Graham Kilmer

Two Deadly Crashes Hit Buses in 48 Hours

$2 million worth of MCTS buses were totaled by reckless drivers in just two days last week.

By - Apr 24th, 2024 05:38 pm

The battery electric bus hit Saturday night. Photo by MCTS.

In less than 48 hours, two people died in two separate crashes when cars ran into Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) buses.

On Saturday, a driver crashed into one of the transit system’s battery-electric buses near the intersection of N. 35th Street and W. Wisconsin Avenue. A passenger in the automobile died. Passengers and operators on the bus were injured. Just the day prior, a car traveling approximately 100 miles per hour down W. Capitol Avenue blew through a red light and slammed into an MCTS bus at the intersection of N. 35th Street and W. Capitol Drive.

“We’re saddened by this loss of life and hope those injured experience a full recovery,” Denise Wandke, MCTS managing director said in a statement. “This was an avoidable tragedy that could have been worse. Drivers in Milwaukee County must slow down so we can save lives.”

The number of drivers crashing into MCTS buses has increased 40% during the past three months, according to MCTS. The two crashes last week destroyed $2 million worth of MCTS buses over two days. The clean-diesel bus hit Friday will cost approximately $600,000 to replace, and the price tag for the BEB is approximately $1.2 million.

“We do not have a surplus of buses available to replace these two buses,” Wandke said. “This means fewer buses to serve MCTS’s 44 routes.”

The transit system has already seen its fleet dwindle due to budgetary pressures. Between 2018 and 2023 the fleet shrank from 400 buses to 321. There is also a long lead time to replace buses, which must be specially ordered from a manufacturer. This is especially true of battery electric buses. The company that built the county’s BEBs no longer does business in the U.S. market. Transit officials do not believe the firms remaining in the market can reliably provide what the county needs, and recently supported a change to the county’s electric bus policy to rely more on clean diesel buses.

Following the deadly bus crashes, County Executive David Crowley called for greater community responsibility on Milwaukee’s roadways and said the county will continue investing in traffic-calming infrastructure and road safety projects. He also reiterated his support for state legislation that would allow the City of Milwaukee to install red-light cameras at problem intersections.

“Reckless driving has reached crisis levels,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “We must invest in proven solutions to make our roads safer.”

Photos of bus hit Friday

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