Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Presents First Streetcar

Streetcar arrives and runs on city streets for the first time in 60 years.

By - Mar 26th, 2018 04:17 pm
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Mayor Tom Barrett examines the first vehicle for The Hop. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett examines the first vehicle for The Hop. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Streetcar is on time and on budget.

That was the pronouncement from a smiling Mayor Tom Barrett as he watched the delivery of the first of five vehicles for the city’s new, $128 million streetcar system. The delivery marks a major milestone for the long-debated project, now known as The Hop presented by Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, that is scheduled to begin operating later this year.

Barrett and a number of city officials, media members and interested citizens stood at the intersection of W. St. Paul Ave. and N. 4th St. as a crew from Silk Road Transport and vehicle manufacturer Brookville Equipment Corp. slid the streetcar off an oversized semi-trailer and onto the city’s newly installed streetcar tracks. Using the vehicle’s battery, it was driven onto the tracks in the middle of W. St. Paul Ave., marking the first time since March 1958 that a streetcar has operated on a city street. From there, the crew guided the vehicle a few short blocks west to the end of the line at the newly-constructed Operations and Maintenence Facility underneath Interstate 794.

The delivery of the vehicle, which left Pennsylvania Friday afternoon, also marks the first time the public has been able to see the system’s final branding. The vehicles, which weigh 40 tons and are 66-feet long, have been painted a mix of black, white, gold and blue. The cars are expected to last 30 years.

It will be weeks before the public sees the vehicle operating on city streets again, and months before they can take a ride. A crew from the city, Brookville Equipment Corp. and contracted-operator Transdev will complete final assembly and testing on the vehicle inside the maintenance facility before they begin testing the vehicle on city streets in mid-to-late April. In the meantime, streetcar construction manager Kiewit Infrastructure continues to build out the route, with the vehicles expected to operate over the entirety of the system’s initial line sometime in June.

Before the public can ride The Hop, Transdev needs to hire operators, technicians and other system employees, and complete a federally-mandated 1,000 kilometers of testing throughout the route.

The system is expected to begin operating in late 2018. The lakefront line expansion is scheduled to begin service in late 2019. Rides for the first year will be covered by Potawatomi as part of the casino’s $10-million, 12-year sponsorship deal.

Project proponent Alderman Robert Bauman told the large group of media members in attendance that the city anticipates receiving a vehicle roughly every month until all five have been delivered. Barrett said that he looks forward to the final product winning over many project opponents.

The delivery, which attracted a helicopter from TMJ4 following the vehicle as it made its way from Beloit to Milwaukee via Interstate 43, drew over 100 attendees, including Milwaukee County Supervisor Jason Haas.

Pennsylvania-based Brookville has supplied streetcars for a number of other streetcar systems including the new lines in Detroit, Dallas and Oklahoma City, as well as expansions in Portland and Seattle.

A public unveiling of the vehicle, cleaned up and ready for testing on city streets, is being organized for April. Notable missing parts of the vehicle today are the pantograph, which connects the vehicle to the overhead wire system and a “skirt,” which covers the lowest level of the vehicle.

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More about the Milwaukee Streetcar

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

39 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City Presents First Streetcar”

  1. Ni ce to seeeveryone interested in riding the Milwaukee Streetcar lined up at its door!

  2. WashCoRepub says:

    LOLOLOL ^^ I was trying to think up a good caption for that Barrett photo, but I definitely can’t top that.

    Congratulations, Milwaukee. That’s a really nice…. errrrr… oh heck. Maybe they can throw some Christmas lights on it, and it’ll look neat running around in its little circle all lit up. At least we’ll get something for our $128 million.

  3. PMD says:

    The guy in hillbilly land insulting the state’s economic engine never gets old. Washington County, the place sane people can’t wait to leave for civilization.

  4. Terry says:

    If it moves it is money much better spent than the 4.5 Billion of our tax dollars career politician Scott Walker pissed away on the FoxCON boondoggle.

  5. Joe says:

    Great pictures and story. Far superior to MJS.

  6. Joe says:

    Let it go Johnson and Wash – you too can ride it soon but only if you’re good. Let the hate for Milwaukee go and you’ll feel much better.

  7. Steven Runke says:

    Milwaukee proved again to only be concerned about how looks, and not concerned about it’s people. Is there going to be a trolly car in the inner city? I highly doubt it. Milwaukee has been ranked number 10 in city’s with the most violant crime. That should be Milwaukee’s number one concern, after all this isn’t the love train for all to come on board.

  8. Steven Runke says:

    Why leave a comment, it seems like if your not for the street car your comments will not be printed.

  9. Gary says:

    I thought they were gonna go with the beer barrel design?

  10. WashCoRepub says:

    3: Actually, the latest sampling period showed a healthy growth rate in the WOW + Dodge counties. Milwaukee Co. saw net negative population growth, so no.

    We’re optimistic this will increase our tax base, finally allowing us to gain some indoor plumbing and more public spittoons out here in hillbilly land.

  11. mbradleyc says:

    Suburban cowards will never be downtown long enough to ride it anyway. They certainly won’t dare go to Brownsville. Irrelevant to this story. Go Milwaukee!

  12. mbradleyc says:

    Sorry, I meant Bronzeville. You really need an edit function here.

  13. PMD says:

    Five old white people moved to West Bend. Oh boy! A record year.

  14. PMD says:

    I’m sure WashCoRepub won’t reply because he never actually engages anyone in a discussion here, and it’s hard to know why he even bothers posting here. You’re a Republican and proud of it, so at least your posts praising everything Walker and Republicans do make sense. But other than those posts, all you do is bash Milwaukee. That I really do not understand, for many reasons. Washington County is not exactly known for being the most desirous place in the state. I work with people from West Bend and other parts of your county, and they could not wait to leave. But people take pride in where they are from, so love where you live, no big deal. But as Milwaukee goes, so goes the state. Look at the tourism the city generates. Look at how important it is to not just the region but the entire state. Why would you root against Milwaukee? Why would you want Milwaukee to fail? Just because of partisan politics. That is so petty and foolish. I don’t want Washington County to have a debilitating opioid crisis just because it’s one of the most conservative regions of the state. I don’t want you guys to fail. The anti-Milwaukee (and Madison) rhetoric from the GOP is so self-defeating. Those two cities are the future. Everyone should want them to do well for the benefit of the state they call home. Your constant negativity about everything urban says a lot about your character. If you can’t allow yourself to hope Milwaukee succeeds, at least focus on the problems in your own backyard. Washington County is not a utopia. Start WashingtonCountyIssues.com or something.

    Side note: I took my 4-year-old to the Washington County Fair last summer. We had a great time.

  15. tom says:

    WashCoRepub is a fine example of what happens when old white guys move there. They get bored, sit on their sofas and listen to Belling and the other right wing nut jobs on AM radio. Before you know it they’ve become narrow minded ideologues, with distrust for government and everyone who doesn’t look and sound like them. SAD!

  16. Jerry says:

    Can’t wait to ride it!

  17. AB says:

    Yea, Milwaukee! Finally!

  18. Joe says:

    Well said PMD!

  19. Terry says:

    Agreed Joe, well said PMD! And just so you know, the true north and truly rural region of Wisconsin, Bayfield County has your back all the way!!

  20. Ok…Jeramey…I gotta ask. The street car was built in Pennsylvania but came to Milwaukee via Beloit? Did they miss the right hand turn once they cleared Lake Michigan? Or to stay on budget did we have to avoid the Illinois toll road? Or as a fixed track conveyance it doesn’t have GPS?

  21. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Ed Heinzelman – I wondered the same thing (also why it takes so many days). The permitting process is done by each state, and it sounds like they help determine a route in each state. They’re also restricted to day light hours and other strictions.

    They went around Chicago to avoid issues there, and also were instructed to not use the interstate for around 60 miles near the WI state border.

  22. Kayna says:

    Interesting color choice…

  23. MKMKE says:

    Wonderful addition to a wonderful city!

  24. Jacob Pickard says:

    As WASH rethug proves the WOW counties survive as the white supremacist white flight leeches that they are. Most of their economic wealth comes from Milwaukee.

    If it wasn’t for their Racist Walker and the other bigots he supports the suburbs would have to play fair, but like a Tick his racist arse it kept full off tge hard work and econmic wealth of Milwaukee.

  25. dragonkat says:

    proves the WOW counties survive as the white supremacist white flight leeches that they are. nearly all their economic wealth comes from Milwaukee, Washington County leads in this, it’s the 9th poorest county in the state, it generates no tourism dollars, has no major employers, has one of the most non/welcoming and racist county governments in the state and is well known has a haven of white supremacist!

    if Milwaukee had a “real mayor ” I’ve withhold tax payments to the state until WOW counties clean-up their act!

  26. dragonkat says:

    yes, WashCoRepub loves to talk about Milwaukee, but never about talk about Washington County or it’s even poorer narabor Dodge County ( 5th poorest county in WI )

  27. WashCo doesn’t get it… That’s just too bad. Maybe someone needs to explain to him that nearly as many people live in downtown Milwaukee alone now as all the folks living in the City of West Bend. If the folks outside the city have a problem with improving transit here, then stay the hell away. We will not miss you.

    As far as ridership… Detroit is doing a million passengers a year on their streetcar, as is Washington, DC. And Kansas City, with 2/3rds of Milwaukee’s population, half the number of downtown residents, and a much less useful route without a Summerfest on the line, did two million passengers their first year. For comparison, the Amtrak Hiawatha to Chicago, which even rail-hater Walker supports, did 890,000 passengers last year on an 89-mile route. Care to compare that in number of passengers per mile to the 2.3-mile Kansas City Streetcar?

  28. Kayna says:

    I don’t know about that Mr. Conductor. I’ve been surfing the web trying to figure out what the population of “Downtown” is and I’m getting a variety of answers. I’d be more interested in how many of the people Downtown live there vs work there. I live there (the rent is expensive, and the property taxes are very high). I have a hunch that most of the Downtown traffic isn’t from the actual residents. It also doesn’t really make sense to me why anyone with a family would want to live there. It’s not really safe, tons of broken glass, low priority for police presence…there’s always something sketchy going on. When the streetcar project first came up my initial thought was “why not just walk?” As the years have passed, I’ve figured out why: because it’s scary out there (mainly after dark). Bad things happen. Most of it isn’t reported. I wonder how many of the condo/home owners Downtown also work Downtown. Will this streetcar be used more by residents or non-residents? Just brainstorming…I’m not 100% sold on the streetcar, but I’m trying to like it. However, once the warm weather kicks in, keep in mind that we’ll have more people on foot and on bicycles, pedal taverns, horse carriages and constant lifting of the bridges for boats; and that’s along with the regular stops for freight trains and the Amtrak; lest we forget the usual right-lane blockers of trucks, buses, parking checkers, the jerk who puts on his hazards and double parks during busy hours and the beloved orange barrels (there will always be a section of road surrounded by orange barrels…I’ve accepted them as neighbors). Those streets are going to be extra busy. I’m really trying to get into the excitement of the streetcar, but logic is making it very difficult for me. Either way, it’s happening, so I hope I change my mind.

  29. PMD says:

    I find that hard to believe Kayna. If downtown is as dangerous as you claim it is, and if the true danger isn’t being reported (for some reason), why aren’t downtown residents and businesses up in arms? Why aren’t they joining together to raise awareness about downtown crime and forcing the police to do something? I could share my own anecdotes, which differ from yours, but I think the more revealing evidence is the lack of a coordinated public outcry from residents and businesses. I don’t think they’d sit around doing nothing if downtown was really this shady, violent, dangerous place.

  30. Joe says:

    Kayna – you’re way off on your description of downtown. It is safe and clean. I’m down there on a daily basis. I feel perfectly safe down there- even during the scary dark time.

  31. Kayna says:

    Well, I go to as many meetings as I can about it. How “up in arms” can you be when MPD is short-staffed and needs to prioritize life and living? I’ve complained for years that we need more cops but that’s impossible to change. I realize that by comparison, Downtown is much safer than other areas of Milwaukee. However, when I have armed robberies in my underground garage at my condo with every car is broken into 3 times in a single month, would you call that safe? What about the mobile drug mobiles? Have you not been held up at gunpoint or been carjacked? You’re lucky. I would love to walk my dog down a block where I didn’t have to carry her over the broken glass. It may seem clean, but that’s because the wind blows most of the litter into the river. Certain areas of Downtown are official targets for crime. I’ve been in the neighborhood for 20 years now and some of these things I learned the hard way. Going there and living there are different things. Plus I consider my block to be one of the safest blocks in Milwaukee. I stand by the strict standard that I will not walk alone at night ever. I leave nothing in my car. If things seem sketch, I cross the street. It would take some major creativity to make this up. The police reports are made (I should have clarified in my earlier post that the lack of reporting was in reference to media), but it’s not a matter of life and living and therefore it is lower on the priority list. I learned these details at the community meetings. Go ahead and visit MPD Records and get the info I’m referring to. Research it. Why would I make it up? And please don’t ask me why I won’t just move away if it’s so bad…the answer is having to take care of my mother. I believe very strongly that Milwaukee can be better, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s all flowers and fun Downtown. It just isn’t true; but as long as I’m around I’ll do what I can to help sweep up the glass and pick up 3 pieces of litter with every bag I use to clean up after my dog.

  32. PMD says:

    What does official target for crime mean? I realize that crimes occur downtown, but that does not mean downtown is a dangerous, crime-infested urban nightmare. You even acknowledge that it’s safer than many other parts of the city. A few anecdotes does not prove that downtown is dangerous. I had a gun pointed at me once. On the east side, near Shank Hall. Doesn’t mean the east side is dangerous. You sound like you’re living in fear and that’s a shame. Maybe you and your mother should move if it’s that terrible.

  33. Kliff says:

    No, no, no. This is just one of hundreds of views I have about the neighborhood. I love Milwaukee and I want it to get better. I believe in this place. I have tons of ideas and I do what I can. I would love for my mom to live in a safer place, but moms do what they want. She contributes to the City in beautiful ways for children with special needs. Plus we both hate the suburbs. I love my neighborhood, but it’s still Milwaukee. Street smarts come in handy. My point is that living here and working here are very different, and I would like to know the population of residents vs employees…the stats on the turnover of residents would also be interesting. I digress.

  34. Kliff says:

    Used my man’s computer so now I’m “Kliff.” Whoopsie.

  35. TransitRider says:

    Kayna, FWIW in June, 2016 (in the RFP for the 4th & Wisconsin parking lot) the City said “downtown Milwaukee now has 26,000 residents, 83,000 daily workers and over 6 million annual visitors.” The RFP apparently got its data from this website:

    http://www.milwaukeedowntown.com/doing-business

  36. Kayna says:

    I saw that website and those numbers when trying to find the data, but other sites had different numbers. I’m interested in learning about the turnover of residents as well. It doesn’t seem like people stay in one spot for long here.

  37. Kayna says:

    There was also the time last year that I was physically attacked by a crackhead at the Mobile on 2nd St. (I can be PC and instead refer to the man as one with intellectual disabilities with a substance abuse problem, just in case the word crackhead is offensive to those who like to find offensive reactions in everything). Anyways, it was a beautiful day and suddenly this man attacked me. Luckily, I have a part-time job training horses (been doing it my entire life), so I could handle this. If any weapons were involved, I would have thrown my key, purse and run into the gas station (life is more important than stuff). I grabbed the windshield wiper cleaner and went at the man the same way I would with an aggressive horse. No, I didn’t hit him, but I scared him away. Two second later a carful of men drove up and asked if he hurt me. I said no, to which they responded “Let’s go get him!” They drove off to find him. NOTHING about any of the situation was good. I would have preferred that the men in the car had left the situation alone, but there was nothing I could do. I let the owner of the gas station know what had happened. He’s a nice man and I’ve known him for years. He said it’s upsetting because there isn’t much that can be done. The police tread with such caution to avoid the wrong approach to anyone who shows signs of mental illness. I assume that’s in response to what happened in Red Arrow Park. The Downtown area IS safer than other parts of Milwaukee, but it is still Milwaukee. I stand by my premise that living here and working here are very different situations. I also stand strong that I will always do what I can to help Milwaukee become a better, safer place for all. What I’ve said in my former posts are small issues in comparison to other problems we have throughout the City. I want to do what I can to help and I haven’t reached the point of giving up, and I truly hope I will never reach that point. I sincerely love my community, my family, my home: Milwaukee.

  38. Tim says:

    Kayna, trouble seems to follow you if your stories are to be believed.

    Maybe it’s time to retire to a quiet country house away from it all and write some bestselling fiction. Watch out for those meth and opioid addicts…

  39. Kayna says:

    Meh. Believe what you want. I think it’s just part of living in Milwaukee. Most people learn this the hard way.

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