of 18, 21.4% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 96.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 95.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $41,941, and the median income for a family is $59,840. Males have a median income of $36,718 versus $30,551 for females. The per capita income for the city is $23,498. 15.0% of the population and 5.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 11.4% of those under the age of 18 and 4.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as Edgewood College, Madison Area Technical College, and Herzing College, giving the city a student population of nearly 50,000. The University of Wisconsin in Madison contributes the vast majority of these, with roughly 40,000 students enrolled. This makes it one of the largest public universities in the United States. It is consistently rated among the top post-secondary schools in the country, and has outstanding courses, professors, and programs. In a Forbes magazine city ranking from 2003, Madison had the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita, and third highest college graduates per capita, among ranked cities in the United States. [2] Sports make up a large part of the campus experience at the university, both intramural and intercollegiate. The University's athletic teams, nicknamed "The Badgers" (and sometimes refered to as "Big Red" as in "Go Big Red!"), are consistently among the best in United States, drawing throngs of students, alumni, and state residents to their contests.

Additional degree programs are available through satellite campuses of Lakeland College and Upper Iowa University for students who maintain full-time employment.

The Madison Metropolitan School District [3] is one of the best in the state with an enrollment of nearly about 25,000 students in 46 schools. Madison has more than six times the National Merit Scholar Semifinalists than comparable school districts. The four public high schools are: James Madison Memorial, Madison West, Madison East, and LaFollette. The public school system also includes an alternative public high school: Malcolm Shabazz City High. The most notable of the private schools is Edgewood High, [4] located on the Edgewood College campus.


Madison will always be associated with the name of "Fighting Bob" La Follette and the Progressive movement. La Follette's Magazine, The Progressive, founded in 1909, is still published in Madison today. City voting patterns have supported the Democratic Party in national elections in the last half-century, and a liberal and progressive majority is generally elected to the city council. Detractors refer to Madison as The People's Republic of Madison, or as "30 square miles surrounded by reality" (alternatively, this number has been 76, 70, or 100). This latter phrase was coined by former Wisconsin Republican governor Lee S. Dreyfus while campaigning in 1978, as recounted by campaign aide Bill Kraus.

The counterculture was centered in the neighborhood of Mifflin and Bassett streets, referred to as Mifflin-Bassett or Miffland. The area contained many three-story apartments where students and counterculture youth lived, used illegal substances, painted murals, and operated the co-operative grocery store Mifflin Street Co-op. The neighborhood often came into conflict with authorities, particularly then Republican Mayor Bill Dyke, a one-time personality on WISC-TV who was later to run for vice-president with segregationist Lester Maddox. Dyke was viewed by students as a direct antagonist in efforts to protest the Vietnam War, due to his efforts to suppress the campus riots that resulted in property damage.

Madison is also home to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which attempts to influence government in matters of removing any and all religious references from governmental entities and activities. The foundation is known for its lawsuits against religious displays on public property, among other things. In recent years, they have made removal of In God We Trust from American currency a main focus.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, thousands of students and other citizens took part in anti-Vietnam War marches and demonstrations, with more violent incidents drawing national attention to the city and UW campus. These include:

  • the 1967 student protest of Dow Chemical Company, with 74 injured;
  • the 1969 strike to secure greater representation and rights for African American students and faculty, which necessitated the involvement of the Wisconsin Army National Guard;
  • the 1970 fire that caused damage to the Army ROTC headquarters housed in the Old Red Gym, also known as the Armory; and
  • the 1970 late summer pre-dawn ANFO bombing of Sterling Hall which housed the Army Mathematics Research Center, killing a post-doctoral student, Robert Fassnacht. Four bombers in the "New Year's Gang" were linked to the bombing, one of whom remains at large

These protests were the subject of the documentary The War at Home [5]. Tom Bates also wrote the book Rads on the subject (ISBN 0060924284). Bates wrote that Dyke's attempt to suppress the annual Mifflin Street block party "would take three days, require hundreds of officers on overtime pay, and engulf the student community from the nearby Southeast Dorms to Langdon Street's fraternity row. Tear gas hung like heavy fog across the Isthmus." In the fracas, student activist Paul Soglin, then a city alderman, was arrested and taken to jail. Soglin was later elected mayor of Madison, serving from 1973 to 1979 and from 1989 to 1997, by his latter term aligned ideologically in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

Madison city politics has remained dominated by activists of liberal and progressive ideologies, particularly in the downtown and east side of the city. In 1992, the local third party Progressive Dane was founded, which organizes to influence local politics through the city council and the Dane County Board of Supervisors. Recently enacted city policies supported in the Progressive Dane platform have included an inclusionary zoning ordinance and a city minimum wage. The party holds multiple seats on the Madison City Council and Dane County Board of Supervisors, and is aligned variously with the Democratic and Green parties.


Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin state government and the University of Wisconsin remain major Madison employers. However, Madison's economy today is evolving from a manufacturing and governmental serviced based economy to a consumer services and high-tech base, particularly in the health, biotech and advertising sectors. Beginning in the early 1990's, the city has experienced a steady economic boom and has been comparatively unaffected by recession. Much of the expansion has occurred on the city's south and west sides, but it has also affected the east side near the Interstate 90-94 interchange and along the northern shore of Lake Mendota. Underpinning the boom is the development of high-tech companies, many actively fostered by the University of Wisconsin working with local businesses and entrepreneurs to transfer the results of academic research into real-world applications, most notably bio-tech applications. Many businesses are attracted to Madison's exceptional skill base, taking advantage of the area's high level of education: Forbes Magazine reported in 2004 that Madison has the highest percentage of Ph.D.s in the nation.


The pizza chains Rocky Rococo[6] and Pizza Pit[7] were both started in Madison. Rocky's was eventually bought by a California firm from the two university students who founded it. Madison is also home to companies such as Rayovac, American Family Insurance, the Credit Union National Association, CUNA Mutual Group.

Oscar Mayer has been a Madison fixture for decades, and was a family business for many, many years before being sold to Kraft Foods.

The Pleasant Company was started in Madison by Pleasant Rowland. The Pleasant Company was bought out by Mattel and renamed American Girl for its most famous product line.

CUNA Credit Union, Wisconsin's largest credit union, has its headquarters in Madison and has many branches around the area and in the state.

Madison has a large number of technology companies in the area, including Sonic Foundry, Raven Software, and Epic Systems[8]. One large employer was Persoft, which is now Esker[9].

Many biotech firms exist here as well, including Promega[10].


In 1996 Money magazine identified Madison as the best place to live in the United States. It has consistently ranked near the top of the best-places list in subsequent years, with the city's low unemployment rate a major contributor. Madison has constantly been rated one of the top 10 best cities to live in, almost every year.

The main downtown thoroughfare is State Street, which links the University of Wisconsin campus with the State Capitol square, and is lined with restaurants, espresso cafes, and shops. Only pedestrians, buses, police and bikes are allowed on State Street (though it was originally an ordinary commercial street), which is an east-west street in contrast to the diagonal streets of the Isthmus and Capitol Square. Continuing on the other side of Capitol Square is King Street, which is now developing along the lines that State Street has, but with less of a student character, and more appeal to the growing young white-collar high-tech population in Madison (whose residents jokingly refer to the post-graduate crowd). Thus King Street has more upper-end restaurants and cafes than are found on the more student-budget State Street.

In the summer time, on Saturday mornings, the Dane County Farmers' Market — the largest farmers' market in the nation — is held around the Capitol Square. On Wednesday evenings on the same square in summer, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performs free concerts to people picnicking on the Capitol's lawn. The Independence Day celebration, called Rhythm and Booms, includes musical performance by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and fireworks set off over Lake Mendota and Warner Park, claimed as the largest fireworks display in the Midwest. The Great Taste of the Midwest [11] craft beer festival, the second longest running such event in North America, is the second Saturday in August and the highly coveted tickets sell out within a few hours when they go on sale in May.

Madison is host to Rhythm and Booms[12], a massive fireworks celebration (coordinated to music) that begins with a fly-over by several F14s from the local Wisconsin Air National Guard that break the sound barrier over the city (the only time that this is allowed). This celebration is larger than the one put on by Disney, and is the largest fireworks display in the Midwest.

During the winter months, Madison hosts Kites on Ice[13], a gathering of kite-flying enthusiasts on the ice of local Lake Monona near the state capitol.

In 2004 Madison was named the healthiest city in America by Men's Journal magazine. Many major streets in Madison have designated bike lanes and the city has one of the most extensive bike trail systems in the nation. Due to this, Madison has a very active cyclist culture and it is common place to see groups of friends bicycling together throughout the city on nice days. Bicycle tourism is an $800 million industry in Wisconsin, which has 20 percent of the nation's bicycling industry manufacturing capacity. [14]

Madison was named the least photographic city in the United States by Photography Magazine, but the reason for this is unclear. This is especially unusual given the number of other, more positive awards given to the city, as well as being host to such architectural landmarks as the state capitol building and numerous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.


Madison's vibrant music scene covers a wide spectrum of living musical culture, from opera to pub rock bands, techno to Balkan mountain singing. One example is Madison's long-standing Irish traditional music scene, which boasts five regular pub sessions, a number of local bands, and a palette of adult-education classes.

The Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps has provided youth aged 16-22 opportunities to perform across North America every summer since 1938. The corps is hailed world-wide for its energetic and entertaining shows. Further, the University of Wisconsin Marching Band [15] is one of the most popular marching bands in the nation, with an extensive and eclectic repertoire.

Garbage is the city's most recognized contemporary contribution to popular music. The pop-rock band has been based out of Madison since formation in 1994 by producer-musician Butch Vig of Viroqua. Vig is well known for producing albums for such highly-regarded bands as The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana (their song Polly from Nevermind was recorded at Vig's Smart Studios). Madison is also home to Leo Sidran and Ben Sidran.


Museums include the University of Wisconsin's Chazen Museum of Art[16] (formerly the Elvehjem Museum[17]), the Wisconsin Historical Museum[18] (run by the Wisconsin State Historical Society), the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum[19], the Madison Children's Museum[20], and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Madison is also the home of many independent art studios and galleries. It hosts the annual Art Fair on the Square, a juried exhibition, and the complementary Art Fair Off the Square.

Performing Arts

Madison Repertory Theatre, a resident professional company of the Overture Center for the Arts, presents an annual season of professional theater. Madison Ballet and Madison Opera are also resident companies of the center. The city is home to a number of smaller performing arts organizations, including a group of theater companies that present in the Bartell Theatre, a former movie palace that has been renovated into live theater spaces.

Several films have been at least partially made in Madison. One of the most notable was the movie The War at Home. Another movie that made extensive use of the city as a backdrop was the 1986 movie Back to School starring Rodney Dangerfield. Bascom Hill is used extensively, as is the University Bookstore.

Madison is also home to one of the largest film archives at the Wisconsin State Historical Society.


Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol is the jewel of the Madison skyline, and can be seen throughout Madison and the surrounding areas, due to a state law that limits the heights of surrounding buildings. Because of its location directly at the core of the city, the Capitol blends into everyday pedestrian traffic and commerce, and the Capitol grounds are a convenient shortcut during the harsh winter months.

Monona Terrace, based on a design by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a meeting and convention center overlooking Lake Monona. Wright, who spent much of his childhood in Madison and studied briefly at the University, also designed other buildings in Madison, including the Unitarian Meeting House on the city's West Side. One of the most famous buildings on the University campus is Bascom Hall which sits atop a high hill overlooking Lake Mendota, with a vista looking down State Street towards the Capitol building.

The Overture Center for the Arts, designed by Argentina-born architect César Pelli, also stands on State Street near the Capitol. Nearing completion in the summer of 2005, the center has already begun presenting shows and concerts in its Overture Hall. The center will have two concert-hall theaters and several smaller performance spaces, one the home of the city's professional theater troupe, the Madison Repertory Theatre. It will also house the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The style, unlike Pelli's Petronas Towers, leans toward sleek modernism, with simple expanses of glass framed by stone that are intended to complement the historic building facades preserved as part of the building's State Street exposure.

The density of the UW campus has led to the construction of an increasing number of high-rise 8 to 10 story buildings housing dormitories and commercial office space. A recent proposal, Archipelago Village, has designed a massive downtown redevelopment of a 27 story condominium block, violating the longstanding policy against topping the Capitol. On the UW campus proposals have been made to demolish several buildings erected in the 1960s because of their brutalist architecture.

Broadcast Programs

Widely heard public radio programs that originate in Madison include Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?, To the Best of Our Knowledge, and Calling All Pets.


Inside the Kohl Center during a men's ice hockey game
Inside the Kohl Center during a men's ice hockey game

Madison is home to the Madison Mallards, a college-level summer baseball team in the Northwoods League. They play in Warner Park on the city's northeast side.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison teams play all of their home-field sporting events in venues in and around Madison. The football team plays at Camp Randall Stadium. The basketball and hockey teams play at the Kohl Center.


Madison is home to an extensive and varied number of print publications for a city that reflect the city's role as the state capital and diverse political, cultural and academic population. The Wisconsin State Journal (weekday circulation: ~95,000; Sundays: ~155,000) is published in the mornings, while its sister publication, The Capital Times (Mon-Sat circulation: ~20,000) publishes in the afternoon. Though conjoined in a joint-operating agreement operated under the name Capital Newspapers, the Journal is owned by the national chain Lee Enterprises, while the Times is independently-owned. Wisconsin State Journal is the descendant of the Wisconsin Express, a paper founded in the Wisconsin Territory in 1839. The Capital Times was founded in 1917 by William T. Evjue, a business manager for the State Journal who disagreed with that paper's editorial criticisms of Wisconsin Republican Senator Robert M. LaFollette for his opposition to U.S. entry into World War I. Through Capital Newspapers, Lee also owns many other papers in southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa.

The city is also home to the free weekly alternative newspaper Isthmus [21] (weekly circulation: ~65,000), which was founded in 1976. The Onion, a satirical weekly, was also founded in Madison in 1988 and maintains its business offices in the city, though its editorial headquarters were moved to New York City in 2000. Two student newspapers are published during the academic year, The Daily Cardinal (Mon-Fri circulation: ~10,000) and The Badger Herald (Mon-Fri circulation: ~16,000). The Herald began during the turmultuous Vietnam War era as a conservative alternative to the liberal Cardinal. In 2004, Lee (through Capital) began publishing coreweekly, a news and entertainment weekly intended to build a younger ad demographic for Capital Newspapers and to compete in the classifieds market. Madison is also home to numerous other specialty print publications focusing on local music, politics, and sports. Wisconsin Sports Weekly, The Mendota Beacon, Madison Observer, and The Simpson Street Free Press also publish in the area.

Madison's Wisconsin Public Radio station, WHA, was one of the very first radio stations in the nation to begin broadcasting.

Madison is also home to The Progressive, a left-wing periodical that may be best known for the attempt of the US government in 1979 to suppress one of the Progressive's articles prior to publication. However, the magazine eventually prevailed in the landmark First Amendment case, United States v. The Progressive, Inc.

See also:

Party Problem

For decades, the University has had a reputation as a "party campus." Examples of this include the still-continuing annual Mifflin Street Block Party (no longer a counterculture event, today a summer kick-off party for students) and the State Street Halloween Party. Both of these events are commonly attended by tens of thousands of partiers, including an ever-growing number who come from out of state just to attend. Following a (non-political) riot that developed at the 1996 Mifflin Street Block Party, it was forcibly cancelled by the city; since then, the city has permitted resumption of a Mifflin Street event that has taken a more mellow tone.

Likewise, the State Street Halloween Party has been showing similar problems. One year, MTV was interested in televising this event; the fear of so many party-goers together eventually led to MTV backing off from its offer. In 2004, 450 partiers were arrested after bonfires were started on the street and several businesses were vandalized during the celebration. Fewer than a quarter of the arrestees were Wisconsin residents or UW-Madison students.

At the peak of the 2005 party, an estimated 100,000 revelers were crammed onto the street at once. A nearby detox center saw a record number of "serious intoxications." Although very little property damage and no reported injuries occured during the party, 447 people were arrested between the Friday and Saturday nights, mostly for alcohol-related violations. Police decided to end the larger scale Saturday night party around 2 a.m. Finally, unable to coerce about 1,000 remaining partiers to clear the street, police ended the event with the use of riot gear and pepper spray for the fourth consecutive year. According to Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, the huge police presence at the party ultimately cost the city an estimated $750,000. As of currently, many city officials are discussing completely disallowing the event to occur in the future. There is widespread doubt as to whether or not preventing this unofficial and unorganized phenomenon is even possible.

It is for these reasons and others why another of the city's nicknames is MadTown.

Famous Madisonians

Notable people associated with Madison include conservation pioneer John Muir, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, diplomat Philip Mayer Kaiser, ecologist Aldo Leopold, playwrights Thornton Wilder and Tina Howe, Olympic skaters Eric and Beth Heiden, novelist Jacquelyn Mitchard, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist David Maraniss, children's book author Kevin Henkes, US Senator Russ Feingold, TV news producer Lowell Bergman, and actors Joan Cusack, Tyne Daly, Bradley Whitford, Chris Noth, and Chris Farley [22]. The latter four were all born and/or raised in Madison. Movie producers Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, and David Zucker are Wisconsin natives who began their careers in Madison. Businesswoman Pleasant Rowland began the Pleasant Company (now a part of Mattel and renamed American Girl) in Madison, and remains a local resident. Charles A. Lindbergh entered a mechanical engineering program at the University of Wisconsin in 1920, did poorly, and dropped out to become a barnstormer. Radio humorist Michael Feldman and his weekly program are based in Madison. The alternative band Garbage was founded in the city by resident Butch Vig. Rock musicians Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs both attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Other notable musicians with Madison ties include blues singer Tracy Nelson, singer/guiterist Jim Schwall, bassist Richard Davis, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, drummer Clyde Stubblefield, and composer/performers Leo and Ben Sidran.

Madison is also known (unfortunately) as the location of the untimely deaths of Teresa McGovern (a Madison resident and daughter of presidential candidate George McGovern) and Otis Redding. Teresa McGovern was found dead of exposure when she passed out during a Madison winter night. Otis Redding died in an airplane crash into Lake Monona. University student Audrey Seiler also performed her 2004 self-kidnapping in Madison.

The University of Wisconsin has produced many notable acheivers in diverse areas including the arts, politics, scientific research and athletics. Some are included above. One of the last US Health and Human Services Secretaries was a past chancellor of the university, Donna Shalala (and her successor was Wisconsin's then-Govenor, Tommy Thompson). A number of Nobel Prize winners have been graduates or on the faculty in Madison. For a more extensive account of well-known alumni and staff of UW-Madison see:

For many years Jerry Dean was the voice of WISC-TV ("Wisconsin's Leadership Station") and Clyde Coffee was the morning personality of former radio station WISM-AM.


Madison is served by the Dane County Regional Airport, which serves more than 100 commercial flights on an average day, and nearly 1.6 million passengers annually. The Metro Transit System operates the city bus routes. [23] A commuter light rail system has been proposed, particularly for a corridor passing through the isthmus and alongside the university campus, but has remained on paper for decades. A high-speed rail route from Chicago through Milwaukee and Madison to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, has also been proposed as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. Though for a time, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson was the chairman of Amtrak, the nearest train station is in Columbus, Wisconsin. Regional buses connect Madison to Janesville, Beloit, and in Illinois, Rockford, O'Hare Airport, and Chicago.

WSOR number 4025 painted for the railroad's 25th anniversary, seen in Madison July 23, 2005.
WSOR number 4025 painted for the railroad's 25th anniversary, seen in Madison July 23, 2005.

Railroad freight services are provided in Madison by Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (WSOR), which has been operating since 1980, having taken over trackage owned since the 19th century by the Chicago and North Western and the Milwaukee Road. Some of the proposed light rail and commuter routes would use existing WSOR rights of way, such as the line between the Kohl Center and Middleton. Limited commuter trains were tested along this line in the early 2000s as "football specials". The trains took passengers from the Middleton depot to Camp Randall Stadium to help alleviate parking issues on game days.

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