Graham Kilmer

Bus System Overhaul Beginning in March

First phase of system-wide redesign will affect 9 routes.

By - Dec 3rd, 2020 01:14 pm

How high-frequency routes are added under MCTS NEXT.

The Milwaukee County Transit System will start implementing a massive overhaul of the bus system in March 2021.

The system redesign is called MCTS NEXT. It’s a cost-neutral reconfiguration of the bus system that will increase the amount of high-frequency service. MCTS spent two years planning, and recently received approval from the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors for the new system. 

Bus routes will be reconfigured so the system has a mix of 60% high-frequency routes and 40% low-frequency routes. To achieve this new balance, the plan makes some cuts to pieces of routes, most with low-ridership, and some routes will be shifted to daytime only as data showed they had very low ridership during evening hours. Ultimately, the plan does not eliminate any entire routes and will negatively impact only 0.5% of riders’ access to the system, according to MCTS.

MCTS NEXT will be rolled out in three phases throughout 2021. The phases are timed with the schedule changes, or “picks,” when operators can pick a route they’d like to drive — as is laid out in the contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998.

The first phase of the rollout will begin March 2021, the second in June and the third in September. The transit system is planning public outreach meetings, signage and on-bus marketing to notify passengers of the coming route changes.

Along with meeting contractual obligations with the union, the phased rollout allows MCTS to plan outreach and some of the light-infrastructure changes that will accompany the redesign. That is, putting up signage and removing a number of bus stops, because part of the redesign involves making bus stops more evenly spaced out along the routes.

In the coming bus network, 85% of riders will still be able to use the bus stop they currently use, and the other 15% will have to walk an extra one or two blocks, MCTS says.

The phased route changes will follow this schedule:

  • March — Routes 15, 19, 20, 31, 33, 35, 51, 52, 63 and 68.
  • June — Routes 11, 12, 58, 65, 80 and 88.
  • September — BlueLine, OrangeLine and routes 22, 28, 54, 55, 56, 60 66, 76 and 92

Routes 51 and 35: Route 51 becomes a high frequency route with buses every 15 minutes on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Route 35 will also be a new high frequency route that runs as far south as W. Morgan Avenue W. Every other trip, however, will run further south with an extension to W. Loomis Rd. to W. Layton Ave., then to S. 60th Street.

Routes 19 and 20: High frequency service will be extended along Route 19 to the south side where it will no longer operate on S. 2nd Street, instead MCTS is shifting it to S. 6th St. to avoid traffic delays. It will still run down S. 13th St. Route 20 is a new route that will run most of its service down S. 20th Street. But the full route will go from W. National Ave. and S. 2nd St. down to W. College Ave. with a small spur at the end stopping at the Walmart in Franklin.

Routes 15, 52, 63, 68: Route 15 is becoming a high frequency route, but it will no longer run all the way to Bayshore Town Center and will instead stop at W. Capitol Drive. A new service, Route 68, will run from Capitol to Bayshore along N. Port Washington Rd. with daytime service from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Capitol Drive to Brown Deer Road. Route 63, which used to serve Port Washington Rd., will still run to Bayshore, but will end there under the new configuration. Route 52 is also becoming a daytime route, due to low evening ridership.

Routes 31 and 33: Route 31 will run east and west along W. Highland Blvd. and W. State St. and Watertown Plank Road connecting downtown to Mayfair Mall. Route 33, which runs along W. Juneau Ave., W. Vliet Street and Milwaukee Avenue will have an extension that runs north and south along Glenview Avenue and S. 84th Street.

Below are maps of these route changes coming in March.

Route Maps

Correction: Several edits were made in the text of this story to correctly explain the changes being made to MCTS bus routes in March.

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