Derail the Streetcar
Who will operate and fund it?
Neither Milwaukee County nor its transit affiliate, MCTS, has expressed a willingness to own and operate the Milwaukee Streetcar. There is no regional transit authority to help run and pay for it, either. So the City of Milwaukee the poorest, most heavily-taxed jurisdiction in Southeastern Wisconsin – will be left footing the bill for the Streetcar’s operating costs (estimated at up to $2.65 million annually). Also, if the City operates the Streetcar, it will face serious challenges in coordinating operations with those of existing MCTS bus routes.
• Does the proposed route make sense?
The 2.1-mile route is not only too short to address Milwaukee’s transit needs in a meaningful way, but fails to connect any major destinations or trip generators. It does not go to Miller Park, the County Grounds, UWM, Henry W. Maier Festival Park, the Frontier Airlines Center or Mitchell International Airport. Nor does it pass through the city’s most densely-populated neighborhoods - the East Side and the Near South Side. Instead, the Streetcar would meander through parts of Downtown that have an abundance of parking lots and vacant or under utilized
• How will operating costs be paid?
The Draft Environmental Assessment for the Milwaukee Streetcar indicates that passenger fares will generate only $590,000 (22%) of the $2.65 million needed annually to operate the streetcar line. This compares to passenger fares covering 35% of the costs of operating the MCTS bus system. The Streetcar proposal calls for another 10% of operating costs to be covered by streetcar sponsorships, but the availability of sponsors and their funding is uncertain at this time. The remaining 68% of the operating costs would be paid with revenues from City of Milwaukee parking lots and meters or other yet-to-be-identified revenue sources that may materialize between now and the proposed opening of the Streetcar system.
• Will the Streetcar system be used?
The short answer is: “not very much.” In 2010, MCTS buses carried over 43 million passengers, with average daily/weekday ridership of approximately 138,000. In contrast, the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Milwaukee Streetcar projects an initial ridership of 1,800 per day and 588,000 per year, not even 2% of MCTS ridership. Given the poor choice of route location, even these projections may be optimistic.
• What about the costs of relocating utility lines?
The cost of moving underground utility lines (particularly along North Broadway) to accommodate the streetcar system have been estimated to be as high as $50 million – almost as much as the entire capital cost of the Streetcar system! How can such an expenditure be justified in this era of perpetual belt-tightening – of both municipal and household budgets? These costs will need to be passed on to someone. If the costs are picked up by the City, they will be the responsibility of its property taxpayers. If the utility companies absorb the relocation costs, they will be passed on to their ratepayers, who are again, in many cases, Milwaukee taxpayers.
• Do the people support it?
Proponents of the Milwaukee Streetcar tend to be Downtown residents and business and tourism interests. But what about the broader community? Where are the expressions of support from residents of Sherman Park, Layton Park, Thurston Woods or Tippecanoe? When asked their opinions, they would probably object to the Streetcar: a June, 2010, poll by the Public Policy Forum found that fewer than 35% of respondents support a downtown streetcar. A Business Journal survey found a similar level of support - 36%.
• Will the Milwaukee Streetcar hurt MCTS bus operations?
If built, the Streetcar will compete with MCTS for state and federal transit dollars. This could further harm the financial viability of MCTS, which this year is faced with a $6.8 million cut in state transit aid. MCTS buses will always provide the bulk of public transit service in Milwaukee - any loss of funding to the Streetcar is likely to lead to further service cuts and fare increases for the more heavily-used bus system.
Derail the Milwaukee Streetcar
Urge the Mayor and the Common Council to do the following:
1) Support a referendum regarding the streetcar to be on the ballot in April 2012 – we want a voice in this decision!
2) Urge our members of Congress to transfer the $54 million from the streetcar project to the Milwaukee County bus system in an effort to avoid eliminating routes, increasing fares and job loss.
Contact the Mayor or your Alderman - Let your voices be heard!
Mayor Tom Barrett - Office of the Mayor
200 E. Wells St., Rm. 201, Milw., WI 53202
Phone: (414) 286-2200
200 E. Wells St., Rm. 205, Milw., WI 53202
Phone: (414) 286-2221
Phone: (414) 286-3533