Retiring to Madison,Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Janesville: apartments, condos, co-op)
Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
My husband and I are researching areas to possibly retire to. We are looking for a city where you don't need a car to get around. We currently live in NYC and neither one of us has a drivers license. We would be looking at apartments downtown within walking distance of groceries, libraries, drugstores, restaurants, etc.
We have heard that Madison has a fairly extensive bus system. Any advice out there for non-drivers?
I've lived in Madison since 2001 and don't drive, so it's definitely possible--although my husband does drive so I do sometimes take advantage of that.
I think that the condos right around the capitol would suit you well. It's a nice area, and most of the city-wide buses go right through. There's only one smallish grocery store within walking distance, Capitol Centre Foods (about the size of the medium-large grocery stores I've seen in Manhattan), but they do delivery. The Willy St. Co-op also does delivery, and they're talking about getting a second location right around Cap. Centre Foods. During the summer, there's a huge, gorgeous farmer's market right around the square, so there's that too.
State St, which is the 8-block-long, no-car street that runs from the capitol to the UW campus, has pretty much all the shopping, restaurants, bars, and cultural events you could dream of. The main branch of the library is just off of State St.
The bus system is pretty good for a city of Madison's size. This is largely due to the geography of the town; most everyone is trying to get from one side of the Isthmus to the other, so there's no need for cross-town buses. There are also some inter-city buses that go from Madison-Milwaukee and Madison-Chicago, so getting further afield isn't too expensive or complicated.
Madison is particularly good if you're interested in cycling. The bike paths go everywhere in town and are well-maintained.
The only real negative about being carless in Madison is if you're trying to get to the far east or far west side. These areas are laid out in a much more suburban way than downtown--it's where the malls and strip malls are--and getting from one strip mall to another can be somewhat harrowing. The buses go there, but I avoid it when I can.
It's also a bit complicated to get public transportation to the airport; calling a cab is your best bet there. Oh, and if you want a cab, you'll need to call one--unlike New York, there aren't many cabs just driving around ready to be hailed.
I think a little perspective might be in order. Madison's public transportation system is extensive for a city of its relatively small size and low population density. But it is NOTHING like NYC where nearly every square inch is covered by mass transit and you can get from any point in the city to any other point at virtually any time of day. There are pretty big coverage gaps, especially on weekends, and buses don't run nearly as frequently. The poster above also points one of its major limitations: if you're trying to get to or from anywhere other than downtown, you generally have to go out of your way to get to a connecting bus line unless both your start and end point both happen to fall along a downtown-bound line. Cross-town routes are virtually non-existent. I personally wouldn't rely on public transportation as my only means of getting around Madison. Having no car also means you're pretty much stuck in the city; and believe me, it's not like NYC where you'll never get a chance to see and do it all. Madison is a very small place by comparison and it probably won't be long before you'll want to get out and see more than just the city.
And as much as I like State Street, telling someone from NYC that it has "pretty much all the shopping, restaurants, bars, and cultural events you could dream of" is comical. For a short stretch of street in a college area, yeah, State Street packs a punch. But nobody from a major city is going to walk its length and feel like they're right at home.
Do it. I spent 4 years in graduate school there, and never drove a car.
The city is small, compact, and the University community is superb. Buses and walking will get you everywhere. The topography of lakes and isthmus is unique, and the city has the largest % of PhD.s-per-capita in the USA.
Winters are cold and crisp, with a gorgeous, clear blue sky. With a simple down parka, you don't feel a thing ! No rain in the winter, no slush, no gray skies.
I think there are more gray over cast days in the winter than the clear srisps blue sky days...but I guess we could do a poll on that to see what everyone else thinks.
I agree with Drover that Madison is nice and quaint, but Manahattan it is not. You will have done it all and seen it all very quickly, and without a car you could be very limited. Getting a condo with a parking space here is not outrageous money wise...and you could leave it there except for the occasional trips to the doctor or grocery store. Also, although the first poster did mention two grocery stores...I think they mainly cater to downtown workers or college students, they aren't the Trader Joe's or Whole Foods or big chain type stores, so prices tend to be higher and selection more limited.
Most people don't retire to Madison, I would imagine due to the unfavorable taxing and cold winters. But if these are not issues for you, I would say go ahead, but life in Madison without a car is not a realistic option for people at retirement age...unless you are homebodies or hermets and rarley go out.
Quoting myself from other similar thread regarding moving to Madison-
Regarding a house, you said, “We are looking for a 4 bedroom home $300-350.”
The property tax on a house in the $300,000 - $350,000 range is $15,000 to $17,500 per year in Madison, where as in Janesville the same house would cost half of that! ($7500 - $8750)
In Janesville you can buy a very nice 4 bedroom, in a nice part of town, for half the price of one in Madison. The Taxes would then only be ($3,750 - $4,775)
Why do I like living in Janesville? Good schools, good neighborhoods, good people, active senior center and yes good shopping. All within walking distance. Also, there a fair amount of bus routes. I rode a bicycle to from the West and East sides of Janesville to my job, near the Chevy plant (9-months of the year). Janesville is a small town or a fair sized city. You can remain anonymous or you can have your name in the paper on a regular basis. It’s that kind of town.
If you like the things of Brooklyn, then stay there and enjoy them. If, however, you want something different - try Wisconsin. The cultures here are many and varied. We have a very liberal Madison, Milwaukee is a multi-cultured place, we have rednecks here, we have people that go into the woods and kill animals for food The climate here varies also, some days you run the furnace and the air conditioner - both within the same hour. As our people and our climate are different, so are the amenities. There are not a lot of museums with oil paintings of out-door scenes we have the real thing. We don’t have food that tastes like it tastes in other places. Our “Chicago” style tastes more like “Southern Wisconsin” style: the other city names is just a marketing gimmick. In most cities and towns there is a “Farmers Market,” where you can buy real “Fresh” food. Fish, chicken, beef, veggies, etc that have never been frozen - FRESH.
Still in doubt? Drop in for a visit, we’re friendly (as said before - to a point). And we’re different.
(I’m a transplant here.)
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $53,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.
Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.