This has been bouncing around in the back of my brain for a month or so…and with the interest in Zach’s post about Milwaukee’s streetcar, it’s time to get it on electrons!

There are two fundamental things that I see are wrong with the Milwaukee street car project and neither of them have anything to do with the actual street car!

FIRST: The PR on the project was handled very poorly. In the push to get the downtown loop approved and to mitigate the hurdles over utility involvement, the city did a really really poor job in making the case that this was a starter system. Connecting the lower east side through East Town to the Intermodal station makes sense. It is the densest residential area for people who are most likely interested in using the loop plus ties in other transit modes and includes the growing entertainment district around Milwaukee Street and Wisconsin Ave.

But the grand vision of the completed street car was overlooked and it was easy for naysayers to dub it the choo choo that goes nowhere. And until sometime in November when the media started labelling it as a starter loop…the public never got beyond that limited scope. Shame on the city and planners for failing to get the big picture out there ALL OF THE TIME!

SECOND: This is a City of Milwaukee project, not a Milwaukee County project? What’s the difference? Despite the current dysfunction in the court house, the fact that the street car is essentially limited to the city line is troubling. Thank goodness the airport and Miller Park are within the city limits but other obvious destinations like Mayfair Mall, Bay Shore Mall, State Fair Park and most importantly Froedtert Hospital and the Medical Center would be prime destinations within the county buy the streetcar won’t be able to go there. The utility of the streetcar will be limited by the area it can serve by the geographic limits of the city. And that is disappointing.

2 Responses to The Two Things Wrong With Milwaukee’s Street Car

  1. Man MKE says:

    Ed, there’s a very good reason why the streetcar is a city-only project. This all started out in the late ’80s as an effort to gain federal funding for light-rail, centered on Milwaukee and serving the entire county. Republicans including State Sen. Margaret Farrow and Rep. Scott Walker fought light rail tooth and nail. Walker sought to turn the light rail grant money into funds for county bus upkeep. The feds finally told the city and county that they would have to split the pot — with the county doing what it wanted and the city doing what it wanted. The city didn’t have enough money for a starter light rail line, so it turned to the street car plan. So the fact the street car is Milwaukee only and not part of the Milwaukee County Transit System is the result of Walker and GOP meddling. And don’t forget how, after they’d reduced the metro-wide light rail dream (which, as with a modern street car system, most other US cities Milwaukee’s size now already have or soon will have), the Repubs derisively began referring to the street car as they earlier had referred to the intercity light rail project that Gov.-Elect Walker also killed — as a “choo-choo train.” Stupid is as stupid does. One cannot cut the fire department budget, commit arson, and then complain that the fire department is not doing the best possible job to put out the flames. Repubs have been very shrewd and cynical in destroying good government and then using the resulting chaos to suggest they’re somehow the very guys who can do better.

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