Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex

By - Jun 16th, 2011 03:07 pm
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The Milwaukee Streetcar is finally poised to move forward. Following last May’s approval of a preliminary engineering study by the Milwaukee Connector Study Group, the Milwaukee Streetcar project has progressed to the next step in its development. In the next few weeks, the Milwaukee Streetcar project is expected to go before the Milwaukee Common Council for approval.

Milwaukee Streetcar Route

Milwaukee Streetcar Route

The route selected will connect the Lower East Side, East Town,  Historic Third Ward, and the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. Designed as a starter system, it is a variation on Alignment 1 originally presented in September 2009, and reflects the restraints of available funding (the city’s 60% share of the $91.5 million designated for new transit capital projects by the federal government), jobs and residential populations, and development opportunities.

The route connects the region’s densest jobs area (downtown) and densest residential area (the Lower East Side). A testament to the connections the route provides.  Additionally, despite being within a quarter-mile of only 2% of the city’s land area, the route connects with 13% of the city’s tax base.

Milwaukee Streetcar Route Extensions

Milwaukee Streetcar Route Extensions

Additional extensions are planned (and are much more likely to be funded once the starter system is in the ground) to Brady Street, UWM and the rest of the East Side, Marquette and the west side, The Brewery project and the city’s northwest side, and Walker’s Point, Bay View, and the south side.

Initial route extensions will target connecting the route to Brady Street on the northeast end, and the Bradley Center, Park East, and The Brewery on the northwest end. With those two initial extensions in place, within a quarter-mile of the route will be 100% of the area’s hotels, 91% of the area’s occupied street-level retail space, 90% of the area’s office space, and 77% of the area’s housing.

While it is expected that everyone would like the route to pass by their own front door, the annual Milwaukee Trolley Loop proves the folly of such an idea with a route that serves everyone and no one at the same time. The rubber-tired trolley buses have a different route year-after-year, delivering neither the ride quality that modern streetcars provide nor the development opportunities that well-planned modern streetcar systems have shown to generate (Portland alone generating $3.5 billion in development within two blocks of the route from their 4-mile system since 1997, a system that the Milwaukee Streetcar is patterned after). The downtown summer trolley serves to promote the businesses that pay to be along its route, the Milwaukee Streetcar is a starter system designed to connect residents and visitors to jobs and entertainment, while at the same time generating new development along the route.

Neither Rome, nor Portland, were built in a day, each had to start somewhere. This is Milwaukee’s chance to start. This is a public investment that will lead to substantially more private investment.

To ensure this is the beginning, not the end of the line email your Milwaukee Common Council representative using the form below to express your support for the Milwaukee Streetcar on what is likely to be a close vote.

For a background on the streetcar prior to the events mentioned in this article, see our Milwaukee Streetcar Timeline

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17 thoughts on “Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex”

  1. Chris says:

    Great article guys. Time to move Milwaukee’s transit into the 21st century. As any urbanist knows, connectivity is the key, and this will start the link the city’s core together in a meaningful way. Let’s make this happen!

  2. Brian Artka says:

    Sent an email to Mr. Witowski. Streetcars just make sense, and I agree with Chris; connectivity is key. If Milwaukee wants to be a serious city moving into the future, this is a must.

  3. Aga says:

    I realize that Bayview is not part of the first route, and hope that the streetcar system will be expended south as soon as possible. I’m on board anyway! All great, creative cites have rail system of some kind….it’s Milwaukee’s turn.

  4. Alex says:

    What will happen to the 30 bus? Most of its downtown routing is duplicated by the proposed streetcar alignment. Will it find another way to connect or will it be two stubs?

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Aga Exactly! This is a start, and yes hopefully one day Bay View will get a route as well.

  6. MilwaukeeD says:

    Aga, exactly, my neighborhood isn’t on the route either….yet! Let’s get this started so that we can begin the fun debates over where it should go next!

  7. Gary Cox says:

    Is it really expected to be a close vote? I figured Dudzik and maybe a couple others would vote no… How many alderman have stated that they’ll vote for it so far?

  8. Sam says:

    It’s great that this is moving forward, but if the city is really serious about expanding it beyond a downtown circulator they need to re-examine running it in traffic next to the parking lane. That’s just asking for slow, irregular service. If the city really isn’t ready to give up lanes to transit yet, why not use the center of the road like streetcars in Milwaukee and every other city used to? It would remove the double parking issue, fix the potential confilct with bikes, and make it possible to reserve the lane in the future. In Portland it doesn’t matter how slow their line is ’cause it’s meant to supplement the MAX. Ours is going to have to do both.

  9. Jeff Jordan says:

    Frankly, this is th eonly way we are going to save our city transit system. Waiting for Madison to let us do what we need to do to join the list of modern cities across the country and the world that realize transit infrastructure is key to growth, is folly. We need to aggressively pursue this option. One route I haven’t heard mentioned is a route to the airport.

  10. Dave Reid says:

    @Gary Unfortunately, sometimes local politics comes down to, does it impact my district directly. That’s a bit of an issue.

  11. Fabal D'louieu says:

    Well done! Make this happen!

  12. Dave Reid says:

    @Fabal. Agreed get those emails going!

  13. Jack says:

    It’s high time this thing gets going. Time is marching on and Milwaukee needs to keep their moving towards being a progressive urban city we can all be proud of. Too many naysayers out there.

  14. Dave Reid says:

    @Jack Agreed… lets get on board

  15. Nicholas says:

    Glad to hear things are moving forward with the streetcar… this system will hopefully make a HUGE impact, not just on the businesses and population of the downtown and east side, but on the doubting minds of many residents in SE Wisconsin. As someone mentioned above, the streetcar won’t be the panacea for all of Milwaukee’s transit needs– it wouldn’t make sense, I don’t think, to extend the streetcar to the airport (that’s a service that a light rail line should provide), but if the proof is in the pudding, let the pudding be the Milwaukee Streetcar. I’m confident that a good number of typically skeptical Milwaukeeans will be converted to rail advocates after seeing the advantages of the streetcar project.

  16. Ben says:

    To quote Saved By The Bell, “I’m so excited! I’m so…scared.” If this doesn’t happen my heart will explode. Thanks for the form; I completed and sent it to my representative.

  17. Matt says:

    Nice article. Glad to support this!

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