Who Will Be Streetcar Operator?
The city? A private company? The downtown BID? Maybe Ald. Bauman? No one really knows.
The federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality [CMAQ] grant is welcome news for urban Milwaukee, and opens the next question in the decades-old quest for modern rail transit here:
So, who’s going to run this thing?
The funds were paid to the City of Milwaukee, which has no experience in operating a transit system. No legislation has been introduced to the Common Council to establish a Transit Department (we’re not Janesville, after all).
Our upcoming street rail system, in its initial stages, will operate only within the city limits, and mostly within the 4th aldermanic district of Bob Bauman, so it would be a bit of a stretch to attach it to a Regional Transit Authority, which would be impossible anyway, since the legislature has forbidden an RTA here.
I had taken it as a matter of faith that the streetcars would be operated by members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, but I have not seen any evidence that the bus drivers are preparing to cross-train as rail operators. And, frankly, the Milwaukee Transit Riders Union seems more active on the issue than the folks at the Local.
I asked Ald. Bauman, a noted transit expert, about the union, and he said the streetcar operators might not need to be unionized. This could keep costs down, he says. Put it all together, maybe $100 per hour (with benefits) rather than, say, $165 or whatever they have it up to nowadays.
Who might operate the system? I asked. “The Downtown BID  could run it,” he suggests, adding that the organization can enter into contracts and has experience with the neighborhood.
(The Downtown BID already has a fleet of vehicles, including Segways, patrol machines, bicycles, carts, trailers and mobile devices for sweeping sidewalks, not to mention the seasonal rubber-wheeled trolley it runs.)
Eventually, when we get a regional transit system figured out, the streetcar (and presumably the rest of it) would be run by “an outfit like Veolia,” Bauman suggests.
The ever-available international company has for years done contracted work for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. A Veolia representative told me some months ago he fully expected the firm to ultimately operate the streetcar.
Maybe. But when I asked Beth Werick, the BID 21 executive director, what she thought of getting into the streetcar business, she was on board, full throttle ahead. “I’d love to have the BID operate the streetcar,” she says.
For now the mayor has his mitts on the money; he did not immediately respond to a request asking who would run his system.
Although we do not know who will make the system roll, we do know that the roll-out of the system is managed by Kris Martinsek and Jeff Bentoff, who have kept news of it alive via social media and some very well-attended special events.
A “Streetcar Social” [Facebook] is scheduled for Thursday, May 15th from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at Residence, “featuring stylish interiors and affordable luxuries,” located on the streetcar route at “612 N. Broadway, Downtown Milwaukee.” It will be free and open to the public. The host for the inaugural event is Kerry Shannon, who describes himself as the “Tastemaker / Big Cheese / Errand Boy” at the decorative arts shop. Shannon has said he “consciously chose to locate his store on the streetcar route because it will be good for business.”
Described as “No. 1 in a series of periodic gatherings to promote ridership, raise awareness & support businesses along the route,” the “social will be purely that – casual, relaxed, nonpolitical and without a formal presentation,” the prospectus encouragingly tells us.
The event and others to follow will be held at businesses along the route. Let them celebrate while the rent is still cheap!
The series is patterned after events in Atlanta and Cincinnati which, like Milwaukee, are also expecting streetcars in the near future and are preparing for delivery after recovering from the effects of the mild complications common to first-timers.
Sausage Maker Story Is Baloney
It certainly was an attention-getting announcement posted by Bolzano Artisan Meats of Milwaukee saying it had been “Forced to Close Due To Unjust WI Dept. of Agriculture Actions.”
Husband and wife team Scott Buer and Christin Johnstone-Buer have been making the cured meats using traditional techniques for 5 years, operating out of a factory on N. Holton St. that was once the home of Great Lakes Distillery.
“Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture ordered all production and sales at our company to stop and is leading to the destruction of around $50,000 worth of salami that the USDA, the highest food safety authority in the nation, declared to be safe and wholesome,” the pair wrote.
They poured fat on the fire by adding: “The state agency is also participating in what our legal assistance is calling unprecedented bullying of our small company, and even small stores and co-ops that have carried our products.”
They then provide a link to a fundraising site with a $40,000 goal to “help local food innovator end conflict with state regulators.” The site was started Monday, May 6th and will run until July 5th. Over $2,800 was pledged on the first day.
The funds are for legal counsel, relaunching the company under USDA [not state] inspection, and to provide a “small owners draw of about $500 combined a week owners [sic] for Scott and Christin.”
Raechelle Clein, Public Information Officer Divisions of Animal Health & Food Safety, says Balzano’s claims are not correct.
“The recall of Bolzano products is strictly a USDA Food Safety Inspection Service matter and any comment on the recall would have to come from them. It apparently came to light when a federal investigator discovered an inappropriate use of a federal inspection label on a product.
“In an entirely separate matter, Bolzano changed the way it processed its product and so DATCP has suspended its license until we can be sure the product still meets food safety standards under the new processing procedure. We are working with the company in an effort to assist Bolzano in becoming compliant so it can start producing again.”
Later Bolzano changed some of its claims, but did little to alleviate the confusion when it posted this retort on Facebook:
“BTW, we were not angry and drunk when we wrote the original copy for the Indiegogo campaign – just sleep deprived after weeks of legal fighting. We’re better at charcuterie than editing.”
In an interview, Scott Buer explained that the state only inspects smaller operations like Bolzano. Large companies like Oscar Mayer are federally inspected, and Buer would rather be inspected federally. The state has been difficult to work with, he says, though inspectors seem to enjoy the Bolzano facility, he adds, noting his company’s state-of-the-art equipment. Still, he would welcome a change in inspectors: “I hope we are able to get restarted under federal inspection.”
Never a dull moment for a sausage manufacturer.
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: 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