Graham Kilmer

BRT Line Slated for June 4 Start

MCTS still must stripe dedicated lanes, add equipment to stations.

By - Jan 26th, 2023 06:27 pm
MCTS Battery Electric Bus. Photo Courtesy of MCTS.

MCTS Battery Electric Bus. Photo Courtesy of MCTS.

The final pieces are coming together for Milwaukee County’s East-West Bus Rapid Transit Service.

The Milwaukee County Transit System‘s nine-mile, $55 million bus rapid transit (BRT) line — branded “CONNECT” — will be the first of its kind in Milwaukee County when service begins rolling on June 4. The service will run between downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Complex in Wauwatosa.

The BRT line is designed to be a faster, more efficient bus service through a mix of dedicated lanes, fewer stops and traffic signal priority. It will also have elevated platforms built out with new technology like off-board fare validators and digital real-time bus arrival signs.

Construction began in 2021 with the elevated platforms. By the end of 2022, all 32 had been built. David Locher, MCTS transportation manager, told the county board’s Committee on Transportation and Transit on Tuesday that MCTS is still working to install necessary utilities and energize the platforms, but they are “pretty much ready to have all the bells and whistles installed.”

Those bells and whistles include four new cameras at every stop, off-board fare validators, ticket vending machines and real-time signs. Procuring these features and the 11 battery electric buses (BEBs) for the service contributed to one of several delays in the completion of the BRT project.

Transit officials said in early 2022 disruptions to the global supply chain caused by the global pandemic made many of the technological features difficult to source. This delayed the launch of the BRT to 2023. Brittany Bertsch, MCTS project manager, said some of the new features have already been delivered and the transit system is waiting until the harsh winter weather begins to wane for installation.

MCTS expects to have all 11 BEBs by March. Drivers will begin training on the new electric buses in February, Locher said, adding that mechanics have already been training on the new buses.

The buses are the Nova LFSe+ built by Nova Bus, a Canadian manufacturer owned by the Volvo Group. They can run 247 miles on a single charge and have a traction motor and next-generation powertrain produced by BAE Systems, an aerospace company based in the United Kingdom.

One component of the BRT line is the dedicated bus lanes. Striping for these new lanes will begin in April and MCTS is planning a public outreach and marketing campaign to educate drivers and pedestrians on what the new dedicated lanes mean and how to operate in traffic along the BRT route.

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