Milwaukee County Transit System
Press Release

MCTS Submits Updated Application for Bus Rapid Transit Funding

East-West BRT Route could save riders more than 60 hours on their commute each year

By - Sep 8th, 2017 10:06 am

Milwaukee County and MCTS submitted an updated grant to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) this week for funding for the East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project. The nine-mile regional BRT will run from Milwaukee’s lakefront to Wauwatosa. The route connects major employment, education and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Marquette University, Milwaukee’s Near West Side, Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.  This first-of-its-kind project in Wisconsin will provide improved access to the region’s most vital, most traveled and most congested corridor.

After receiving input at more than 60 public meetings, outreach events and stakeholder gatherings, the final route features dedicated bus-only lanes along 53% of the route, with up to 19 stations for riders to access the BRT and connections to and from more than a dozen other MCTS routes.

This service is expected to save up to 16 minutes a day for riders taking the bus roundtrip, that’s a 20% time savings compared to current MCTS service. Thanks to BRT, riders traveling the full corridor could save more than 60 hours on their commute each year!

With the increased speed and reliability, comes more transit users. More than 9,500 riders are projected to use the East-West BRT every week day by 2035, a 31% increase over current bus service. Similar systems have seen ridership increase more than 40%.

“Milwaukee is home to world-class education opportunities, cutting edge technology and research, numerous fortune 500 companies, a thriving arts and culture scene, second to none professional sports teams and the World’s Largest Music Festival – yet we are one of few metro areas with over 1 million residents in the U.S. without an enhanced transit system. This project will change that,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “The East-West BRT will get more people to work and school than ever before. This route will improve service for riders that rely on the bus while getting people out of the cars and onto transit. The BRT will cut congestion on the roads and spark economic development from end to end. Milwaukee is a world-class city that deserves a world-class transit system.”


Not only will the East-West BRT increase transit usage and cut down on congestion on the roads, it will also better serve current riders along the corridor by reducing the time they spend riding the bus while increasing their access to jobs, school, shopping and recreational activities.

The BRT capital cost is estimated at $50 million. The financial plan for the project anticipates the capital cost will be funded up to 80 percent through the federal Small Starts program and other funding, with 20 percent funded at the County level. Funding for the day to day operation of the East-West BRT will be part of the existing MCTS budget.

Project construction will start in 2019 with full service beginning in 2021.

East-West BRT the Numbers

  • Length – 9 Miles Long
  • Stops – Up to 19 Stations
  • Frequency – Every 10 minutes 6am to 6pm, 20 to 30 minutes early, late and weekends
  • Time Savings – Up to 16-minutes roundtrip each day
  • Ridership – 9,500 daily riders
  • Along the route
  • 47,000 residents
  • 120,000 jobs
  • 9 colleges and universities
  • 7 medical facilities

More about the East-West BRT Line

6 thoughts on “County Plans for Bus Rapid Transit”

  1. Deano says:

    While on a vacation trip to Oregon last summer we stayed in Eugene across the street from the University of Oregon campus. We boarded buses at a Lane County Transit District EmX (Emerald Express) Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station, located at the University, to travel around the Eugene/Springfield area.

    The EmX is a convenient transportation service as it provides connections to downtown Eugene, Springfield and a local shopping center (where a Visitor’s Center is located). The articulated, hybrid powered buses, painted in a green Oregon Ducks color scheme, provides rapid efficient service between stops, located at major destinations such as the University and the downtown Eugene transit center.

    The station adjacent to where we stayed was located in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, had a canopy cover to protect passengers from frequent rainy weather and a warm sun during the summer season. It had decorative art panels. overhead electronic signs that tell passengers of the arrival times of the next buses, waiting benches, lighting and ticket dispensing machines. The buses appeared to hold tightly to printed schedules which are also available online. The thing we liked about the electronic next bus arrival signs is that it made the service feel dependable.

    The Eugene/Springfield area has a population of about 200,000 which is slightly smaller than Madison (where planning is expected to take place for a BRT system) and quite a bit smaller still than Milwaukee. Development of a BRT extension to West Eugene in the community is already underway, after the successful implementation of the initial EmX service.

    It seems that if Milwaukee County builds a BRT line it should link to the Amtrak Station and the new Milwaukee Streetcar. Also, some type of heat, perhaps solar powered radiant heaters, should be provided for passenger comfort due to the severe Wisconsin winters. It would be great if center city residents could be better connected to suburban job sites. Also, with the amount of new development taking place downtown (Bucks arena, Northwestern Mutual office and residential towers, Couture and possibly a new corporate headquarters in the Gateway District) it will attract choice suburban transit riders.

    Use of either environmentally friendly hybrid powered or electric trackless trolley buses should be mandatory in an effort to improve local air quality and mitigate global climate change. (see “The Trackless Trolley Years, A Milwaukee Transport Era”, by Russell Schultz. The line should be planned for a possible future conversion to light rail service.

  2. Deano says:

    “TM: The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company” by Joseph M. Canfield and “Badger Traction” (Central Electric Railfans’ Association) (Bulletin 111) also provide some historical perspective on urban and interurban transit in the Milwaukee area and Wisconsin.

  3. MidnightSon says:

    I am a supporter of both the Milwaukee Streetcar and Bus Rapid Transit, and am especially excited by how quickly Milwaukee can implement BRT between downtown and Milwaukee Regional Medical Center. Both kinds of transit have their merits, the BRT being less expensive to implement and also better positioned to serve as commuter transportation.

    While I totally get using Wisconsin Avenue as the arterial for BRT to the med. center, I think it’s better suited for a streetcar extension and would best serve the interests in developing West Town. I wonder if some combination of Michigan Avenue / Bluemound could be used for the BRT, at least until getting past 27th or 35th Street. And, yes, BRT should be connected, somehow, to the Intermodal Station. Perhaps via something like Loop Link that we’ve now got down here in Chicago. http://chicagolooplink.com

    What all this discussion of West Town development and BRT brings up for me is how unfortunate it is that the I-794 reconstruction only calls for bringing 2-3 blocks down to grade as part of the Lakefront Gateway Project. It sure would be tremendous to bring it down to grade as a boulevard as early as 6th or 7th Street and free up all that land for development. Developers of Gateway are touting a two-block stretch of “Clybourn Boulevard” as a potential, high-end shopping area. While I believe that’s all development speak, opening up that stretch of downtown would allow for BRT and other forms of transit to connect to the lakefront and continue on up Lincoln Memorial Drive.

    I think BRT belongs there and probably eventually on Kilbourn and 6th Street. Streetcar extensions belong on Wisconsin, Water, Third and elsewhere as planned.

    Sunday evening dreaming…!

  4. Casey says:

    This is great and all but I sure would love to see transit infrastructure upgraded along FDL Ave. Transit should really take advantage of the spoke and (somewhat) wheel system we have. BRT down FDL connecting Downtown to Menomonee Falls; another line down Forest Home connecting Downtown to Southridge/Greendale and a line running down 76th which would connect all three BRTs, NW Side industries, Tosa, Stallis, State Fair.
    Just a pipe dream I know….but doesn’t hurt to dream.

  5. James says:

    Nice work, Danny. Agree with all of Casey’s pipe dream proposals – especially a line on Fondy to the Falls. Price seems right, too.

  6. chloe says:

    HI
    Why not run limited stop “express” buses during rush hour?

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