Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Panel Approves Bus Rapid Transit

BRT line linking Downtown and Tosa moves forward, though some decry "the rush."

By - Jul 13th, 2016 12:48 pm
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Bus Rapid Transit Potential Alignments

Bus Rapid Transit Potential Alignments

Following a marathon hearing, a city committee granted its first approval to Milwaukee County’s bus rapid transit (BRT) proposal, but not without reservations. Before the hearing even began it was clear the meeting would end with more questions than answers.

Public Works Committee chair Mark Borkowski passed the gavel to transit expert and alderman Robert Bauman for the BRT agenda item, he began the hearing by stating “this is a conceptual plan, we have very few details.” The county’s BRT project team was before the committee seeking approval of their preferred route in order to move forward with a federal grant application, but not for specific lane closures.

The county’s team, which includes John Rodgers of the county Department of Transportation, as well as consultants Ashley Booth of HNTB and Dan Meyers of AECOM made their case for the roughly nine-mile project. The twelve-stop route would run from the site of the proposed The Couture tower on the lakefront and west on Wisconsin Ave. to Hawley Rd., and then along Bluemound Rd. before snaking through the Milwaukee County Medical Center to the park-and-ride at Swan Boulevard.

The project, which would be 80 percent federally funded, would cost between $42-to-$48 million depending on the number of dedicated lanes set aside for the system. Substantial ridership gains in the corridor, upwards of 30 percent, are estimated for the project, but Ald. Michael Murphy asked a number of questions about the projections that weren’t able to be answered. The route would run through Murphy and Bauman’s aldermanic districts.

Gains in ridership are expected to come from high frequency of services (every 10 minutes on weekdays, five minutes during rush hours), fewer stops and off-bus ticketing leading to reduced travel time, better stations than traditional bus shelters and improved vehicles that would cost upwards of $1 million each. The corridor, which Meyers called “the spine of the transit system,” would have considerable benefit for its residents: 23 percent of those living within a half-mile of the route lack an automobile in their household, far above the county average, statistics show. Along the route are major employment and job centers including Downtown (81,000 jobs, 25,000 residents), Near West Side (40,000 residents, 30,000 jobs) and Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (16,000 jobs, 30,000 daily visitors).

Public testimony, which included over 20 members of the community, was roughly three-to-one in favor of the project. Neighbors along the western portion of the route expressed concerns over the location of stations, and some residents in the corridor spoke in opposition to BRT.

The project was ultimately approved on a three-to-one vote, with alderman Borkowski voting against the project without any discussion. Committee members Jim BohlNik Kovac and Bauman voted in favor of the project. Alderman Bob Donovan, who remarked earlier in the meeting “it’s been a long time since I’ve rode the bus” was absent for the vote and the remainder of the meeting.

Is The Project Being Rushed?

One comment was repeatedly echoed by aldermen Bauman and Murphy, that the project is being rushed. The county, according to County Executive Chris Abele, is moving forward with the project as a way to compensate for the expected negative impacts of the rebuild of the roughly parallel Interstate 94.

During their final remarks on the matter, Bauman stated “I have concerns not about the merits of bus rapid transit, but how this project has been rolled out in Milwaukee County.” Bauman went on to say, “I think this is being rushed, I think this is being oversold.” Murphy went on to admonish the process in the same fashion, stating “I do think it was rushed,” before noting that the state has yet to allocate any funds to the Interstate 94 rebuild.

Murphy went on to express concern the line might be trouble for businesses in his district:”What if the analysis says you can maintain those 13 minute savings, but you’ll put several businesses out of business?” he asked.

The county might have another timeline in mind for the BRT, regardless of the timing of the Interstate 94 rebuild. While there hasn’t been much discussion about it, the county must compensate for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant expiring that helps support the operation of the Gold Line service in the same corridor. BRT could replace the Gold Line and gain different federal funding to replace that being lost.

Next Steps

Milwaukee County will next seek approval for the project from the full Milwaukee Common Council and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. If approvals are granted, the county will apply on September 2nd for a Small Starts grant from the federal government. If not approved, because of federal application rules, the county would need to wait an additional year to apply. That would certainly explain the rush to approve the plan.

The City of Wauwatosa previously granted their approval for the project on June 21st.

If the federal grant is awarded to the county, the county would begin doing engineering work on the project in 2017 with construction to begin in 2018. Service would begin in 2019.

The Wauwatosa and Milwaukee city councils will need to approve any future road closures, station locations and other infrastructure in their respective cities should the federal grant be awarded.

Route Map

East-West BRT Route

East-West BRT Route

Past Coverage and Press Releases

More about the East-West BRT Line

4 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City Panel Approves Bus Rapid Transit”

  1. Sam says:

    Wauwatosa hardly had to approve it, since it barely runs through their town. How’d that happen? Hmm…

  2. MARY GLASS says:

    July 14, 2016

    City Panel Approves Bus Rapid Transit
    BRT line linking Downtown and Tosa moves forward, though some decry “the rush.”

    To unpack the comments of the July 14, 2016, blog by Jeramey Jannene, Urban Milwaukee, entitled “City Panel Approves Bus Rapid Transit”, the following comments reference a “failure to communicate” and “lack of leadership” in BEST PRACTICES in the city of Milwaukee.

    The problem of “segregation”, “discrimination”, “conflict of interest”, “denial”, “disenfranchisement of groups” – by gender, by race, by perceived social and economic conditions, by districts, by assumed party affiliation, culture, ages and profiling of the citizenry – in our country has too often given rise to a gaping hole of “failure to conduct real public policies that will help HEAL as well as HEAL” the public square.

    The “swelling” is why we have a huge divide in the 2016 national election and the growing and painful shootings that we have in the marketplace daily.

    “Lock-step politics” based on lack of knowledge and tacit assent has the CORE CONSTITUENTS population – largest population in Milwaukee – African American, other People of Color and Work Challenged (re-entry vets, re-entry ex-incarcerated, ex-retirees that can no longer live off a fixed income, the disabled, the homeless and those with graduate degrees but cannot match degree to a degreed position) MIRED in Enduring Concentrated Poverty.

    We see shameless “scratch my back on a project and I scratch yours when it is presented”, never mind the validity – merits, never mind public trust and real vetting and most of all, what did the CORE CONSTITIUENTS SAY.

    I start with PREPAREDNESS. Why did Alderman Mark Borkowski, Chair, feel it was necessary to pass the gavel? Why hadn’t he summoned the many resources that the taxpayers have at his disposal to brief him to a level of comfort in understanding this very important piece of city of Milwaukee agreement. Why was the gavel given to Alderman Bob Bauman? There is an appearance of favoritism, conflict of interest and lack of preparedness.

    Further, according to this article, Bauman stated that he “knew not”. Then, why was this item even voted on by Members of the Public Works Committee (Aldermen Mark Borkowski-District 11, Bob Bauman-District 4, Jim Bohl-District 5, Bob Donovan-District 8, and Nik Novak-District 3. Why did this gateway committee move this item closer to the FULL common council without credible review?

    Why wasn’t there “due diligence” at the Public Works Committee?

    The limited and one-sized sell by John Rodgers (point persons for Brian Dranzik, Milwaukee County Director of Transportation) and the “hired guns” – lead by Lead Consultant Dan Meyers, AECOM and Ashley Booth, HNTB, were “points of extreme privilege” and implies bias.

    Instead of Ashley Booth, why wasn’t Caron Kloser, HNTB, before the PW Committee?

    She is the Lead Consultant of HNTB that is supposed to provide the East/West BRT SAG/Stakeholders Advisory Group and Community Outreach.

    She is also the representative, even though her name was given by John Rodgers as the contact, she “refused” to provide input/outreach to Milwaukee Professionals Association LLC engagements – Lunch & Learn Public Transportation seminars, to share information to the public.

    Where was Ashley Booth, HNTB in June when Caron Kloser refused to participate and said no one else was available?

    Then there is Dan Meyer, Lead Consultant – AECOM, who was a surprise. He confirmed as a speaker for engagement of MPA LLC Public Transportation Seminar I with Architect Richard Kauper – Amazing Architect, President James Macon – Amalgamated Transit Union 998 and Senior Researcher Joe Peterangelo – Public Policy Forum, but cancelled the day before by conveying he had not confirmed. However, I quickly shared his email of confirmation – that stated if he was not available someone from AECOM would be present.

    No one came and Meyers has failed to convey expected behavior courtesy.

    MISSING at PW Committee
    Where was Citizen Participation – Ridership?
    Where was the ATU 998 President? ATU represents those who operate the bus routes and know about the Infrastructure?

    Where were city-Wauwatosa-state hired staff that is around the table of the East/West BRT?

    City – DPW Jeff Poleske, City Engineer, DCD Sam Leichtling and Executive Director Beth Weirick – BID 21.

    Wauwatosa – Mayor Kathy Ehley, Paulette Enders and Jim Archambo.

    WisDOT – government representatives Sheri Schmit, Ian Ritz, Andrew Levy, and Brian Bliesner.

    Why wasn’t there “due diligence” at the Public Works Committee?

    Jannene speaks in this article of the times-over and over that Alderman Bauman and Alderman Michael Murphy released statements of doubt, rush to judgment, over-rated; but they voted FOR It. Bauman and Murphy completed the 3-1 vote (Yes vote – Bauman, Murphy and Alderman Nik Kovac).

    I saw Alderman Murphy at the April Meetings, he heard the PEOPLE downtown Milwaukee and those at the Zoofari Conference Center. I saw Alderman Bauman at the April 12, 2016 meeting downtown, talking with people, he heard what we said that was not IN FAVOR of this East/West BRT Feasibility Study.

    The People voiced the East/West BRT was a waste of time and money, not time-sufficient, did not focus ON major ridership – African American, other People of Color and the Work Challenged population that are densely populated North/South and a diverse pool of jobs/employment that match the majority RIDERSHIP in the North/South Corridor – ALREADY in need, not maybe in the future as the East/West BRT Alternative alleges.

    Mary Glass, Chief Visionary Officer, Milwaukee Professionals Association LLC said, “It is disingenuous and ‘very dangerous’ Alderman Bob Bauman-District 4 and Alderman Michael Murphy-District 10, to “scream NO fire” in the theater while THEY light the fire”. And, “Alderman Bob Donovan, District 8, we expect you and all the 15-members of the Common Council to stand tall, speak out and in-person to VOTE AGAINST or VOTE FOR, but vote. Not conspicuously be missing. That is a disingenuous behavior not seen as BEST PRACTICE. It is different if you announce a WALK OUT of protest.

    Is The Project Being Rushed?
    Absolutely. And, the elected officials/Charter Officer – city, county, regional and state – bear the blame of “DERELICTION OF DUTY”.

    Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and team is playing bogus cards for movement. He is on the wrong side of creating the appropriate first BRT for Milwaukee County and therefore, further injuring the families in Milwaukee and advancing lack of SAFETY in high un- and under-employed neighborhoods of Milwaukee. We much give options of EMPLOYMENT – gainful employment – to the densely populated areas of Milwaukee and Milwaukee county mired in Enduring Concentrated Poverty and Co-Dependent on Public Transportation.

    This is a time to forge a strong agenda to beef-up and strengthen a Public Transportation Infrastructure in desperate need of real state-of-the-art leadership for Ridership reform that connects outline areas to Milwaukee.

    President Barack Obama has signed the legislation and OK’d Small Starts, TIGER, CMAQ and other federal funding to get localities moving in 21st Century Mobility. Stop the dump stuff.

    The fly-by-night, time frame from February, 2016 to August, 2016, with the first Introduction to the public on April, 12 & 14, 2016 just disrespectful – something so special introduced last minute in a “DONE-DEAL” fashion speaks volumes.

    The two two-hour presentations at the end of the day that was overwhelminglyTHUMBS DOWN by the citizenry. The May 18, 2016 meeting was an Open Meeting that was weighted with the “Inside Gang” – paid consultants, hired staff, fellow cronies, funding partners, lobbyists, Marquette, ACLU, METOGO, SEWRPC and others of the SAG/Stakeholders Advisory Group. There were very, very few People/end-user, taxpayer, ridership in participation on May 18, 2016.

    The 29 SAG members and the list given by County Executive are questionable, expecially when some are “protest group”, some if not most do not have a CLUE of what is going on OR why they were asked by Milwaukee County to participate (lock-step democracy); and, some who participated in the recent Class-Action suit.

    Brian Dranzik is a Commissioner of SEWRPC/Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. That appears to have some form of Conflict of Interest per MPA LLC point of view in some reporting.

    Whereas I see the leadership of Ken Yunker, Executive Director, SEWRPC, as meaningful and MPA LLC continues to participate in the 2050 design, we also feel that the Commissioners need to be MORE open and engaging in the development of the city of Milwaukee and the growth changes of African American, other People of Color and Work Challenged in the southeastern Wisconsin region.

    Perhaps Milwaukee County Supervisors will show strength in DUE DILIGENCE HERE.

    On August 4, 2016, MPA LLC Public Transportation LUNCH & LEARN w/Stewart McKenzie, Federal Transit Administration, Region 5 and panelists will address questions of citizen participation, funding types – Small Starts, TIGER, CMAQ, East/West BRT – cost, ridership, hot spots, employment projections, North/South BRT Alternative, deceptive data of ridership and employment; and, the REAL response of the citizenry.
    Grace Center, 250 E. Juneau Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53203, 12 noon – 2 pm, $25.00 person.

    It will also talk about WHY the first BRT/Bus Rapid Transit Alternative should be on the NORTH/SOUTH corridor

    More details:

  3. mbradleyc says:

    Hokey smokes! A simple “hell no” would have been sufficient. At least I think that’s your point Mary Glass. I sure didn’t read all that.

    Anyway, BRT is good for Milwaukee. Along with the streetcar we are in for some decent public transportation options in a very short time. Good deal!

  4. Jake says:

    Tosa was afraid of Aldi, because of the people it would bring in.

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