Jeramey Jannene

Vote For Your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route

By - Mar 25th, 2009 11:29 pm

The submissions are in, and it’s time to pick your favorite.

While you’re free to vote for whatever you may wish, I encourage you to consider the following aspects as criteria for judging a plan.

1. Ability to serve 78,000 individuals working downtown, and the 15,000 or so that live in the area.

2. Ability to serve event attendees coming downtown and parking at various locations.

3. Ability to interact with existing systems (Amtrak, intercity bus, MCTS) and future ones (KRM, HSR).

4. Ability to encourage future development.

5. The line is close 3 miles (applications significantly greater than 3 miles were disqualified).

The Proposals

The Ballot Box

[poll id=”5″ type=”result”]

More about the Milwaukee Streetcar

For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.

Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here


30 thoughts on “Vote For Your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route”

  1. M says:

    I like Transit Idea A the best because it connects to all of the major tourist, business, residential and transit connections in the Downtown area. If we can convince the Mayor to look at this plan it might get the streetcar project on more of a fast track to becoming a reality.

  2. Paul Thomas says:

    I am pleased to see all the work done by the submitters. It was very hard to choose. There would be less discussion if the route could have been longer.

    Is it possible to do linear lines instead of loops? The linear routes create the idea of expansion and future connections to Miller Park, UWM, Summerfest, etc.

    What does the route selection we chose say about how we use Milwaukee? Are we touching on the densest population centers? Is this for suburbanites experiencing Milwaukee? Are we putting our gems on display for tourists?

    Thanks Urban Milwaukee, I loved the information, comment space, and maps.

  3. David B. says:

    All of the submissions were great. I do think that connecting to the Intermodal Station is a must in the mayor’s eyes and that any route without that ingrediant probably doesn’t have a shot.

    The Mayor’s initial route worries me because I really don’t know if anyone but tourists would use it– since really any two points on the line are very walkable for someone that knows the downtown area. I don’t think the Mayor can afford to have this first route fail if he ever wants to see it expand (and I’m afraid his route might). I don’t know if tourists/business travelers alone can make the line successful enough. I can’t see myself using it very often at all. I think a line that connects more distant areas, that city residents will use, is a safer bet.

    I voted for Transit Option A because it hits near tourist spots, as well as the Eastside (one of the most densely populated areas of the city). I live on the East Side (so maybe there’s a little selfishness in my pick) and honestly think I would use this line often. I thought the Entertainment Streetcar was a close second as it lends itself naturally to further expansion (if the initial route were successful I wonder if there’s any chance the Brewers/Casino could be convinced to pony-up some cash to expand the line further west to Miller Park– pay for their own promotional streetcar or something like that, or would the Brewers be worried about losing parking revenue?)

    I think Sam’s UWM line make’s sense and would be a very successful line, but not reaching to the Intermodal Station probably means it won’t happen. If the city were able to make it work (Intermodal to UWM-Kenwood) it might be the safest bet of them all.

  4. Nick Aster says:

    Transit Idea A is probably the most well thought out, but there are too many turns in it. Every time you ask a streetcar/light rail to go around a corner, you hugely slow it down. My vote is for the first UWM run, even though it’s incomplete to the intermodal, it’s a fast straight path which is required if we’re going to realistically compete with cars. Let that be the starter, then complete a second east-west line to bradley center, etc…

  5. Dan says:

    The links to Dave Steele’s maps are not working for me.

    It looks like Streetcar Sam was the only one to have the bright idea of including the Google Local business overlay…kind of an extra boost!

    I would like to read discussion of each, or those deemed best by you experts.

  6. Matthew says:

    I like Streetcar Sams, but I think it would be better if it went down Brady and Water and created a loop instead of a ‘J’

  7. Matthew says:

    Also, I wonder if there is any way to have the line go from the multi-modal station to the third ward on it’s own right of way below 794 before it gets on the street grid and covers the areas of downtown and north.

  8. Joe Klein says:

    Streetcar Sam’s seems to be the three mile hit.

  9. I believe I will reluctantly vote for the mayor’s plan because it is a loop, and as such is best suited for ultimate (and essential) expansion. A loop is the best way to disperse people within a dense urban area.
    However, it will require extensions to bring people into the loop.
    The first extension should be to UWM, and along previous routes wherever possible. This is the route proposed by Joe Klein.
    Indeed, we would need more than a three mile system to really get “traction” here.

    Thanks for hosting this exciting opportunity for citizen participation. Civil Engineers — I hope you’re paying attention! The People are speaking!

  10. CJ says:

    I wonder why all the emphasis is on the UWM run in the comments. Are the students that important to downtown viability? Or is that just in reference to the living community around there? I think whatever the overall larger plan is, it should connect the living/shopping/entertainment areas such as the east side, third ward, downtown and canal street (Harley/Casino/Miller Park). Although the Canal route might be better served by a special shuttle connector since running to Miller Park is pointless when there are no games being played.

  11. Erik C Peterson says:

    I support our mayor!

  12. Matthew says:

    UWM is the second largest trip generator in the city after the downtown, and the eastside between UWM and downtown is the most densely populated area of the city so any line running through it has the highest possible ridership.

  13. Nick Aster says:

    I don’t understand why the loop is so popular. As a starter route, it might be a great piece of infrastructure to build out from, but I can’t really see people riding around in a circle they could walk in almost the same amount of time.

  14. Damato says:

    This is good stuff.

    A couple of thoughts:

    We must remember that this is the beginning, not the end of any system. It’s hard, but you can’t try to connect every traffic generator or every entertainment venue in a single line. You must anticipate two lines (eg. UWM to Marquette and Fondy North to the third ward), draw those first and then decide to build the core downtownn section of one line. Its worth thinking about two crossing line that are 1.5 miles that create the core but that may be inefficient.

    Because of what I wrote above, there will be many unhappy people. The worst mistake will be to create a line that attempts to satisfy everyone in the first phase. I’m afraid that is what the loop tries to do. It is my opinion that if this becomes a tourist train that simply connects all the “attractions” it will never be expanded and ridership will be minimal. This needs to be a real transportation option that takes real people from point “A” to point “B”.

    Often I think that we try to connect places by dropping people off at the front door and that makes for un-natural routes. I’m not sure what the benchmark is, but it seems to me that if you stop within 3 blocks of an attraction then you have adequately served that location. If we use a 3 block radius I think that the lines come into greater focus.

    My only route comment is that the East Side is best placed on Farwell. The starter should probably terminate/begin at North ave with a second phase taking North to Oakland to UWM abd into Shorewood and WFB. By using Farwell you revitalize that street (which has tremendous potential) and are able to also serve Brady and North without actually disrupting either street. My early thinking is that you then follow Farwell to Prospect around the bend and Wisconsin (another street that needs a boost) Ave to Marquette. Simple. However, I could be convinced thath there is a better route. The NW to SE route will then be a Pabst to 3rd Ward route via the Intermodal.

    One man’s opinion

    Again, this is great chatter with creative ideas that will help define the final product.

  15. Joe Klein says:

    From the Intermodal to Columbia St. Mary’s via 4th, Juneau, Water, Brady Farwell, North — is almost exactly three miles.,-87.89423&spn=0.044595,0.1157&z=14&msid=107949597789535800481.0004663b43d80fab78061

  16. Rob says:

    I really like the loop, although I think that if we want to ensure maximum initial ridership it should be free to ride. Denver has a similar idea in its downtown where free buses carry workers and tourists on a bus-only street that connects with their light rail system. Perhaps if we were to do something similar, initially the loop would be free to ride but once the future extensions are created it would cost $2. Not sure if that would work, but it’s one way to draw riders.

  17. Douglas Glatzel says:

    I like the UWM to Downtown line. I think it would be well used on Farwell.

  18. Joyce says:

    Combining D’Amato’s and Joe Klein’s ideas (follow the links) seems to me the strongest foundation for a healthy beginning and promise for growth. Start with one 3-mile line from the Intermodal Station to Columbia-St.Mary’s, then at the next opportunity add a NW-SE line from Fondy to the 3rd Ward. A cross-and-loop design is at the heart of many good light-rail systems, but if you have only 3 miles of track to work with, in order to be useful you start with one line, then add the crossing line, then the loop.

    The line you choose to start with has to be the best prospect for best ridership, and UWM pretty much guarantees a population that’s car-less and wants to get to+from downtown, not to mention all the Eastsiders and condo-dwellers who work downtown. Columbia-St.Mary’s is close enough to UWM (besides which there’s the free UWM shuttle to North Ave.) to make it useful and attractive to UWM people.

    Another consideration is that an Intermodal – CSM line would get riders at all hours, spread out over the day, not just at commute-time, and not just during daytime sightseeing.

  19. Keith M says:

    Density, Density, Density. Put it where there are the most people most of the time. Most of the options above are promising. People will use public transit if it is an attractive alternative to other options (faster, cheaper, cooler). The various downtown loops will be good for downtowners (workers, tourists). The UWM loop will likely get the most usage. This project HAS to be successfull IF we’re going to make the case for expansion later. Which plan is the most likely to be successful, that is, attract the most riders?

  20. Corrina says:

    I really have to laugh at you clowns that think this ridiculous streetcar is going to work. I am sure not ONE of you socialists are going to actually ride this choo choo train. Listen to me carefully, there simply is not enough riders to make this successful. It is that simple. I work downtown and meet daily with people who are from out of town and are in Milwaukee for business or pleasure. Would you liberal wackos like to know the most common observations I hear about Milwaukee from these folks? “Wow, this city is a ghost town!” “There are very few people downtown.” “There is no traffic.” I could go on and on. I mean honest to god who is going to ride this thing? NO ONE!! Consequently, since there will not be enough revenue from the few people that use this train it will be SUBSIDIZED!! I know how liberals/socialist think because they are so predictable and I understand the attraction of this idea to them. However, just because it sounds “cool” to have a streetcar system it does not mean it will work.

  21. Socialist Sam says:

    Hey, socialism is back in style, doncha know? Support for State funding for the Bradley Center is leading 2:1 at the pinko Business Journal website, and with all the bailouts going around, why don’t we get some moolah downtown? If the trolleys go empty, we can always turn them into bratwurst stands.

  22. Joyce says:

    Here’s some data on how to solve the problem of “this city is a ghost town”:

    “Michael Powell of Powell’s Books talks about why he led the effort to convince property owners in Portland’s Pearl District to tax themselves to build a streetcar line, and what that streetcar has done for economic development in Portland. He calculates the benefits this way: The number of pedestrians in the crosswalk in front of his store numbered three an hour before the line opened in 2001, he says, but when he counted again in 2008 there were 938 pedestrians. Meantime, 400 new businesses opened in the Pearl, 90 percent of which are locally owned – the vast majority by women and minority entrepreneurs. In the meantime, property values have increased more than tenfold.”


  23. Paul Thomas says:


    Thanks for your input. I think that you could work on the facts behind your “observations” and I don’t feel the need for name calling or political bashing. I have used a “choo-choo” in the Midwest, Northeast, South, Southwest, and across California. I have used Amtrak, regional rail services, light rail, and bus service across the country.

    Unfortunately, Milwaukee pulled their light rail system due to lobbying by the automotive industry, real estate interests, suburban builders, and road construction firms. This “choo-choo” is the start of a larger system to reduce congestion and increase access in a downtown that has limited parking. For many people, the downtown would be easier to navigate and would encompass multiple stops rather than the current “one stop and out”.

    With the inevitable increase in gas costs, this will be a viable economic alternative. I suppose you feel that bus service and exit ramps should be eliminated from the downtown as well.

    Speaking of subsidies, we should get rid of the subsidized roads and bridges in the downtown. Don’t you think?

  24. Dave Reid says:

    @Corrina Ah you found us… I was wondering when you’d show up. So you know the daily workforce downtown is 77,000 and the downtown population is about 20,000 so there are plenty of people to ride it. And so you know all forms of transportation are subsidized. Especially the automobile.

  25. Matthew says:

    Darn them socialist’s and their socialist road building agenda. Let us privatize everything, the roads, the sewers, we should even sell city hall to the highest bidders.

  26. TR says:


    Adding amenities/infrastructure, such as an enhanced transit system, is part of the strategy to make the downtown more attractive to visitors and potential residents/business….to make the downtown more active (or less ghost townish)

    Sorry to divert from the transit topic a bit, but I was wondering what you would recommend is done to make this not a “ghost town”? And how do we do it?

    And yes, Sykes does not mention this, but roads are subsidized too and you are paying for a lot of roads that you don’t use. Roads also have additional $$ costs than just those spent building them. Here are just a couple that no one ever talks about: Building of roads and the maintanence of roads requires a lot of non-metallic mined material for concrete and petroleum for asphalt. These resources are are getting less available and hense more costly over time. And the more roads and the wider the roads, the more costs. Roads consume a lot of land, land that could be added to the tax base to generate tax revenue…so we are losing money revenue.

  27. mev says:

    I vote for the entertainment line, as it utilizes route that do not already have popular bus routes on them. Why have a route that continues all the way to UWM, when students already have a UPASS that allows them to ride the bus whenever they want for free? Not that many visitors go to campus anyways, so it seems a waste to have a route on an already entangled corridor such as Farwell Avenue. Perhaps the lakefront would be more apropo.

    Most of the loops are too small to be very effective. No one who works downtown will have the patience to wait for these, when they can walk any of those distances in 15 minutes. It is the development to the south that is disconnected from Downtown and the Eastside, and that is where links need to be formed.

  28. colucci says:

    I’m glad to have found this site. There’s a lot of interesting discussion (well except for Corinna) and I thought I could add a few bits.

    We just moved here from Minneapolis where they installed a light rail line from downtown to the Mall of America in 2004. Before the construction there were A LOT of Corinna’s out there. They have all disappeared as the Hiawatha line is much more successful than the planners had even hoped. Daily ridership is around 30,000 people which is higher than planners expected for the year 2020! It opened while I was away on business and I rode it home from the airport on my return. In the last 5 years I drove to the airport twice out of 20 trips.

    What made this line successful? At first glance a train from downtown to a mall doesn’t seem too bright. Here are some points I think lead to its success: 1) All of downtown is within 5 blocks of any downtown stop 2) It runs through a densely populated first ring suburb 3) It stops at the airport 4) The Mall of America has a ton of unused parking which is great for games at the Metrodome. Suburbanites drive to the Mall and then take the train into the game. And last but not least, 5) the majority of the line is NOT ON THE STREET which allows consistent, reliable pick-up times.

    I think all of the ideas presented here are better than the mayor’s loop. Let the loop get built when the second spoke it built. Whatever the decision is, the number one consideration needs to be daily ridership. Tourists and special event riders will not justify the costs.

    Again, I’m really glad I found this site.


  29. Dave Reid says:

    colucci I’d say that a streetcar and a light-rail system like the Hiawatha line in Minneapolis in fact serve very different purposes. I’d love to see a full scale light-rail system, but efforts to do so have ran into so many problems politically over the years, the idea now is to start small.

  30. colucci says:

    Your point is well taken Dave. The Hiawatha line is actually a hybrid as it run for about 1.5 miles down 5th St. in downtown before getting a dedicated track. 5th St downtown is essentially useless to cars. So my concern about many of the proposals that run down Farwell is that I can’t see taking all the car traffic off that street – at least near term.

    So in the interest of answering the question: I vote for the UWM-Downtown line with the following changes 1) it runs down Maryland instead of Downer 2) At North Ave it jogs over to Oakland instead of Farwell and 3) it turns west on Brady and takes it all the way into Water and into downtown.

    If we’re really lucky the Walgreens on Brady and Farwell will have to be torn down and rebuilt w/o parking 😉


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