Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Streetcar Opens to Public

"This is your assignment: ride the streetcar," says Mayor Barrett.

By - Nov 2nd, 2018 01:31 pm
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Ribbon cutting for The Hop. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Ribbon cutting for The Hop. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“The purpose of this is to bring people and places together,” said Mayor Tom Barrett at an hour-long ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon for The Hop streetcar system.

The mayor was joined at the ceremony by Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Alderman Robert Bauman, Transdev CEO Thierry Mallet, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino CEO Rodney Ferguson and Milwaukee Downtown CEO Beth Weirick.

Barrett, in a speech thanking all of the city employees and contractors involved in the system’s creation, told the audience “this is not your grandparents’ streetcar.”

A large crowd had lined up to ride the vehicles before the ribbon, laden with actual hops plants, was cut.

The system’s 2.1-mile-long first phase connects the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with the Historic Third Ward, East Town and Lower East Side. The first phase has a budgeted cost of $99.24 million. According to a recent report, the project is both on time and on budget.

Project construction funding came from a federal grant dating back to 1991 ($54.9 million) and tax-incremental financing districts.

The city will spend approximately $3.5 million annually to operate the system. The approved project plan includes funding coming from fares, sponsorships, grants and the city’s parking fund. Potawatomi Hotel & Casino agreed last year to a 12-year, $10 million sponsorship agreement.

Rides will be free for at least the first year due to the Potawatomi sponsorship and a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant from the federal government.

Federal Transit Administration regional director Kelley Brookins was on hand for the system’s launch. The FTA, and former President Barack Obama, drew praise for their support of the project,

The system was built by infrastructure contractor Kiewet. Vehicles were manufactured in Pennsylvania by Brookville Equipment Corp. The city has hired French firm Transdev to operate the system. Milwaukee-based 2-Story Marketing was hired to market the system and manage communications. HNTB provided design and engineering services on the system’s design.

An extension along E. Michigan St. and E. Clybourn St. to the lakefront is scheduled to open in 2020. The two phases, approved in late 2014, together have a total budgeted cost of $128.1 million. The second phase received a positive news bump Friday morning when news broke that The Couture, which the streetcar will run through the base of, had secured financing.

The Black Panthers made their presence felt in the crowd with chants of “no justice, no peace,” led by King Rick. Barrett paused his speech to allow the group to “exercise their first amendment rights.”

A number of high-ranking city officials could be found in the crowd at the event. Among them were council members Milele A. Coggs, Ashanti Hamilton, Nik Kovac, Russell W. Stamper, II, Chantia Lewis, Michael Murphy and former council member Jim Bohl. The mayor’s former chief of staff Patrick Curley was there, as well as the current chief of staff Paul Vornholt. State representative Fred Kessler was there, as well as state senator Chris Larson. Police chief Alfonso Morales and sheriff-elect Earnell Lucas were seen talking in the crowd.

For more on the system’s history, read our extensive past coverage linked below, or our recent article “11 Things to Know Before You Ride The Hop.”

The system does not have a posted schedule, but one is coming in two weeks according to the streetcar management team. Real-time data is expected in December.

Service will be provided Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. until midnight, Saturday from 7 a.m. until midnight and Sunday from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.

The opening celebration, dubbed the “Grand Hop-ening,” runs through Sunday. More information is available on The Hop website.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Opens to Public”

  1. HamBam says:

    I wasn’t able to make it to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but I rode it on Friday night. There was lots of interest and discussion about the streetcar, and I was pleased to see so many folks out to try the system out.

    Looking forward to riding it again soon! Thanks for the coverage, UM.

  2. Thomas Martinsen says:

    The party at Taylor’s on Jefferson Street for the HOP on Friday afternoon/evening was delightful. Hundreds of positive people packed that place with joy and laughter. Had they attended that event, perennial naysayers the likes of Alderman Bob Donovan would likely have been more comfortable in the basement bathroom than in the loud and festive upstairs bar. There was just too much fun upstairs for naysayers to handle.

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