8 reasons to look forward to Milwaukee's new streetcar system
One of the many things I love about Milwaukee is its commitment to its past and its steady, although sometimes too slow and sure, movement through its innovative present and onward to its future.
Streetcars, no doubt, are a testament to a city's past but also to its success. Look at any modern, successful city and nearly all have integrated transportation systems that involve roads, sidewalks, highways, rail, streetcars, bike, buses and more.
Milwaukee's lagged way behind in the past 30 years, but now it's poised to move forward in the transportation game. I know some cry about the costs, but it's infrastructure that we need. I live Downtown and rarely use the Marquette Interchange, but I pay for it and see its need. Sidewalks, roads and highways -- they don't "make money" but they do provide quality-of-life that we must have in greater Milwaukee.
I also realize that we can battle back and forth on ridership. Projections, though, show that Milwaukee's 3.6-mile modern streetcar line is estimated to generate daily ridership of 3,800 passengers, a level that exceeds the ridership of all 11 MCTS Freeway Flyer routes and 12 of the 29 MCTS regular routes.
Numbers aside, it's time once and for all to put petty politics aside and improve transportation in Milwaukee.
Transportation isn't (and shouldn't be) a Republican or Democratic issue; it's a simple, quality-of-life matter.
So, here are my eight reasons why you should look forward to the new streetcar system in Downtown Milwaukee:
- It connects destinations and enhances connections -- Milwaukee's Downtown has a fairly large footprint, and doesn't easily lend itself to simple and walkable solutions. The streetcars will connect destinations and Downtown neighborhoods in a way that buses, roads and sidewalks can't.
- Face it, bus routes aren't easy to remember -- Nothing against MCTS, but visitors from near and far don't take the bus. They do, though, expect an easy way to get around. Streetcars accomplish this while also providing a level of safety, accessibility, cleanliness and convenience.
- Retail follows residential as development follows transit -- Why do large retailers locate at highway exits? Density and convenience. Same goes for Downtown transit, development follows transit.
- Vitality -- Streetcars add vitality and innovation to our Downtown neighborhood settings, while increasing commerce and activity around every one of the fixed stations and stops.
- A to B -- Again, you wouldn't or couldn't take a bus from the Bradley Center to the Third Ward. And unless you're super ambitious you probably don't walk this trip either. But, after a game you want to get to the action in the Third Ward so streetcars offer high capacity, easy boarding and simple A to B travel.
- New tax base -- Projections show that economic development potential within 1/4-mile buffer of the initial route and extensions over the next 20 years could generate approximately $3.35 billion in new tax base.
- Downtown needs to connect to other areas of the city -- Check out this map. And, now think about the connections and opportunity for job growth. It's easy to see.
- It's fun -- You can't underestimate that fun factor. And, the "talk about it" factor. People love streetcars and they talk about them and enjoy them. Admit it, you told friends that you rode the trolley in San Francisco or the cable car in Dubuque. It's free marketing and affordable fun. Great cities need both and Milwaukee shouldn't miss out.
Let's look forward to innovative and integrated transit, Milwaukee. Onward and On Milwaukee!
I think it is really a shortcut to thinking when people consistently argue that we can't afford things like this in Milwaukee. It's the same, tired argument that most stuffy, closed-minded conservatives use to justify EVERYTHING that comes across their table that involves spending money. I live downtown, and I have been to most major cities in this country, and I can say we are WAY behind when it comes to transportation in this city. Portland has these, and I can personally say they are easy to use, entertaining, great for local businesses, and most importantly, they reduce the amount of vehicles on the road and CO2 in the air. I know I know, the jury is still out on the whole climate change thingy, but lets just pretend morons don't exist for a second and actually listen to the 98% of credible scientists who disagree with the naysayers. I really think Milwaukee will make a lot of money by bringing these back. Sure, it will take time, but the city won't fall into a complete financial hole by adding these to our downtown.
The cable car in Dubuque? Really? I mean, I'm FROM Dubuque and find the cable car fun, but it's the equivalent of a half-mile historic thrill ride. Oh, and it won't put us $100 million in debt and really not go anywhere that a bus or car can't.
Jeff, I can point out a flaw with just about every one of your "8 Reasons". I also find it rather amusing that you didn't indicate anywhere in the article that the initial route will cost about $100 million to build, of which about 20% is coming directly from local taxpayers. You also didn't mention how much this thing will have to be subsidized by our local tax dollars for decades to come. Can you imagine what all the proposed future routes would end up costing? Reason number 8 makes me laugh. Fun? That's a reason to spend hundreds of millions of dollars? There is nothing this streetcar can do that a bus can't. Use this money to buy hybrid/electric buses (like the new ones in Vegas) that have the ability to alter their routes as needed, don't have ugly overhead wires & are environmentally freindly. If there is a great need to get from the Bradley Center to the 3rd Ward, add a bus.
Congradulations, Jiminfalls. You've won the prize for dumbest comment...ever. Please, do everyone a favor and stay in the 'falls. No one wants your kind in the "gang infested" downtown Milwaukee.
Oh, quit crying, all you opponents of upgrading mass transit in Milwaukee!!! I'm all for the streetcars and I support light rail, too. I can easily see myself using this when downtown and I think, too, that these would be great fun to ride. It's time to do away with the neo-Con notion of "if it doesn't burn tons of oil and cater to the rich, we don't need it" Milwaukee needs progress, especially in it's mass transit. Everyone hollers about how difficult it is to navigate downtown and support the businesses but they don't want to improve access to it.
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