By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 01, 2019 at 1:15 PM

Despite some recent reports to the contrary, it is still free to ride The Hop streetcar, even after the system celebrates its first birthday today.

While initial plans were that a fare of $1 would be collected after the initial year, that changed in June when the City of Milwaukee's Department of Public Works decided to extend the free rides for The Hop.

Today, at a first birthday party for the streetcar at City Hall, Mayor Tom Barrett announced that Cleveland-based technology firm Everstream – which opened an office in the Wells Building earlier this year to begin work on a $27 million fiber-optic network in the area – has signed on as a sponsor of The Hop through Dec. 31.

That support will help keep rides free. The city continues to seek sponsorship partners for the streetcar.

Barrett said that there were 802,541 rides in The Hop's first year, or just shy of 2,200 per day.

"We shattered our projections," Barrett said.

"Surely, part of that success is due to free fares. Free fares make the streetcar more inclusive to the entire community."

With the goal of continuing free rides as long as possible, the city still hasn't ordered the equipment required to collect fares.

"Rather than spend the $400,000 that we have reserved ... on equipment that we may not use and hope we don't have to use, we'd rather make that $400,000 available for other capital uses," DPW streetcar system manager Dave Windsor told the Public Works Committee in June.

If fares are ever collected, passengers would buy their passes before boarding. There is no plan to collect money on the streetcar, though fare inspectors would randomly check for passes.

In some other cities, streetcar systems didn't begin to charge fares until extensions were added. Milwaukee's lakefront extension is already partially built. The last stretch of that expansion awaits construction of the proposed Couture development at Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street as the rails are planned to terminate at the building.

Not only is there no fare on the Kansas City streetcar, but that city is also toying with the idea of abolishing bus fares, too.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.