Jeramey Jannene

July Was The Hop’s Best Month Yet

Events along the route, led by Bastille Days, boost ridership numbers to over 3,300 daily rides.

By - Aug 9th, 2019 05:34 pm
The Hop, Milwaukee's streetcar system, on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar system, on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Hop recorded its highest ridership month in July.

Milwaukee’s streetcar starter system provided 103,625 rides last month, an average of 3,343 per day. The daily average eclipses the previous high of 2,459 daily rides in November 2018, the month the system opened.

Ridership benefited from two marquee festivals, Summerfest and Bastille Days, as well as warm weather. The system, which bisected the latter festival on E. Kilbourn Ave., recorded a daily average of 3,821 rides from June Summerfest’s start on 26th to the end of Bastille Days on July 14th. The system recorded its highest single-day ridership ever on July 13th with 8,968 rides.

Ridership is tabulated by automatic passenger counters embedded in the doors of the vehicles. That system failed in at least one of the vehicles during February, when ridership was already sagging as downtown activity dropped off with the colder-than-normal winter. Daily ridership data is available on the system website.

The 2.1-mile system is currently free to ride as a result of a three-year federal operating grant and a $10 million, 12-year sponsorship agreement with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. The city estimated 1,800 daily rides as part of the system’s 2011 environmental impact statement.

The ridership patterns in Milwaukee are mirroring ridership on other new systems where warm weather and marquee events draw large crowds while ridership dips as the temperature drops.

In Kansas City, the most successful new system, ridership has far exceeded initial projections with 5,806 rides per day on the free system since its 2016 launch. In Cincinnati, where a new mayor was elected and attempted to shut down the system, ridership has lagged estimates and is in decline. The Cincinnati line is averaging just over 2,000 rides per day.

In Detroit, the Q-Line is seeing ridership growth after seeing a sharp drop when free rides ended.

Milwaukee officials recently announced their intent to keep the system free through 2020. Officials intend to make up the lost fare revenue, anticipated to represent no more than 20 percent of the system’s $4.3 million operating budget, with additional sponsorship revenue from a kiosk system. The announcement confirmed an earlier Urban Milwaukee report that no farebox equipment had been ordered.

A three-mile expansion plan remains on hold by the Milwaukee Common Council. A previously approved expansion to the lakefront, scheduled to open in 2020, faces uncertainty now that The Couture apartment tower, through which it was supposed to run, has not broken ground.

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