Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

$2 Million BRT Study Underway

25 detectors along 9-mile Bus Rapid Transit route measure traffic to find best route.

By - Feb 6th, 2017 06:01 pm
TranSmart. Photo by Michael Horne.

TranSmart. Photo by Michael Horne.

Last week, a crew from TranSmart, a Madison company, erected a solar panel on a light pole just a few away from a Luke parking meter station in the 400 block of E. Wells St., leading a passerby to inquire if the two were to be connected.

In fact, no. The solar panel would not be used to power the nearby collector of municipal revenue, but instead was related to planning for the proposed East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

The BRT is to be a “9-mile, regional, modern transit service connecting major employment, education and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s Near West Side, Marquette University, Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center,” according to its website.

The panel was one of 25 placed along the proposed route, and will power devices in a traffic study.

In an e-mail to Urban Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Transit System spokesperson Brendan Conway explained what is going on at these 25 locations along the route:

The traffic study is part of the project development phase of the project which consists of engineering and design as well as an environmental assessment of the project design.

For the traffic analysis, 25 detector units were installed along the BRT corridor to collect current traffic pattern data. The units anonymously detect Bluetooth devices (phones, wireless headphones, vehicle communications, etc.) to determine existing travel patterns from vehicles utilizing the local street system.

In addition, the project team recently completed intersection turning movement counts (which count all vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles as they move through the intersection) using video detection technology.

“The traffic count data, along with the Bluetooth travel pattern data, will be used to assess how the proposed BRT may affect existing traffic conditions and to create a traffic model that analyzes future traffic conditions with and without the proposed BRT service.

$2 Million For More Than Traffic Study

Milwaukee County budgeted $2 million for this phase of the project, which includes all the engineering and design work, the environmental assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, public engagement, etc.

All this money can be used as part of the required local match for federal funds.

“As you might remember, last year was phase one, technically referred to as the feasibility study, and that included numerous public meetings and votes by the Cities of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa and the County Board and we submitted a grant request to the FTA for the project,” Conway notes.

Although the projected route through downtown is on Wisconsin Avenue, the E. Wells Street location where the solar panel was installed last week is being considered as an alternative “if conditions arise in which the preferred route is found not to be feasible,” according to the BRT website.

Timeline Being Finalized

Conway added that the timeline for this year is still being finalized, while data is in the process of being accumulated. This is customary in today’s fast-track design/build projects.

The public will be invited to comment, Conway said:  “We expect to have enough information to kick off some public meetings on the station and lane design in May.”

More information can be found at http://www.eastwestbrt.com/

BRT Renderings

6 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: $2 Million BRT Study Underway”

  1. Sam says:

    It should probably be on Wells for a stretch. It gets pretty tight down Wisconsin from downtown to Marquette.

    However, I’m still a little pissed at Wauwatosa for diverting the potential route off of Wisconsin Ave. and onto Bluemound. Essentially, Milwaukee homeowners must bear the entire burden of the line through construction and operation.

    God help everyone who lives down there when the Brewers are playing. I say build a giant parking lot out in Brookfield and shuttle those folks in for games.

  2. David says:

    Sam…. I don’t believe there will be much construction at all. Just station platforms, intersection improvements and improved lighting / pedestrian amenities. It’ll be a good thing.

  3. Ben says:

    Hopefully they don’t model the BRT after Cleveland, OH. There the stations/stops are in the middle lane, I’m guessing to keep traffic flowing around them, but that unintended consequence has people darting into the street from everywhere to make the bus. I’ve almost hit literally hundreds of pedestrians over the 6 years there, good luck if that’s how they design this thing.

  4. Eric S says:

    There are basically two options for dedicated bus/transit lanes – center-running or curbside. Curbside transit lanes end up being routinely blocked by illegally parked/stopped/standing vehicles as well as legally blocked by right-turning vehicles and therefore are not particularly useful. Center-running lanes are necessary to actually provide a dedicated path for buses (or other transit vehicles).

  5. Sam says:

    David, I’m not against the BRT. Operationally, Bluemound has a lot more traffic on it at all times of the day then Wisconsin Ave. I think it would have made more sense (especially if the plan is to connect downtown to the medical/research campus’) to have the line go down Wisconsin all the way and avoid Bluemound altogether.

    Wauwatosa’s denial of the use of Wisconsin Ave. illustrates that the suburbs (even inner ring ones) don’t want to bear any burden for the sake of regional transit.

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