By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 30, 2023 at 7:02 AM

We're resharing this article from Oct. 11, 2023 this morning because The Hop's L-Line began its Sunday service yesterday. Here are the details on the new extension.

Just weeks before The Hop’s L-Line route is slated to open to the public on a limited basis, media were given a trip Wednesday on the new line, which runs along Michigan Street and Clybourn Avenue with a lakefront-area turnaround within The Couture tower development.

Inside The Couture transit plaza.

Due to ongoing construction of The Couture the line will, for now, only operate on Sundays from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., starting on Sunday, Oct. 29, with a full opening expected to start next spring.

Like the M-Line, L-Line rides are free, thanks to a sponsorship deal with Potawatomi Casino Hotel.

The L-Line extension was heavily funded by a Federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant awarded to the City of Milwaukee in 2015, and that grant required the new service to begin by the end of 2020.

However, due to delays in the start of The Couture project, which affected the construction of the transit portion of the development, the city was able to successfully lobby the Federal Transit Administration for an extension that pushed the start time to this month.

That – along with ongoing tower construction – explains why the service is starting on a limited basis.

“Everyone wants the streetcar to run seven days a week, just like us,” Milwaukee Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke said. "We worked with the contractor to be able to open once a week.

"We had a lot of conversations with the contractor. We don’t want to hinder or delay the construction of The Couture."

Kruschke said that opening the line in a limited way has other benefits, too, including getting pedestrians and drivers used to seeing the streetcar on the route. It's also good practice for streetcar operators to get used to the new line's path and its quirks.

As I regular streetcar rider, I was a little disconcerted when the vehicle made turns at places where it has previously always gone straight ahead, so I can see why operators might feel the same way.

The streetcar also goes "off wire" on this route, disconnecting at Jackson and Michigan and requiring a switch to battery power. It reconnects at Jefferson and Clybourn.

Jerrel Kruschke
Milwaukee Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke speaks at Wednesday's media event.

Although Wednesday's media trip passed through the transit plaza at the 44-story The Couture development, that stop will be closed to the public until lower-level occupancy permits have been issued for The Couture, likely around April, according to Kruschke.

Although there is a platform in place, there is no safe path for riders to reach it from the sidewalks of nearby streets.

The new line will operate independently of the M-Line, according to The Hop officials, “operating in a figure-eight pattern.” There will be five stops at which riders can transfer between lines.

Headways of 20 minutes between cars is currently planned.

The route runs just short of two miles and proceeds east on Michigan Street, south through The Couture site, west on Clybourn Street, north on Milwaukee Street to Kilbourn Avenue, where it turns west. Then it goes south on Broadway to St. Paul Avenue.

In addition to serving the Milwaukee Public Market, Wisconsin Avenue, Cathedral Square Park and City Hall, the L-Line also services the lakefront, Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, The Couture and the Summerfest grounds.

Maps of both routes can be seen here.

No new cars are being purchased for the line, according to spokesman Mark Rosenberg, who said, “the fifth car we currently have was always intended to accommodate the L-Line once it opened.”

Ridership of The Hop surged over the summer of 2023 and with this new route servicing the lakefront and its attractions, including the festival grounds, expect to see a further boost next summer.

“We know the public has been eagerly awaiting the opening of the L Line, and we’re pleased to be able to offer this opportunity for our city to begin exploring the new L Line even as the Couture construction continues to progress overhead,” Kruschke said when the opening of the line was announced in August.

“While the eventual opening of the lakefront station itself will be a transformational milestone for The Hop, this opportunity to begin providing preview service will be tremendously valuable both in terms of allowing the city to become acquainted with the new route and how it will interface with the existing M-Line, while also allowing our operations to fine-tune this service in advance of a very exciting summer in Milwaukee next year.”

Kruschke said that The Hop had its third-highest ridership day in July and that numbers have continued to rise since the pandemic.

"We’re getting close to pre-pandemic numbers," he said. "It’s very exciting."

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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.