Barrett says Streetcar is an investment in growing Milwaukee
Mayor Tom Barrett is moving full speed ahead with The Milwaukee Streetcar project, an electric tram that would connect mass transit with businesses, hotels and entertainment destinations. He is lining up funding, lobbying the city council to amend TIF districts and building public support.
But there are skeptics -people who wonder if the city can afford to run its own transit system as MCTS withers under the loss of federal and state funding, lower ridership and increased fares.
Barrett is convinced, as is City Engineer Jeff Polenske, that the streetcar’s time has come and they are moving quickly. Public hearings were held over the past year to gather opinions, environmental studies and economic impact plans have been prepared, and the plan is ready for a full court press to the city council for its approval later this month.
During a forum at the Milwaukee Public Market on Monday, citizens were able to see the proposal route, look at examples of the streetcars, learn about the funding of the capital and operating costs and explore the impact on the neighborhoods. City engineers and financiers were on hand to answer questions.
The initial route would run along St. Paul Avenue to Broadway, where it would turn toward downtown. Barrett said Broadway was chosen for the route because it blends in with the city’s development plan to have the Broadway Connector, joining the Third Ward to Wisconsin Avenue. A turn at Wells Street will take the route into the lower east side, with access to MSOE and Cathedral Square. The route will continue on Jefferson and Van Buren steets, making a final turn onto Ogden where it will terminate at Farwell.
If the city is successful in securing a federal Urban Circulator grant, the route would extend north onto Prospect, turn at Brady and head south on Farwell and back to the initial route. On the western end of the route, an extension would run on 4th Street from the Intermodal Station past the U.S. Cellular Arena and Bradley Center with a turn on Juneau to terminate at the Pabst Brewery development.
The route is predicted to be within a quarter-mile of 100 percent of the city’s hotels, 90 percent of occupied 1st floor retail space and professional offices and 75 percent of downtown residential housing.
At Monday’s meeting, one resident expressed her dismay over the idea of a streetcar running past her Ogden Avenue home, or by the potential loss of parking and green space.
“No one has asked the residents of the neighborhood,” said Leone Lewensohn, a 50-year resident of the area. “They’re taking away parking, they’re having cars and trains running both east and west on my street and that street is not wide enough. And you know what will happen? They will take the greenspace. Plus this isn’t a meeting, there is no give and take.”
Barrett has proposed to use the $54.9 million in federal transit funds the city has been siting on for almost two decades for the construction and capital purchases of the initial route. That, along with an additional $25 million in federal funds would make up the federal portion of a match program the city of Milwaukee will enter into for the capital portion of the project – tracks, trains and electric infrastructure.
The city will have to come up with $16.5 in matching funds and Barrett wants to tap the Cathedral Place Tax Incremental District for the money. The TIF was created for the Cathedral Place office center and parking garage at the corner of Jefferson and Wells. The tax revenues diverted from the increased value of the property were used to pay for the parking garage and were scheduled to expire in 2015.
The Joint Review Board for Tax Incremental Districts discussed the option Tuesday afternoon. If an extension of the TIF is allowed for the streetcar project, property tax dollars would be diverted to the project and away from the city, county, school district and technical college coffers until 2025.
As for the operating costs, the plan calls for farebox revenues, city parking receipts and private contributions to cover the annual bill. For the initial route, the operating cost is predicted to be $2.62 million.
Ridership revenue is predicted to reach $1.39 million in 2015 (the first year of operation) based on a $1 fare. In 2030, ridership revenue could reach $1. 66 million.
The city budgeted $21 million in parking-related revenues for 2011 and according to a representative on hand Monday evening, approximately $1.5 – $2 million of those revenues would be used towards the streetcar operating costs.
And while there were no specific names of contributors provided at this time, Barrett recently told the Business Journal that he would like to see the city contract with the Milwaukee County Transit System to operate the line. Could this mean the county would end up absorbing at least some of the operating costs?
That is not on the radar of County Executive Chris Abele. His spokesperson Jeff Bentoff said Abele and Barrett have discussed the streetcar and Abele is supportive of alternative transit system in the region.
“However, Chris’s focus is on the unprecedented cuts in the Governor’s budget to MCTS,” Bentoff said. “The county bus system is facing a $15 million hole and that is our focus right now. What Chris has said is any country role would have to be fiscally responsible.”
The streetcar study is very positive in the potential growth and revenue increases that will follow the streetcar. Since these are all projections, the numbers are not guaranteed but look hopeful for the city.
The economic development potential within the quarter-mile buffer of the initial route and extensions over the next 20 years could generate approximately 9,000 new housing units, 13,500 new residents, 1,000,000 square feet of new occupied retail space and 4,000,000 square feet of new occupied office space. In addition, the city predicts over 20,500 new jobs and $3.35 billion in new tax base will be created by the streetcar.
“While there are obvious transportation and environmental benefits, I see the streetcar as an investment in growing Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “When we build the Milwaukee Streetcar, we are laying the foundation for new business and residential development and the growth of our tax base.
Barrett is confident the streetcar proposal will face a smooth ride to approval. On Thursday, July 14, the Common Council Steering and Rules Committee will hold a public hearing to take testimony on the plan at City Hall. If they give their approval, the proposal will move onto the full council on July 26.
To share comments about the streetcar proposal with the city, contact Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines at email@example.com.
More about the Milwaukee Streetcar
For more information on project details, how the operator will be selected, what the vehicles will be like, and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $28 Million Spent on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 19th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Getting Installed - Jeramey Jannene - May 12th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Gets Waiver on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 17th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Rails Being Welded - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Won’t Delay Streetcar for County - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 28th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Board Okays Bid for Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Steel Has Arrived - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Should County Operate Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 8th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Construction Starts in April - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 17th, 2017
- Streetsblog: 80 Transit Projects in 2017 - Angie Schmitt - Feb 6th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Streetcar is Hiring - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Project Receives Federal Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 12th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Cincinnati Streetcar Opens - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 19th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 6th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $6.5 Million in Streetcar Savings - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 26th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: BID Sells Streetcar-Related Development - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 15th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: Do Millennials Oppose the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Dec 15th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Pennsylvania Company Wins Streetcar Contract - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 13th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: City Accepts $14 Million Federal Streetcar Grant - Michael Horne - Oct 29th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Dies - Bruce Murphy - Aug 28th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Scott Walker Aids Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Construction Starts in October - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites - Bruce Murphy - Jun 18th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Bucks Plan Envisions Arena Streetcar - Michael Horne - Apr 8th, 2015
- A Short History of Milwaukee’s Old Streetcar System - Ken Smith - Mar 31st, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Davis Sets, Cancels Meeting on Streetcar - Michael Horne - Mar 17th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails - Bruce Murphy - Mar 5th, 2015
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration - Michael Horne - Feb 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee Streetcar Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who is “Lobbying” For the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Feb 5th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Will Streetcar Help The Inner City? - Bruce Thompson - Feb 4th, 2015
- Back in the News: City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot - Bruce Murphy - Jan 30th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Millennials And The Streetcar - Bruce Thompson - Jan 27th, 2015
- Op-Ed: Why I Support the Streetcar - Russell Rossetto - Jan 26th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Responses Shows Wide Support - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Approved, but Held - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 21st, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who Is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Op Ed: Why the Streetcar Won’t Work - Samuel Jensen - Jan 14th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum - Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy - Jan 8th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Delays Streetcar Until January - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 16th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 10th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 9th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar - Michael Horne - Dec 2nd, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: How to Sell the Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 28th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Next Stops For The Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 24th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Moving Forward With Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 18th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Who Will Be Streetcar Operator? - Michael Horne - May 8th, 2014
- Back in the News: A Streetcar Named Cooperation? - Dave Reid - Apr 27th, 2014
- Streetsblog: How a Streetcar Spurs Development - Angie Schmitt - Nov 3rd, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Streetcar Social - Michael Horne - Sep 12th, 2013
- Republicans Move to Kill Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 9th, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Mayor Says Streetcar is “Trojan Horse” - Michael Horne - Apr 17th, 2013
- Streetcar Meeting on Tuesday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 29th, 2012
- Donovan’s New Anti-Streetcar Allies - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 16th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference - Jeramey Jannene - May 18th, 2012
- Milwaukee Streetcar Hearing at Frontier Airlines Center - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 15th, 2011
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings this Week - Dave Reid - Nov 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council, Proceeds to Final Engineering - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 26th, 2011
- Alderman Donovan Proposes Delaying the Streetcar Project - Dave Reid - Jul 19th, 2011
- Barrett says Streetcar is an investment in growing Milwaukee - Patti Wenzel - Jul 13th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward - Jeramey Jannene - May 6th, 2010
- Streetcars and Trams Around the World - Dave Reid - Feb 1st, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 5th, 2009
- Downtown Streetcar Open House - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 21st, 2009
- Common Council Creates Streetcar Committee - Dave Reid - Jun 18th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 19th, 2009
- Vote For Your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Map - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 21st, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee - Dave Reid - Mar 14th, 2009
- Palomar or Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2009