Graham Kilmer

Bus Rapid Transit Expected by 2021

9-mile line, $54 million project by Milwaukee County mostly funded by federal grant.

By - Jul 12th, 2019 11:28 am
BRT Rendering. Rendering from of MCTS.

BRT Rendering. Rendering from of MCTS.

A nine-mile-long, bus rapid transit (BRT) line will likely be up and running in Milwaukee County by 2021.

Planners expect to finish design and engineering for the line by late fall to early winter of this year on the $54 million project. Construction is projected to begin in Spring 2020.

The line will run east to west from downtown Milwaukee along Wisconsin Ave. out to Wauwatosa, then along Bluemound Rd., eventually turning north at 95th St. and then west again once it connects with Watertown Plank Rd., where it will have a connection at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center. More than 50 percent of the line will have a dedicated lane just for the BRT vehicles.

It is expected that the project will be financed mostly through a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The project was included in the federal budget signed in March and has been assigned a project consultant by the FTA.

If the grant is awarded it will cover roughly 80 percent of the $54 million price tag, according to Dan Meyersa senior transit planner with AECOM, an American multinational engineering firm that is handling the project, along with HNTB. The other 20 percent of the costs will be covered by the county. That 20 percent is roughly equivalent to the cost of purchasing the 11 new buses for the line, which will be battery electric buses. So, figuring that the county already has to budget for bus replacements, “It’s almost a net zero cost to get all these enhancements,” said Ashley Booth, a transit consultant with HNTB, at a meeting of the county board’s committee on Transportation, Public Works and Transit Wednesday.

The cost to operate the line is equivalent to roughly 1 percent of MCTS’ annual budget. Meyers said, though, that the line should add efficiency to the entire system. The grant, if realized, will also supply funds for off-board fare boxes at bus stops.

The idea behind BRT is a high frequency line that provides shorter travel times and has connections to a number of the county’s heavily used bus lines. This sort of high frequency service is expected to induce gains in ridership. The corridor the BRT line will serve has a population of more than 69,000, many of whom need public transit: an estimated 21 percent of the households don’t own a car, 37 percent are minority and 23 percent live below the poverty level.

BRT is being implemented by cities all over the United States, and Milwaukee County Transit System officials have said Milwaukee is falling behind in this regard. “This project is a great opportunity to catch up to our peers,” Booth said.

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4 thoughts on “Transportation: Bus Rapid Transit Expected by 2021”

  1. Patricia DeFrain says:

    Thanks for the update. I think the line runs to Wauwatosa, not West Allis…. “The line will run east to west from downtown Milwaukee along Wisconsin Ave. out to West Allis, then along Bluemound Rd.”

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Patricia Thanks. Fixed.

  3. Patricia DeFrain says:

    That was quick! Thanks.

  4. jlf6512 says:

    Wouldn’t the design and engineering be done in late fall of 2019 to early winter of 2020 (not 2020 and 2021)? I would imagine this needs to be done before construction which is set to begin in Spring 2020.

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