In an effort to further expand the robust economic value of the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), County Executive Chris Abele has directed the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation to explore connecting the region’s two biggest job centers with Bus Rapid Transit service (BRT) – a fast, modern and affordable means of public transit. A key advantage of BRT service is quick travel to longer distance destinations. That speed reflects the community’s need to get to work faster.
"Since taking office, we’ve worked hard to stabilize our transit system by adding more than a million new route miles and holding fares flat, all while facing significant fiscal challenges," said County Executive Abele. "We’ve heard from the community, and we are now taking the next step. Transit is economic development, and a well-designed BRT system will efficiently and affordably connect more people to more jobs while helping create a climate that attracts new businesses and new workers to Milwaukee."
The project corridor will connect downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, the top two job centers in Milwaukee metro area. It may also include service to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, another significant high-demand destination. The corridor will weave together some of Milwaukee’s most important community assets while serving a broad customer base. It will do so by integrated into the existing MCTS fixed-route service network and by serving urban and suburban communities, major employers like Marquette University, MillerCoors and Harley Davidson, as well as many residential, business and entertainment destinations.
An effective transit system plays a critically important role in Milwaukee’s economic development. A recent report by the Huron Consulting Group found that MCTS generates $342 million in annual benefits, which is more than double its annual expenses.
The addition of a BRT service that connects Milwaukee’s two biggest job centers while offering travel times that are competitive with driving will boost MCTS’s economic impact even further. BRT utilizes various design elements to produce a fast, modern and comfortable transit service that is similar to light rail but significantly less expensive. BRT systems typically feature a dedicated right of way, intersection treatments (including traffic signal priority), branded stations, off board fare collection, platform level boarding, longer articulated buses and other design elements that result in quick and efficient service. According to research by the Public Policy Forum and standards developed by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), there are currently just nine functioning BRT systems in the United States today.
"We have the opportunity to be a national leader in transit, and we will do so by following best practices and budgeting responsibly to ensure fiscal sustainability," County Executive Abele said.
The Milwaukee County Department of Transportation will lead a multi-jurisdictional effort to prepare preliminary designs and cost estimates, follow best practices as set by ITDP and explore opportunities for cost sharing between private, federal, state and local government agencies for the East-West BRT corridor. ITDP BRT standards are based on international best practices, superior performance and high quality customer service.