Once a streetcar line (and having a slightly different route than the modern bus service), the Route 10 designation dates to the 1920s. In 1958, a Route 10 trolley was the last streetcar operating in Milwaukee. On Sunday, Jan. 18, the historic route number was retired, ending nearly a century of Milwaukee transit history.
Milwaukee County Transit System's Route 10 was one of the system's busiest bus lines. Running from Brookfield Square in Waukesha County through downtown and on to Bayshore Town Center in Glendale, it was also one of MCTS' longest routes.
Route 14 now serves part of the former Route 10 and runs from Forest Home to Bayshore Mall. A new bus route has also started operating on Prospect and Farwell, and along Downer to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Called the GoldLine, this route runs on many of the same streets as the historic "10" streetcars.
I asked two bus operators about the change. Both asked their names not be used. One supported the move, saying Route 10 was a long, tiring run, and it was easy for a driver to fall behind schedule. She added, "Often a driver can't make more then two trips in each direction."
Another driver was opposed to the shortened runs, saying, "I'm worried about the passengers' convenience. Some customers may find themselves paying twice."
According to MTCS, "The routing has been modified to run more efficiently along with having local AND express service." Route 10 required so many buses, it had to be jointly operated by two MTCS' garages (Fond du Lac and Kinnickinnic). It's easier to operate a route when all its buses originate from the same station.
Route 10 was born as the Wells Street Line, part of the West Side Street Railway Co. It was the first streetcar line to replace horse-drawn cars with electric power. In 1927, the Wells Street Line became Route 10. The use of numbers simplified bookkeeping and also made it easier for riders to identify the route.
A large, square illuminated route number box was added to the car roofs and became a distinctive feature of Milwaukee streetcars. The operator changed route numbers by spinning a crank.
By the 1950s, parts of Route 10 switched to "trackless trolleys," electric rubber-tired buses powered by overhead trolley wires. On March 1, 1958, buses replaced Route 10 streetcars, the last remnant of the once-vast Milwaukee trolley system.
The route evolved over time. It moved from West Allis over to Bluemound Road, then shifted from Wells Street to Wisconsin Avenue. In the 1970s, Route 10 moved to Humboldt Boulevard to serve the newly opened Bayshore Mall.
Today, buses continue on the same roads, but Route 10 – and the history associated with the name – is gone.