County Gets Waiver on Streetcar
Still in running to operate city's streetcar, but a long shot to win.
Milwaukee County is still in the running to operate and maintain the city’s streetcar system. A letter obtained by Urban Milwaukee from a high-ranking Milwaukee County official shows the city has advanced the county’s bid to operate the system. In the letter City Engineer Jeff Polenske informs Milwaukee County Transit System Chief Administrative Officer Sandra Kellner that the county has been granted a 90-minute in-person interview with the city’s selection team on Wednesday morning. The letter also notes the city is waving the minimum requirement to be eligible for consideration.
The city waved the requirement that the county have a “minimum of five years of demonstrated streetcar or related transit service experience on similar systems in an urban environment.” While the county operates a transit system that provides 150,000 rides a day, it does not operate any rail-based vehicles.
The county’s bid on the streetcar, which we’ve covered at length, was the result of an about-face by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors on their previous votes on the project. On March 23rd the board overwhelmingly approved a request for the county and its transit system to submit a bid by the RFP’s April 4th deadline. The county met that tight deadline through what a number of sources indicate was a substantial, time-consuming effort.
Addressing that 100-point scale back in early March, MCTS Director Dan Boehm told the Milwaukee County board’s Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee “the deck’s pretty stacked against us.” Fifty percent of the RFP score is based on “experience and qualifications” and “past performance” — of which the county has none outside of the long-term operation of its own bus system. The issue of cost is also a substantial scoring figure, representing 30 percent of the bid score and there the county is also handicapped.
That’s because the streetcar operator, though paid by the city, would do so in an at-risk position, meaning that if the county were to bid too low, it could lose money and violate a state law which forbids the county from spending any money on a streetcar. To avoid this scenario, Boehm previously told the committee that they would have to propose a fairly high cost, which would reduce their likelihood of winning the contract.
Losing the contract doesn’t mean the county will never have a chance to bid again. The first operator contract is being awarded for a minimum of six years, three months with a five-year renewal option held by the city.
Also, other operators still could end up collaborating with the county. In his March testimony on the matter, Boehm noted the RFP excludes fare collection systems and customer service, two areas which he said are great opportunities for Milwaukee County to collaborate with the city outside the RFP, given the county’s M-Card fare system and transit system customer service center.
Who Else is Bidding?
At least one additional entity was granted an interview with the city to discuss the matter. Sources close to the matter also confirm that at least one bidder has discussed a partnership with MCTS. So should Milwaukee County lose out, as seems likely, at least one for-profit firm bidding for the contract would still include the county in their operation and management plan.
The city issued the request for proposals on February 17th and anticipates selecting an organization to operate and maintain the streetcar before the end of the summer.
Officials from the city declined to comment on the matter.
Public operation on the initial route connecting the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and Westown with the Historic Third Ward, East Town and the Lower East Side is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018 following route testing. The lakefront line extension is expected to begin operating in the fourth quarter of 2019.
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.
- Streetcar Rails Being Welded – Jeramey Jannene – April 7th, 2017
- City Won’t Delay Streetcar for County – Jeramey Jannene – March 28th, 2017
- County Okays Streetcar Bid – Jeramey Jannene – March 23rd, 2017
- Streetcar Track Steel Has Arrived – Jeramey Jannene – March 16th, 2017
- Should County Operate Streetcar? – Jeramey Jannene – March 8th, 2017
- Streetcar Track Construction Starts in April – Jeramey Jannene – February 17th, 2017
- Should County Operate Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – March 8th, 2017
- The Milwaukee Streetcar is Hiring – Jeramey Jannene – January 20th, 2017
- Streetcar Project Receives Federal Grant – Jeramey Jannene – October 12th, 2016
- Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena – Jeramey Jannene – July 6th, 2016
- $6.5 Million in Streetcar Savings – Jeramey Jannene – February 26th, 2016
- Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit – Jeramey Jannene – February 15th, 2016
- BID Sells Streetcar-Related Development – Jeramey Jannene – January 15th, 2016
- Pennsylvania Company Wins Streetcar Contract – Jeramey Jannene – November 13th, 2015
- City Accepts $14 Million Federal Streetcar Grant – Michael Horne – October 29th, 2015
- Anti-Streetcar Petition Dies – Bruce Murphy – August 28th, 2015
- Scott Walker Aids Milwaukee Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – July 13th, 2015
- Streetcar Construction Starts in October – Jeramey Jannene – July 10th, 2015
- The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites – Bruce Murphy – June 18th, 2015
- Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails – Bruce Murphy – March 5th, 2015
- Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration – Michael Horne – February 13th, 2015
- Milwaukee Streetcar Approved – Jeramey Jannene – February 10th, 2015
- Who’s Lobbying for the Streetcar – Bruce Murphy – February 5th, 2015
- Will Streetcar Help the Inner City? – Bruce Thompson – February 4th, 2015
- City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot – Bruce Murphy – January 30th, 2015
- Millennials And The Streetcar – Bruce Thompson – January 27th, 2015
- Streetcar Responses Show Wide Support – Jeramey Jannene – January 22nd, 2015
- Streetcar Approved, but Held – Jeramey Jannene – January 21st, 2015
- Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes – Jeramey Jannene – January 20th, 2015
- Who is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? – Bruce Murphy – January 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum – Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy – January 8th, 2015
- Council Delays Streetcar Until January – Jeramey Jannene – December 16th, 2014
- Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 10th, 2014
- Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 9th, 2014
- RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar – Michael Horne – December 8th, 2014
- How to Sell the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 28th, 2014
- Next Stops for the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 24th, 2014
- Barrett Moving Forward with Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – November 18th, 2014
- Who Will Be Streetcar Operator – Michael Horne – May 8th, 2014
- A Streetcar Named Cooperation? – Dave Reid – April 27th, 2014
- How a Streetcar Spurs Development – Angie Schmitt – November 3rd, 2013
- Streetcar Social – Michael Horne – September 12th, 2013
- Mayor Says Streetcar is a “Trojan Horse” – Michael Horne – April 17th, 2013
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind – Dave Reid – September 27th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference – Jeramey Jannene – May 18th, 2012
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings This Week – Dave Reid – November 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council – Jeramey Jannene – July 26th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward – Jeramey Jannene – July 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex – Jeramey Jannene – June 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward – Jeramey Jannene – May 6th, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday – Jeramey Jannene – October 5th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett – Jeramey Jannene – September 21st, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up – Jeramey Jannene – April 19th, 2009
- Vote for your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 23rd, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee – Dave Reid – March 14th, 2009