MCTS One Of The Best In The U.S.
Report ranks county transit system 13th in providing access to jobs. County considers growth options.
When it comes to getting passengers to and from their workplace expeditiously, the Milwaukee County Transit System received high marks in a recent academic study.
While the No. 13 ranking has been celebrated within the walls of the transit system’s offices — and each of its buses — MCTS spokesman Brendan Conway said the organization is not resting on its laurels.
Researchers with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies released a report this spring, “Access Across America,” and it delved into a range of mass transit issues, including efficiency.
Of 49 major urban areas, Milwaukee received the higher-end ranking, in large part because of the number of jobs MCTS can get passengers to in a period of time.
Many of the dozen cities outpacing Milwaukee in job accessibility via transportation are to be expected because of the massive investments their leaders have placed in infrastructure. The nation’s three largest cities, for instance, are in the very top of the pack.
But Milwaukee, in UMN’s study, did outpace a number of cities with larger populations, including Austin, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Nashville, Phoenix and San Diego.
The outsized recognition jumping out of the academic report is music to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s ears. In a statement, he hinted he would work within his authority and double down on transportation investment.
“The report confirms what many of us have known for years: Access to transit in Milwaukee County is central to economic development,” Abele said in the statement.
He added, “That’s why, for the past six years, I’ve prioritized investments in our transit system and proposed a new open source of dedicating funding. Every day, MCTS gets thousands of people to and from work across Milwaukee County, and we’re looking to improve that service every day with new and better technology.”
One of the more publicized levers MCTS has pulled in improving service has been the exploration of the so-called Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT. The planned nine-mile route takes a regional approach toward getting passengers to and from their desired destination.
Conway said BRT carries a number of hoped-for objectives, including a reduction in traffic congestion and, in keeping with Abele’s statement, putting another spark toward igniting additional economic growth efforts.
While BRT has received the lion’s share of attention, Conway said the transit system is exploring other methods of improving service.
“We are currently in the early stages of a system redesign review,” he said in an email. “The idea is based on successful redesigns of others’ transit systems have been doing across the country. It basically breaks down to adding more routes with more frequent service.”
By improving and enhancing what MCTS currently offers, Conway said he believes ridership will increase through a domino-like chain reaction.
“When you add more service, you attract more riders,” he said. “And when you add more express service, you attract even more riders. Our review is in the early stages, and as it moves forward, it will go through plenty of public comment and outreach.”
Conway described the system redesign as “an exciting possibility” for MCTS. If comparables to other transit systems prove true, he said components within the redesign should be implemented without any additional cost.
While the full system redesign review is still off on the horizon, BRT is at the forefront of MCTS officials’ eyes.
Feedback on the BRT project can be offered up online at eastwestbrt.com.