Jeramey Jannene

27th Street Next for Mass Transit Plan?

Bus rapid transit? Light rail line? County will hold public meetings to explore options.

By - Feb 9th, 2021 01:37 pm
Rendering of Milwaukee County Bus Rapid Transit.

2018 conceptual rendering of Milwaukee County Bus Rapid Transit line.

Two public meetings are scheduled for late February to discuss the feasibility of improving mass transit service in the 27th Street corridor that runs the length of Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee County and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) will hold virtual meetings on February 23rd, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and February 24th, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to discuss the framework of the study and potential improvements. Pre-registration is required and can be completed on the study website.

It’s the first of three planned rounds of public meetings for what is known as the “North-South Transit Enhancement Study” that aims to identify transit improvements for one of the county’s busiest streets.

The Milwaukee County Transit System‘s PurpleLine service, one of the highest ridership routes, currently serves the corridor from W. Drexel Ave. on the south to W. Bender Rd. on the north.

The project partners report that 118,000 people live within a half-mile of the existing bus line. The existing route connects to 49,223 jobs, four major medical facilities (including Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center), 63 K-12 schools, 31 grocery stores, five big box stores and 12 community resource centers (which include job centers).

The county reports that 75% of study area residents are people of color and that 21% of all Milwaukee County residents living in poverty live within a half-mile of the current PurpleLine route. It is estimated that 23% of all households in the study area do not own or lease an automobile.

Milwaukee County is considering both rail and bus service in the corridor at this point as part of an alternative’s analysis.

One of the options the north-south study will consider is the potential to use the 30th Street railroad corridor to possibly improve travel times. The corridor is also subject to a recent study for how a portion of it could be used for an off-street bicycle and pedestrian trail. A dedicated lane in the corridor could serve either bus or rail service.

The 27th Street corridor intersects with the county’s other primary transit corridor at W. Wisconsin Ave. The planned East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line will run along that street. Construction on that line is expected to begin soon.

Bus rapid transit, a loose collection of technologies deployed to improve service and speeds, includes off-bus ticketing, specially-branded vehicles, dedicated lanes, improved stations, higher service frequencies and traffic signal priority. The $54 million east-west project will use all of those improvements at different points along its nine-mile route.

The completed north-south study will identify a locally preferred alternative that the county will use to pursue federal funding to construct the project. The east-west project is being backed with $40.9 million in federal funding.

The county’s funding for the study was included in its 2021 budget, as Urban Milwaukee reported in October.

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Categories: Transportation

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