Graham Kilmer

Public Favors Transit System’s Redesign

Plan means faster, more frequent buses, slightly fewer stops in Milwaukee County.

By - Mar 11th, 2019 10:34 am
Bus. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

Bus. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

The results are in: The public wants faster, more frequent busing in Milwaukee County.

These results come from a public outreach initiative launched by the Milwaukee County Transit System as part of their planning efforts for a redesigned bus system called MCTS NEXT. The new system would place premium on bus frequency. And planners say it improves accessibility to different parts of the county and reduces travel times.

But to do this, the system will eliminate a number of stops and routes that planners have found to be redundant or underused. A redesign won’t add new service on top of the existing bus network, nor will it come with a new fleet of buses. The plan is budget neutral, so it fits within the existing budgeting of the transit system.

Feedback regarding the redesign saw the majority of responses in favor of a high-frequency system, with 75 percent indicating support for one or both high-frequency options laid out by MCTS. “People want the bus to come more often,” said Tom Winter, director of schedule and planning, as customer surveys filled out in buses over the years have also shown.

The two high-frequency options presented were a system that was 60 percent high frequency and one that was 80 percent high frequency. The 60 percent system maintained 97 percent of riders existing service and the 80 percent option maintained 95 percent of current service.

The more popular 60 percent option also has 15 local routes and eight daytime routes, which are lines that run between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm.

The changes in frequency will mean that some routes are removed from service. So right now some people can reach a bus stop on their block, but they may be walking one to three blocks further to catch a bus if the redesign goes forward.

According to Jeff Sponcia, manager for planning with MCTS, the 60 percent frequency plan will “improve access for almost 200,000 residents of our county” who now live within that proposed high-frequency network, increasing access to jobs around the county by 30 percent.

If the county board gives the heads up to a complete redesign of the transit system, MCTS will need to budget for at least a year of groundwork including new signage, retraining drivers on new routes and also comprehensive public outreach, Winter said. “Their route today might be a different number, might be a different level of service.”

James Macon, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, shared his concerns about MCTS’ ability to retrain the the bus operators. “I got people right now that don’t even know the routes that been in the system for the past 10 years.”

But for now, all plans are tentative. MCTS is still developing a final comprehensive plan for the system and implementation, which it will present to the board for approval.

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Categories: Transportation

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