Graham Kilmer

Connect 1 Ridership Continues to Grow

Ridership up 25% since the new bus rapid transit service launched in June.

By - Nov 23rd, 2023 09:30 am

MCTS Connect 1 at Wisconsin Avenue Stop. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Ridership on Milwaukee’s bus rapid transit service, Connect 1, continues to grow.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) launched new service launched on June 4 and by the end of the month it was averaging approximately 2,800 riders per day. Now, MCTS is reporting that the service has been averaging approximately 3,500 rides per day, a 25% increase since the service launched.

The new service is the first of its kind in Milwaukee County and the state. It provides high frequency service along a nine-mile route running east and west between downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (MRMC) in Wauwatosa. Most of the route runs along Wisconsin Avenue.

A mixed fleet of battery electric buses (BEBs) and clean diesel buses operate the service, which has dedicated bus lanes for approximately 50% of the route. New elevated bus stations were built for the route and new off-bus fare validators were purchased to reduce the time buses are stopped.

Last fall there were only 2,200 rides per day through the Connect 1 transit corridor, which also partially overlaps with the popular Route 30 line. Connect 1 currently has the seventh highest daily ridership of any line, according to MCTS. And it ranks fourth for hourly passengers, with approximately 25 riders per bus hour.

The top destinations for riders continue to be Downtown and Marquette University with 900 rides per day. Both destinations quickly became the main passenger hubs for the service after in launched in June. The Near West Side is the third major destination for riders, averaging 700 rides per day. Wauwatosa averages 250 rides per day and the MRMC 175 rides.

Connect 1 ridership is bolstered by the sponsorship of UMO, the software company that hosts the transit system’s new fare collection software. The sponsorship has made rides along Connect 1 free to all passengers since it launched in June. In September, MCTS announced that UMO would continue sponsoring rides along the route through the end of 2023 as it waited for the fare validators purchased for Connect 1 to be delivered. Free rides are expected to continue into spring.  The off-bus fare validators are being held up by supply chain issues, the transit system reported in September.

The transit system at large has been slowly regaining riders since the COVID-19 pandemic decimated ridership that was already dwindling on an annual basis. In 2021, MCTS finished rolling out a system redesign that re-balanced bus service in favor of high-frequency routes. However, the change required the system to cut service in other areas of the county. But along the high frequency routes, the transit system saw ridership increase by 22%.

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One thought on “Transportation: Connect 1 Ridership Continues to Grow”

  1. 45 years in the City says:

    Those MRMC numbers should be better, but the only Connect 1 stop on the MRMC property is on the wrong side of the campus for access to many of the clinical services. It’s as if the system designers didn’t bother to consult stakeholders such as patients, visitors, and employees.

    The transfer to Waukesha Metro to for access to the east side of the MMRC campus is less than helpful. Instructions for pedestrians are inadequate. Riders with even mild mobility challenges will not be able to easily use this service even if there were adequate pedestrian directions to the clinic entrances.

    To be fair to MCTS, the MRMC campus has developed into an auto-centric space which is extremely difficult to serve. The former GOLD line served both the east and west sides of the campus, but it was an operational headache – especially when turning on and off of Watertown Plank Road.

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