Graham Kilmer

County BRT Delayed to 2023

Global supply chain issues delay technology, buses needed for new service.

By - Mar 9th, 2022 12:25 pm

Construction workers building BRT platform near intersection of N. Glenview Ave. and W. Bluemound Rd. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

The launch of the East-West Bus Rapid Transit Project, planned for fall 2022, has been delayed to spring 2023.

Many of the key technological components have become difficult to procure due to the disruptions in the global supply chain, according to project managers from the Milwaukee County Transit System.

“Really the biggest delay is the vehicles themselves,” said Brittany Bertsch, an MCTS project manager, at a meeting of the Milwaukee County Board’s Committee on Transportation, Public Works and Transit.

The county recently heard from NovaBus, the manufacturer chosen for the county’s Battery Electric Bus (BEB) program, that the company would not meet the original schedule for delivery of the vehicles.

The BRT line will eventually have 11 BEB’s running between downtown Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. BRT is viewed as a technological advancement in service within the transit system. It is designed as a faster, more efficient transit option, with a mix of dedicated lanes, fewer stops and traffic signal priority all contributing to quicker travel times.

But implementation of the technological features that add some of the novelty to the service are now getting stuck in global supply chain disruptions.

Bertsch said the first BEB will arrive this summer, but the rest will not arrive until the fall. So the project was delayed, she said, because “The FTA does require that we test and train and do all these activities to make sure that we have safe and effective, efficient service.”

But it’s not just the buses. The new fare validators also will not arrive until early 2023 because of global microchip shortages, she said.

The transit system is also seeing delayed delivery for some of the BEB charging infrastructure it has to install garages. “Many of those components we also can’t get our hands on along with many, many, many other people in the world that are sort of fighting over the same type of components,” Bertsch said.

This is not the first delay in the BRT project timeline. The project has hit snags at various points since planning first began in 2016. The beginning of construction was delayed a year, from 2020 to 2021, while the county worked to finalize a grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The grant, worth approximately $41 million, or 80% of total project costs, was key to moving the project forward.

Now, MCTS is planning to launch in spring 2023. In the meantime, construction continues on the nine-mile corridor for future transit service.

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