Ald. Michael Murphy
Press Release

Truth lies in the middle of Milwaukee Streetcar debate

Statement from Common Council President Michael J. Murphy January 21, 2015

By - Jan 21st, 2015 04:36 pm
Milwaukee Streetcar.

Milwaukee Streetcar.

The debate on the downtown Milwaukee streetcar has been contentious and polarizing. Much of this can be attributed to the extreme language and scenarios being maintained by both supporters and opponents of the project. I’m a strong believer that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

After much contemplation and attention to the merits on both sides of the issue, today I voted in support of the streetcar. However, I did so also recognizing the value of allowing for direct democracy on issues of great importance to the city at large. Because of this, I also voted in support of a procedural delay that allows opponents of the streetcar more time to gather the signatures required to force a binding referendum.

In the end, while I believe there is substantial support for the streetcar and that the project, along with other downtown initiatives, will create an urban environment that is robust and stimulates additional economic activity and employment, I am not naive to the fact that there is a constituency in the city that feels this is the wrong use of city resources.

Citizens of good will have been willing to go out in the middle of winter — in some instances in below zero weather — to share their opinions and collect signatures to determine if there is citywide support for the streetcar (by passing direct legislation that would require the city to hold a binding referendum in order to construct any rail transit system costing more than $20 million).

Although these efforts may not reflect popular opinion in some districts, we should be careful not to carelessly or cavalierly disregard the wishes of those citizens. They too are Milwaukee.

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5 thoughts on “Truth lies in the middle of Milwaukee Streetcar debate”

  1. I am in favor of beefing up public transportation in the city and so generally favor the building of a street car line(s), but was unaware until recently that there are already some lines (in the 30th St area) that could be rehabilitated. I still don’t have a good idea how feasible that is, what are the pros and cons. Has that option been fully considered in terms of being the first section built and then move to the downtown sections in future phases? I think people fear that the current downtown proposal could 1) just isolate the other parts of the city even more, and 2) that future plans to expand to other parts will never occur.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Roberta The 30th St Corridor tracks are for heavy rail such as freight trains. I suppose it would be technically possible to run other types of trains, but these lines need significant upgrades (I believe there is a 10 MPH limit on them now), would likely require a federal waiver to allow light-rail to share tracks with heavy rail. I think there is one place in the country that does this but this limits freight traffic which would be terrible for the corridor. Now they could possibly run commuter rail cars (heavy rail like the METRA) on them but these would be more expensive, and would then have very limited stops…and so on… Might one day it be an idea to investigate, maybe. But there are no funds for a project like this, and again it could negatively impact freight traffic.

  3. marc says:

    San Francisco tried to eliminate all it’s trolleys and streetcars ten years ago. maintaining only the Market/Powell line for tourist reasons.I don’t know how many of you,also you have tried to navigate around one of these slow moving slugs,Good luck.Also the damage caused to already existing infrastructure.and foundations of all buildings on this route.I live downtown,navigating potholes and uneven roads. If the Couture says the trolley is integral to it’s design.let them pay for it.I’m sure Johnson Controls would be more than happy to build on that piece of prime real estate.

  4. Dave says:

    Thanks, marc, for demonstrating that the truth really doesn’t lie “in the middle” for Mark Murphy with your absurd post.

    #1. SF trolleys are tourist attractions and relics of another era. These are not modern streetcars. Apples and oranges.

    #2. Please provide evidence that trollies you speak of have cause foundation damage. After you’ve done that, please explain to us how new streetcar for Milwaukee would do the same.

    #3. Not that I should be surprised but you’re a little confused on recent plans for downtown development. Johnson Controls already has a property in mind…the land that is being freed up by the Hoan bridge and ramp reconstruction. This, while also being a piece of prime real estate, will allow BOTH Couture AND JC high rise to be built. What is it with you guys and “either or”? Are you allergic to “win win”?

  5. John smith says:

    Many prosperous cities can cite Trams (trolleys) as the reason for their success. Commuters take them up as soon as they are operational. As for being held up by them, do the sensible thing and ride the trolley. Most importantly include free parking at the end of the line.

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