Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

BRT Stations Reshape Wisconsin Avenue

New transit line transforming Milwaukee's main street even before operation begins.

By - Aug 26th, 2022 06:06 pm
Partially bus rapid transit station at W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. 35th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Partially bus rapid transit station at W. Wisconsin Ave. and N. 35th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Have you encountered a sizable sidewalk or lane closure along Wisconsin Avenue in the past year? If so, it was likely for the construction of the Milwaukee County East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line.

The nine-mile BRT line aims to move passengers quickly between Downtown, the Near West Side, Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee County Regional Medical Center. But to do so, the system involves substantially more infrastructure than a traditional bus line.

Contractor Zenith Tech is constructing 33 stations for the Milwaukee County Transit System line. As opposed to the conventional concrete rectangle and pole next to the sidewalk, the BRT stations have raised concrete platforms, large glass shelters, real-time arrival clocks and fare equipment. They also often project further into the street, eliminating the uncomfortable and speed-reducing need to pull out of traffic to board passengers.

The first stations were constructed in Wauwatosa last year, with construction substantially ramping up in Milwaukee this year.

The line is planned to begin operation in 2023, and could need to do so with a temporary stop in place of its eastern terminus: the transit concourse at the unfinished The Couture apartment tower.

It will cost the same to ride as any other MCTS route, but the boarding process will be different. Riders will pay a fare before boarding a bus, shortening the time the bus is stopped. The elevated platform is also intended to shorten boarding times by eliminating the need to raise or lower the bus to support that required assistance. MCTS is also expected to allow riders to board at any door, further speeding up the process. A proof-of-payment system would be used at random intervals to validate that individuals have paid to ride.

E-W BRT (bus rapid transit) Wisconsin and Water - Eastbound Rendering. Rendering courtesy of the Milwaukee County Transit System.

E-W BRT Wisconsin and Water – Eastbound Rendering. Rendering courtesy of the Milwaukee County Transit System.

The buses will be different as well. The system will utilize 15 battery-electric buses, with a charging station at one end of the route. Made by Nova Bus, the MCTS’s first fully-electric vehicles have an expected range of 247 miles.

The federal government is paying for $41 million of the system’s $55 million cost.

Existing bus routes will be redesigned around the new line, though for the moment the construction poses some challenges for riders. At N. Water St. and E. Wisconsin Ave., stops were relocated across the street while large sections of the sidewalk and street were cut away to build the station.

Going east to west, the line runs along Wisconsin Ave. to N. Hawley Rd., and then along Bluemound Rd. before snaking through the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center to the park-and-ride at Swan Boulevard.

One typical BRT feature will be absent from stretches of the east-west line in multiple areas: dedicated lanes. This could substantially slow down the service. Dedicated lanes will be missing in Westown and west of N. Hawley Rd. In other portions of the route, including the eastern half of Downtown, the East-West BRT system will have a dedicated bus lane next to the parking lane.

County transportation officials are also in the process of planning a second BRT line, which would travel north and south along the 27th Street corridor.


2 thoughts on “Friday Photos: BRT Stations Reshape Wisconsin Avenue”

  1. Polaris says:

    Holy smokes…that’s a lot of construction! I suspect the shelters will be adequate. Might be nice to have heaters in the winter but I don’t see any.

    Marquette’s new business school building is taking shape!

  2. TransitRider says:

    Are the buses really “fully electric” or will they burn fossil fuel for heat in winter (like electric buses do in Minneapolis, Duluth, and Boston)?

    Before Duluth added diesel heaters to their previously all-electric buses, they found the vehicle range dropped as much as 60% in cold weather.

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