Madison Housing and Transportation

Madison is the state capitol and the campus in on an isthmus between two lakes. The city provides both fast-paced city-living, and quiet natural spaces for all to enjoy.

Housing & Transportation

Madison offers a variety of housing options for graduate students. For those for whom transportation is a concern, bus service is available throughout campus as well as to and from residential neighborhoods in and around Madison, Middleton, Fitchburg and Verona.

Picture of the capitol building from on top of Bascom Hill. A bus stop on campus with people boarding the aerial image of the UW Madison campus and Madison city.


There are many options for students to live closer to campus or farther away with a small commute.

The University offers different options available for single and family-households. These housing options are within a mile of campus for a short commute walking, bussing, or biking.

Madison’s Neighborhoods

 Near West

The Vilas neighborhood is a quiet residential area near the UW Arboretum and Henry Vilas Zoo. This neighborhood is home to a good mix of UW undergrads, graduate students, and staff, and attracts more families with small children than some of the areas closer to downtown. Nearby Monroe Street is home to several eclectic shops with a number of coffee shops and restaurants.

West Madison

Newer housing and more of a suburban feel characterize the city’s west side. The Hilldale Shopping Center is nearby, and there are great restaurants and shops in the area. Lots of engineering, medical, and veterinary students, who spend the bulk of their time on the west end of campus, like living in this neighborhood

 Isthmus/Near East

Lots of older rental properties and a healthy number of small parks, bike paths, and coffee shops make this area attractive to many grad students. Though both sides of the isthmus are well-served by public transportation, the Mendota side (Johnson and Gorham Streets) is on several particularly high-traffic bus routes, making for easy travel to campus and around Madison. Closer to Lake Monona, the Williamson and Jenifer Street areas are within easy reach of two Madison food co-ops and numerous restaurants and coffee houses. The Atwood area, which is a little beyond Willy Street and somewhat quieter, is another popular area with shops, entertainment, and restaurants.

Near South

You can find lots of affordable housing along the various offshoots of Park Street as you head south. This part of town may look tame at first, but it is home to many ethnic supermarkets, Mexican eateries, and a couple terrific coffee shops. It’s popular among grad students, young professionals, retirees, and young families who want to live close to downtown, in a quiet neighborhood, and on a budget. It is also close to the UW Arboretum and Monona Bay, which make for great running or biking routes.


Getting around without a car is easy in Madison, which is great for students, since parking on and around campus is limited and expensive. Madison is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. For longer trips within the city or on cold days, you’ll receive a student bus pass for the Madison Metro system.

  • Metro Transit
    • The 80 Bus on campus is FREE and does not require a bus pass
    • Student Bus Pass: As a student at UW–Madison, your segregated fees help pay for a Student Bus Pass. The bus pass is available to you each semester at no additional cost, and gives you unlimited rides on any Madison Metro bus at any time
  • Accessible Circulator Shuttle
  • Walking
    • If it is dark and you have to walk somewhere on campus, find a friend or two to accompany you. If you cannot find a walking buddy, call SAFEwalk at 608-262-5000 for free walking escorts to any location on campus except the far west side (UW Hospital and Eagle Heights).
  • Bicycles
    • Biking is a great way to get around Madison. The city maintains over 100 miles of recreational and commuter trails, plus bike-friendly roadways. Madison bike routes are supported by Google Maps. You can also get a bike map at any public library.
    • Bike Sharing: Madison B-cycle is an urban bike-sharing program designed to encourage short trips by bike. As a student, you can join for a discounted rate.
    • The Red Bikes Project, run by Budget Bicycle Center, loans refurbished used bikes to UW–Madison students, faculty, and staff for free. A cash deposit or credit card imprint is required for a bike and lock. You can pick up a bike from the 930 Regent St. location in the spring and use it all season until late November. If you return the bike by the due date, your cash deposit will be refunded. While you have the bike, any required maintenance is provided free of charge.
    • Bicycling Resources
      • On campus, the University Bicycle Resource Center offers tools and training to help you tune up your bike. UW Transportation Services also offers more tips on biking around campus.
      • The Wisconsin Bike Fed is a statewide, nonprofit bicycle advocacy organization involved in legislation, education, and bicycling promotion efforts. Its website includes info on big rides and several links to other organizations, trail maps, and a variety of bicycling resources.
  • Cars and Parking
    • If you do have a car, you’ll be better off biking, taking the bus, walking, or carpooling when heading to campus or downtown. Parking downtown is limited and costly, and you will most likely have to park far from your destination. However, some street and metered parking is free before 8 am and after 6 pm on weekdays. Street parking is often free on Sundays. Check any posted signs or the information on a parking meter before you park to know for sure. Most rentals around the campus area do not include parking, or may charge extra for a parking space. If you need parking, be sure to ask about it during your housing search. For another solution, the Campus Area Housing parking module tracks parking spots available to rent both on and off campus.
    • Student parking on campus is extremely limited and priority is given to students who are commuting from outside Madison. A limited number of full- and half-day visitor parking permits are available for some lots on campus. They can be purchased at one of the university’s Transportation Services offices.

Campus Life

An aerial image of the city.