Jeramey Jannene

The Hop’s Lines Will Merge For Easier Summerfest Service

'Festivals Line' will make it easier for first-time riders to get to lakefront.

By - May 30th, 2024 03:56 pm
Two The Hop streetcars pass each on E. St. Paul Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Two The Hop streetcars pass each on E. St. Paul Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Who said a streetcar’s route couldn’t change?

Milwaukee’s two streetcar lines will operate as one merged line during each of Summerfest‘s nine days.

Merging The Hop’s M Line and L Line into the “Festivals Line” will avoid confusion for riders who might otherwise need to transfer lines to get from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station or Lower East Side to Henry Maier Festival Park.

The Hop had previously operated with extended hours during the “World’s Largest Music Festival,” but 2024 is the first year the new lakefront (L Line) extension is open. The eastern terminus of the L Line, in the base of The Couture, is across N. Lincoln Memorial Drive from the North Gate at the festival grounds.

“While The Hop has always been a wonderful option for accessing events along the Lakefront, with our new Transit Concourse at The Couture making that connection even easier we are anticipating wonderful ridership during this year’s Summerfest,” said Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Kruschke in a statement. “We are eager to pilot this new combined line, which will both simplify and enhance our service as residents and visitors make their way to the festival grounds this summer.”

The “Festivals Line” will operate on June 20-22, June 27-29 and July 4-6. Service will begin at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on Saturdays. It will last until 1 a.m. each night.

Council members Robert Bauman and Jonathan Brostoff previously requested city officials explore a service change during the festivals, with Bauman noting that people arriving at the train station couldn’t take a direct ride to the lakefront.

The L Line, as designed, runs on existing M Line tracks along N. Milwaukee Street and N. Broadway, but when going north follows an eastern extension along E. Michigan Street to The Couture before returning to the north-south route on E. Clybourn Avenue. The longer M Line, which opened in 2018, runs from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station through the northern end of the Historic Third Ward and much of East Town before ending at E. Ogden and N. Prospect avenues at the southern tip of the Lower East Side.

In order to merge the two routes, all northbound vehicles will now follow the lakefront extension east on E. Michigan Street and back on E. Clybourn Avenue before continuing with the rest of the route.

The configuration will impose an approximately 10-minute delay on riders getting on at the Historic Third Ward stop or Milwaukee Intermodal Station and heading north of Wisconsin Avenue. But the perceived delay will be partially offset by increased service frequency, reducing wait times before climbing aboard a vehicle. Southbound trips will be unimpacted.

“With the ‘Festivals Line,’ passengers boarding at Intermodal will reach the Lakefront stop in just 12 minutes, a trip from the Historic Third Ward will take eight minutes, and reaching the festival grounds from Burns Commons will take approximately 36 minutes,” says a press release. “Lakefront/Summerfest passengers wanting to return to the Downtown Business District, Historic Third Ward or Intermodal station can transfer at Cathedral Square to the next southbound streetcar rather than traveling up to Burns Commons [and back].” The Burns Commons to festival trip time assumes riding on the vehicle until it reverses at the Intermodal and begins the northbound route.

Streetcars are expected to come every 15 minutes. Real-time vehicle position can be tracked using the TransLoc smartphone application.

The streetcar system remains free to ride, due in part to corporate sponsorship by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.’ The 2024 city budget calls for $5.8 million to be spent on operating the streetcar system. That expense is to be offset by $4.5 million in direct revenue, with the remainder coming from the city’s parking revenue. Direct revenue sources include Potawatomi ($850,000), other sponsors ($100,000), a federal pandemic-related transit grant ($2.4 million), a congestion mitigation startup grant ($880,000) and a federal transit support grant ($279,000).

The Milwaukee County Transit System’s Connect 1 bus rapid transit line will see its eastern terminus relocated to The Couture in early June, providing an additional mass transit route to the festival grounds. During the festival, the county is expected to also operate multiple shuttles to far-flung park-and-ride lots.

L Line route laid atop existing M Line route. Image from The Hop website.

L Line route laid atop existing M Line route. Image from The Hop website.

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