Graham Kilmer

MCTS Plans to Cut 16 Bus Routes

Most riders wouldn't be affected by cuts, driven by projected $5.9 million budget deficit.

By - Aug 13th, 2019 03:44 pm
Milwaukee County Transit System bus. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee County Transit System bus. Photo by Dave Reid.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is planning to cut 16 routes in 2020.

For months now transit officials have been warning that the system faces a $5.9 million budget deficit for 2019. Unless the fiscal reality changes, MCTS says the following route cuts and service changes will likely occur in 2020: 

  • 6 Freeway Flyer routes – 40, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49
  • 4 UBUS Routes – 40U, 42U, 44U, 49U
  • 5 Shuttles – 17, 137, 219, 223, 276
  • Route 52 Clement – 15th Avenue

In addition, two lines would be shortened: Route 55 along Layton Ave. would no longer have service west of S.76th St. and Route 80 along 6th St. would no longer have service south of MATC South Campus.

MCTS said that 97 percent of the system’s riders will not be affected by these changes.

MCTS also said there could be changes or cancellation of seasonal services like buses to Miller Park, shuttles and freeway flyers for Summerfest and ethnic festivals and shuttles to the State Fair.

By the end of this month, Route 57, which runs into Waukesha County will already be shuttered. The route is called a ‘job line’ because it takes residents to jobs across the county line. It was funded by a legal settlement after the American Civil Liberties Union, Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) and the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin sued the state arguing there was disregard for disadvantaged residents in planning for the Zoo Interchange. The funding from that settlement ran out last year, and the county board only managed to scrape together enough funding for eight months of service in 2019.

In its statement Tuesday, MCTS included language supporting the county’s ‘Fair Deal’ initiative. It noted that funding for transit services has stagnated while costs have risen due to annual inflation. This is the general impetus for the ‘Fair Deal’. Each year, the sales and income tax revenue flowing from Milwaukee County to the state grows greater and yet the state’s “shared revenue” formula to send back some of this money to local governments has declined for the last two decades or so.

Right now, Milwaukee County has an ongoing annual structural deficit of $12 million. It has a projected budget deficit for 2019 of $28 million. By 2023, that deficit will be nearly $80 million. By that time, the capital backlog will be nearly half a billion.

The ‘Fair Deal’ is an intergovernmental initiative by the county that seeks to lobby state leaders to provide Milwaukee County with more revenue to fund operations, like transit, and capital projects. It also seeks changes in state legislation that allow Milwaukee County to realize new revenue on its own. The latter option could mean changing state statutes to allow Milwaukee County to increase the local sales tax.

In its statement, MCTS asked citizens to sign a petition supporting the ‘Fair Deal’ and to attend local listening sessions on the 2020 budget.

Milwaukee County is holding the following public listening sessions on the 2020 budget:

Tuesday Aug. 13, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Greenfield High School Auditorium
4800 S. 60th St., Greenfield, WI 53220

Thursday Aug. 15, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
McGovern Park Senior Center
4500 W Custer Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53218 

Monday Aug. 19, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. 
Washington Park Senior Center
4420 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee, WI 53208

Tuesday Aug. 20, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Kosciuszko Community Center
2201 S. 7th St., Milwaukee, WI 53215

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2 thoughts on “Transportation: MCTS Plans to Cut 16 Bus Routes”

  1. 45 years in the City says:

    Route 57 is not being “shuttered”. It will no longer run into 262 land, but service will continue in Milwaukee County.

  2. Lee Bitts says:

    Bus riding should be fun. What a great way to explore the City! You don’t have to be behind the wheel and worry about other drivers. The bus driver takes care of that.

    There could be sightseeing tours all day long 7 days a week. I think there are many exciting and interesting possibilities for a transit system that people want to ride.

    Take Route 52 and extend it just a few blocks north to the Cermax area at 1st and Greenfield. That would stimulate the strip mall there and bring in more business for the various vendors. I’ll bet you could increase ridership on that route by doing this. Or at least, experiment and give it a chance. See if ridership rises or not.

    The potential for buses being a wonderful component of urban life is seriously undervalued and unexplored. Have TV and wi-fi. Sell coffee and snacks! If necessary, have specialized buses that groups can reserve for outings. Create a fun bus concept with amenities that people could enjoy.

    Create more routes and increase service!! Make the transit system into something more than just people using them to get to work and to doctor appointments.

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