Milwaukee Common Council approves Bus Rapid transit


The $42 million Bus Rapid Transit project that will connect the downtown Milwaukee with the West side and Wauwatosa is now waiting for approval by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

From Urban Milwaukee:

The roughly nine-mile, twelve-stop line would run from the site of the proposed The Couture tower on the lakefront and west on Wisconsin Ave. to Hawley Rd., and then along Bluemound Rd. before snaking through the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center to the park-and-ride at Swan Boulevard.

The city adopted the proposal on a 14-1 vote, with only alderman Mark Borkowski objecting, but not without modifying the proposal. Alderman Robert Bauman and Michael Murphy, whose districts the route would run through, have inserted two clauses into the resolution protecting parking spaces. Prior to the Public Works Committee‘s adoption of the project, Bauman had a clause inserted that bars the county from taking the parking for a dedicated travel lane east of N. 35th St. Murphy introduced a successful amendment today at the full council that expanded the parking protection to a stretch between N. 60th St. and N. Hawley Rd.

While the parking protections don’t preclude the parking lane from ever being used for the system, it does impact how city employees will coordinate with the county for the final design of the route. According to a source close to the project, the move could be a shrewd one by Bauman and Murphy to force a travel lane to be dedicated to buses, or it could significantly reduce the speed of the proposed line. For the project to move forward the city will need to approve any lane closures and public infrastructure changes.

The project, which would be 80 percent federally funded, would cost between $42-to-$48 million depending on the number of dedicated lanes set aside for the system. Substantial ridership gains in the corridor, upwards of 30 percent, are estimated by the project’s consultants, AECOM and HNTB.

Gains in ridership are expected to come from high frequency of services (every 10 minutes on weekdays, every five minutes during rush hours), fewer stops and off-bus ticketing (both leading to reduced travel time), better stations than traditional bus shelters and improved vehicles that would cost upwards of $1 million each. The corridor, which consultant Dan Meyers called “the spine of the transit system” at the committee meeting, would have considerable benefit for its residents: 23 percent of those living within a half-mile of the route lack an automobile in their household, far above the county average, statistics show. Along the route are major employment and job centers including Downtown (81,000 jobs, 25,000 residents), Near West Side (40,000 residents, 30,000 jobs) and Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (16,000 jobs, 30,000 daily visitors).

Read more here.