Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Regional Bus Service Cuts, Transit Center Redevelopment, Museum Mile, and More

By - May 3rd, 2012 02:26 pm
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Eyes on Milwaukee

Eyes on Milwaukee

The 11th installment of Eyes on Milwaukee focuses on transit, development, and new restaurants. The Downtown Transit Center’s redevelopment is inching closer to reality. The Milwaukee Museum Mile is a new marketing effort for some overlooked museums. Service reductions are coming to the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha commuter bus service. Lower East Side residents are getting a glimpse of what a modern bus system could entail, and the Milwaukee City Clerk is still tweeting, thankfully.

Downtown Transit Center Redevelopment Moving Along, Proposals Received

The long overdue redevelopment of the Downtown Transit Center is moving along. I’ve advocated for this redevelopment before, as the Downtown Transit Center is located on the lakefront, not the center of town, and is used as a bus staging area, not a major transfer point. Most recently, the deadline for proposals past and Milwaukee County announced their were “a handful” of submissions, which was what the County expected given the scale of the project.

What did the submissions include? A high-rise apartment tower, hotel, and mixed public-private uses. What should you think about this? Most importantly, avoid judging a book by its cover. At this point, the financial details of the projects aren’t publicly available, and it’s impossible for an outsider to assess the viability of any of the proposals. It is, however, encouraging that proposals have come back.

The next step in the process will take place in front of the Milwaukee County Transportation, Public Works, and Transit Committee on May 9th, 2012, where the Director of the Department of Transportation (former WisDOT head Frank Busalacchi) is requesting authorization to declare the facility surplus and offer it for sale.

Milwaukee Museum Mile

Five Milwaukee museums, that are too often overlooked, have banded together to create the Milwaukee Museum Mile. The Jewish Museum Milwaukee, Charles Allis Art Museum, Museum of Wisconsin Art at St. John’s On The Lake, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum and North Point Lighthouse at Lake Park all will be part of the marketing effort, which kicks off this weekend. Sunday, May 6th, admission will be free to all of the museums between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Light refreshments and shuttle service will be provided, but if it’s a nice day out I suggest walking between the museums. All of the museums are located either on Prospect Avenue or a few blocks East.

I’m happy to see this collaborative marketing effort, and I hope it succeeds. When many think of museums in Milwaukee they think of the Milwaukee Art Museum, then the Milwaukee Public Museum, maybe Discovery World and the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, and that’s it. Milwaukee has far more than that, and it’s time those institutions band together to draw more attention.

Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha Commuter Bus Service Cuts Coming

Due to the wording in the recent Wisconsin state budget and subsequent cuts in state and federal funding, a 10 to 15% reduction in service is coming to the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha commuter bus service. The route currently links UWM, Milwaukee Intermodal Station, General Mitchell Airport, downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Caledonia, Carthage College, Racine and Kenosha including bus stations and the Metra train station, with several additional stops along the route. The service is scheduled to be reduced from eight to seven trips per weekday.

Under the recently rebid contract, Wisconsin Coach Lines, the only respondent, will continue to operate the service. The line, which is administered by the City of Racine, received $715,000 in state and federal aid last year. The commuter bus service will begin serving UW-Parkside for at least two trips a day as part of the service changes. Parkside is currently not linked to Racine by bus after a route was eliminated in 2006.

In a related change, the line will no longer connect to UWM starting May 20th, and will instead terminate at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

The Racine Transit Commission has scheduled a hearing on the changes on May 16th, at 4:30 P.M. at Racine City Hall.

Better Bus Service Temporarily for Lower East Side

Due to construction along Oakland Avenue between North Avenue and Brady Street, Lower East Side bus riders are getting a taste of what a better version of Milwaukee’s express bus service could be like. The new MetroEXpress Green Line (Bayshore to the Airport) has been temporarily rerouted onto the one-way pair of Farwell and Prospect Avenues while Oakland is closed. The route 30, which operates on the pair is sharing select stops with the Green Line. This presents riders at many stops with two options to get downtown with a bus roughly every five minutes to get downtown. While the increase in service at individual stops is certainly welcome, the express service isn’t much faster than the standard service provided by the 30 route.

The “express” Green Line is the product of the use federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds by Milwaukee County to plug a continually deteriorating Milwaukee County Transit System budget. Stops were removed to make the service comply with CMAQ funding standards, but not enough to make the service significantly faster than the previous Route 15. This was done to avoid a significant reduction in service as the standard service currently operating where much of the new service was deployed was eliminated.

In an ideal world, with a well-funded bus transit system, express service with stops approaching every half-mile would operate on much the same route as standard service with stops every eighth of a mile with both services having frequent headways. This would help draw increased ridership, provide more frequent and faster service to many, and enabled infrastructure investment and transit-oriented development around key stops. While not completely delivering, the detour at the least gives Lower East Side riders a glimpse of what could be.

New Milwaukee City Clerk Still Tweeting

Jim Owczarski is still tweeting, albeit from a different account. The new Milwaukee City Clerk is continuing his live tweeting of City of Milwaukee Common Council meetings at his new account @MKEClerk. I had speculated about this in a prior Eyes on Milwaukee column.

Development News

There are only a few more days to get your team together to purchase the failed Residences on Water – Staybridge Suites hotel development. As previously mentioned the auction will take place May 8th at the Milwaukee Athletic Club.

The law firm, which is currently in the 411 Building on Wisconsin Ave, is exploring other space options in east end of downtown.   At the very least, Quarles & Brady is attempting to get a better deal on their lease. At the most, they are seeking to move their sign to the top of a new office tower. That said, there aren’t any other buildings in the area that have the space available to house the firm. Will the dormant Washington Square Tower proposal, which was dealt a setback when Baker Tilley signed a lease to move to the US Bank Center, be the future home of Quarles? Or could they end up in another new building?  BizTimes has more.

Downtown condo sales rose 122% year-over-year in April according to the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. After all was said and done, 51 units changed hands in April of 2012. Andrew Weiland has more.

The raze order is up on the Sydney Hih building.

Openings and Closings

The Boardroom is now open at 628 N. Water Street. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Boone and Crocket, from the creators of the East Side’s Hotel Foster, hopes to be open by May. The bar will be located at 2151 S. Kinnickinic Avenue. Both spaces are owned by Doug Williams, Mike Kempka, and John Revord.

c.1880 (pronounced “circa 1880) has opened in Walker’s Point. The new restaurant at 1100 S. 1st Street is led by Chef Thomas Hauck.

The Fast Foodie has some new bikes to compliment their food trailer.

Roots is closed temporarily as some spring renovations take place.

The former Sil’s Mini Donut Shop won’t be closed for long. It was unusual that the building’s owner declined to renew their lease, and now we know why. The owners of Chubby Cheesesteaks, located a stone’s throw away, will open The Drive-Thru in the space. Molly Snyder reports they will sell Alterra coffee, hotdogs, sloppy joes, and “the exact same” mini donuts. Sil’s had quite the long line on Sunday, their last day in business at the North Ave location.

Sven’s Downtown has quietly opened. The second location for the cafe is located at 624 N Water Street

Photo of the Week

Plankinton Arcade Ceiling

Plankinton Arcade Ceiling by Wrokic
Categories: Eyes on Milwaukee

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Regional Bus Service Cuts, Transit Center Redevelopment, Museum Mile, and More”

  1. Nicholas says:

    Will chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic push for new transit service?

    The boardroom has decent food, however their service needs quite a bit of help.

  2. Sam says:

    The GreenLine detour put back in the only local stop that was taken out when it stopped being the 15, and the route has only moved about 200-400ft eastward.

    And I’m definitely expecting Sup. Dimitrijevic to push transit as chairwoman- she’s been one of its strongest supporters so far on the board.

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