Jeramey Jannene
Transportation

Streetcar Ridership Up in January Versus 2019

The Hop records better ridership in January, buoyed by warmer weather.

By - Feb 7th, 2020 05:01 pm
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The Hop, Milwaukee's streetcar system, operating in the snow in November 2019. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar system, operating in the snow in November 2019. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Hop is off to a strong start in 2020. Through the first month of the year, daily average ridership is outpacing 2019.

The system recorded 1,560 daily rides in January 2019, but that average grew to 1,627 in 2020.

The lack of a polar vortex certainly boosted the ridership totals. While January 2019 ended with Milwaukee in a deep freeze, January 2020 ended with a surge in ridership. The last five days of January 2019 saw a total of 3,908 rides. The last day of January 2020 had 2,799 rides by itself (the high water mark for the month) and 10,057 rides over the five-day stretch.

The slowest day of the month was January 1st with 949 rides. Sunday continues to be the worst day of the week with an average of 1,087 rides taken in January.

January came in lower than the annual engineering estimate of 1,800 average daily rides again, but reversed a year-over-year drop in ridership seen in November (28 percent) and December (19.5 percent). Ridership grew 4.3 percent in January.

The next two months will be tougher to compare. The automatic passenger counting system failed in at least one of the vehicles during February 2019 yielding incomplete data for February and March. Based on available data, the city estimated 1,607 and 1,613 average daily rides respectively.

Ridership is tabulated by automatic passenger counters embedded in the doors of the vehicles. Daily ridership data is available on the system website.

Sometime in the coming weeks the system will mark a milestone. The one-millionth ride will soon be taken as The Hop ended January with 967,257 total rides.

The Hop is 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. An additional $90,000 was contributed by business network services provider Everstream, with a holiday-themed, Everstream-branded streetcar operating on the route during the promotion.

The city’s 2020 budget includes $4.65 million for streetcar operations, including the lakefront line extension, with funding coming from a federal operating grant ($3.5 million), Potawatomi ($781,000) and advertising ($368,000).

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.

Fare equipment, for which $400,000 remains set aside from the project’s $128 million capital budget, has not been purchased. As part of the deal to bring the Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee, the system must be free while the convention is in town.

A procurement process is ongoing for a kiosk system with real-time arrival data and advertising at each station. City officials estimated that revenue from the kiosks would allow the system to continue offering rides for free.

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