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  • 9 May 2024 9:56 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    New passenger train arrivals and departures in a partnership with Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois

    ST. PAUL, Minn., and CHICAGO – Tickets are now available for a second daily Amtrak service between the Twin Cities and Chicago, via Milwaukee: new state-sponsored Borealis trains originate from St. Paul at midday and from Chicago in the late morning. Travelers seeking a more comfortable, sustainable and productive choice than driving will have double the current rail options, starting May 21, 2024.

    Amtrak Borealis coach fares start at $41 each way between St. Paul and Chicago for adults, with everyday discounts for children ages 2-12, students, seniors, veterans, military personnel and families, groups, and others.

    Amtrak Borealis trains will offer Coach and Business Class in addition to a café car featuring regional items. Customers will enjoy wide reclining seats with ample legroom, no middle seats, free Wi-Fi, and views of the Mississippi River between St. Paul and La Crosse, Wisc., in daylight in both directions across Wisconsin.

    The trains will make the current Empire Builder stops between St. Paul and Milwaukee and Hiawatha stops between Milwaukee and Chicago (see schedule). Another benefit of the Amtrak Borealis service is a new eastbound Amtrak origination from Ramsey County’s Union Depot in St. Paul.

    “A second daily passenger rail service connecting St. Paul to Chicago via Milwaukee is a welcome addition to our transportation system, providing more choices and travel flexibility for passengers,” said Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger, Minnesota Department of Transportation. “We appreciate our partnerships with communities, federal, state and local governments, the host railroad CPKC, and Amtrak that were needed to get this service on-track, and to provide another safe, reliable transportation option. We look forward to continuing these partnerships as we work toward further building out passenger rail options in the Midwest.”

    “This route includes eight stations in Wisconsin, and doubling the frequency of the service will better connect the many businesses, universities and tourist attractions along this corridor,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said. “This expansion is thanks to the work WisDOT was able to do together with Minnesota, Illinois and Amtrak, as well as the opportunities provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We will continue to work with federal and state partners to explore more passenger rail options in Wisconsin.”

    “We are proud to collaborate with neighboring states and our federal partners to offer more Amtrak service in the Midwest,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Ensuring passenger rail that’s safe, reliable and accessible is one of the many reasons Illinois continues to distinguish itself as the transportation hub of North America under Gov. JB Pritzker.”

    The new service is sponsored by the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Amtrak now operates 29 state-supported routes with 18 state partners.

    “Through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification Program we are working with grantees on dozens of other possible new Amtrak routes,” said President Roger Harris. “Thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, interest from state transportation departments and others for new or expanded Amtrak service across the country is at an all-time high.”

    “This is a win for passenger rail expansion in America, and more importantly, it’s a win for a growing number of Americans who rely on passenger rail and benefit from it,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose. “Investments in rail have long helped Midwesterners and the region’s economy, and this new service will mean additional access for people traveling between Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois while contributing to economic growth.

    “The Federal Railroad Administration applauds the strong partnership between the states and Amtrak, and through President Biden’s infrastructure package, we know even more progress is underway,” Bose added.

    More Reactions:

    Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin

    “I will always support increasing access to clean, affordable, and efficient transportation options. Improving inter-city train services in Wisconsin and across the nation brings many economic benefits. I’m excited for the job opportunities and improved tourism that an additional daily train will bring for my constituents and others traveling throughout our region, as well as the improvements to our region’s collective carbon footprint. ”

    Rail Passengers Association

    “There were years when it seemed as if today’s announcement would never take place, and yet here we are today celebrating a new round trip that will transform transportation in this busy corridor,” said Jim Mathews, Rail Passengers’ President & CEO. “Passenger trains mean trips that are taken off of highways and out of the sky, saving lives, limiting pollution, and opening up new possibilities. These new trains also mean new trips that would not have otherwise taken place at all, producing direct returns for the communities they serve.”

    The Association produced an economic-benefits analysis in 2019 suggesting that some 60% of passengers for the new service would come from diverting automotive trips as those passengers leave their cars behind, limiting pollution, and easing congestion. The Association estimated that 90,000 people who would otherwise use personal automobiles would be taken off the roads every year, saving $32 million across the region in highway maintenance costs alone.

    Read the full article here

  • 6 May 2024 11:06 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    City and county governments are feeling the pinch of rising operating costs but in Wisconsin, federal incentives are driving a range of local projects, taking off some of the pressure in making communities economically viable.

    Dane County is no stranger to embracing clean energy and federal aid from policies like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are spurring more activity.

    Joe Parisi, Dane County executive, said there have been past government credits for things like solar installations and the latest approach is more expansive, with a robust list of those who can benefit.

    "Everybody -- a business, a nonprofit, a church, a temple, even a government, and a local government -- gets 30% back on renewable energy projects," Parisi pointed out.

    For example, a local construction company put solar arrays on several of its facilities. Parisi noted the new credits speed up the pace of reimbursements, creating more energy savings in the near future. Federal officials said demand has been strong for the programs but Parisi said one challenge is creating broader awareness so under-resourced areas can apply.

    Locally, the website for the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change has posted details about project opportunities and investments. Beyond clean energy, Parisi emphasized the federal government's push for more "Made in America" manufacturing creates opportunities for local plants and regional economies.

    "There's money to help retooling to manufacture (products)," Parisi stressed. "Then, there's a stronger market for those components now because they are made in America."

    National polling shows Americans are greatly concerned about things like inflation but Parisi argued long-term investments stand to help reduce operating expenses for government agencies and businesses, hopefully keeping local taxes in check and providing savings for consumers.

    Read the full article here.

  • 2 May 2024 11:15 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) began collecting fares along the county’s first bus rapid transit route using new off-bus ticket validators Monday.

    The transit system launched the Connect 1, a nine-mile bus rapid transit service that travels from Downtown to the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa, in June last year. From its launch until April 8 all rides on the Connect 1 were sponsored by Umo, the software platform that hosts the MCTS mobile app called WisGO. MCTS began charging fares on April 8.

    The off-bus fare validators are the last rapid transit element of the service to fall into place. Processing fares off the bus saves time during stops, speeding up the service in aggregate.

    In March, the first off-bus fare collector was installed at the Watertown Plank park-and-ride in Wauwatosa, which is a charging and turnaround point for the Connect 1’s battery electric buses. Currently there are 32 off-bus fare validators installed at stations along the route. Once the Vel R. Phillips Plaza in Downtown is developed — which will include a Connect 1 stop — there will be 34.

    Riders with a WisGo card can scan the silver terminal at Connect 1 stops. Riders using cash can purchase a $2 fare from the blue ticket vending machine. The machine will also take debit or credit cards. Whether paying with a WisGo Card or a ticket, each $2 fare buys a rider 90 minutes on Connect 1.

    “My advice would be to use the real time sign that’s featured above there to keep a pulse on when your Connect 1 bus would be arriving,” said Jennifer Ortega, MCTS director of business services. “That way, when it’s within two minutes or so, my recommendation would be to scan your fare media… because that way, it gives you the optimal time to use your 90 minutes worth of transfer.”

    MCTS is once again sending out employees as ambassadors to help riders with the new fare system.

    “We understand as MCTS, that pre-board or off-board fare collection is new for a variety of people in the public here,” Ortega said.

    Read the full article here.

  • 25 Apr 2024 12:42 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MILWAUKEE — With the cut of a ribbon, Milwaukee’s newest transit hub is up and running.

    What You Need To Know

    • The Couture Transit Center is now open in Downtown Milwaukee. 
    • The Hop L-Line is now operating seven days a week. 
    • MCTS's Connect 1 route will terminate at the transit center beginning in June. 

    City and county officials came together Thursday to officially open the Couture Transit Concourse inside the newly developed Couture building in downtown Milwaukee.

    Beginning Thursday, The Couture station will serve as the terminus for The Hop’s new L-Line, which runs through downtown and ends closer to the lake than the existing M-Line. The L-Line has officially been operating since October 2023, but only on Sundays. Now, the line will run every day of the week.

    Beginning in June, Milwaukee County Transit System Connect 1 service will also end at the Couture Transit Center. That line runs west to the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.

    The opening of the new station means transit will be closer to the lakefront than in the past. During the dedication ceremony, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said that will help meet the transit needs of more people around the city.

    “It is important to recognize the people that will use this new facility. Think about the business people, think about the festival-goers. Think about the residents who will all take advantage of this incredible destination in Milwaukee. Think about the young people who will convince their parents to go on the Hop,” said Mayor Johnson.

    Some dedicated Hop enthusiasts were among the first to ride the expanded L-Line service Thursday. Mark Ward has been following The Hop from the start. As he rode on the L-Line for the first time, he said he thinks the close access to the lakefront will make a difference in encouraging people to ride.

    “If you walk to the southern edge of the platform, which is maybe a 200-foot walk, walk kitty corner across the street, you are right at the Summerfest grounds. How convenient can that be?” said Ward.

    The Connect 1 bus service is expected to begin using The Couture station on June 2. The route currently ends a few blocks to the north.

    Read the article here.

  • 22 Apr 2024 12:28 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - You can try Eau Claire Transit for free during Earth Week, April 22-27.

    Funds have been donated to the city of Eau Claire from the Amalgamated Transit Union 1310, Jonah-Environmental Task Force, and Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance.

    There will be three gatherings at the temporary transit center at noon with speakers throughout the week to speak to the importance of environmental awareness and how public transportation plays a big role.

    April 22-State Representative Jodi Emerson and State Senator Jeff Smith

    April 23-City officials Lane Berg and Ty Fadness

    April 26-City Council President Emily Berge and City Manager Stephanie Hirsch

    All sessions are at noon.

    There is also an Earth Week Open House on Thursday, April 25 from 4-8 p.m. at The Brewing Projekt with vendors related to sustainability.

    Full article here.

  • 18 Apr 2024 12:20 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MENOMONIE (WQOW) - After changing some routes, the Dunn County Public Bus Transit System is taking more people across town.

    In fact, 2023 marked the highest amount of bus riders on Dunn County's public transit.

    The county's transit manager Austin Witt said one of the reasons is because they added a stop to the UW-Stout bus route. It now runs from the college campus to the Walmart area in north Menomonie once an hour in the evening.

    "We had 126,000 riders in 2023," Witt said. "Seeing that increase and having the best year ever was great to see."

    The general community route also experienced a jump.

    In the past, so few people rode that route that it was more efficient to provide the rides free, since it would cost more to count the fares than what the fares brought in.

    The department shortened the community route to make it an hour, and they removed a few stops. This resulted in a large increase. Monday through Friday ridership went up 62% from 2022 to 2023, and Saturday ridership went up 81% in that time.

    Read the full article here.

  • 16 Apr 2024 9:52 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    A former mayor of New Orleans spent some time in another Mississippi River city on Wednesday, checking out the La Crosse mass transit system.

    Mitch Landrieu, co-chair of President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, was given a tour of MTU facilities on Isle La Plume — inspecting the electric busses, used by the city.

    MTU director Adam Lorentz (left) speaks with Biden campaign official Mitch Landrieu (center) and La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds inside a city bus on Isle La Plume (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

    Landrieu, accompanied by Mayor Mitch Reynolds and others, said cities like La Crosse need funding help from Washington to afford a bus that can cost around $400,000.

    “Most of the time, local transit authorities don’t have this kind of money on their own,” Landrieu told reporters at the MTU bus barn. “So it really requires the federal government” to step up with funding.

    Landrieu came to La Crosse as part of a two-day Wisconsin tour promoting the Biden campaign. The president, himself, visited the MTU headquarters in June of 2021, highlighting infrastructure needs.

    Landrieu said D.C. is investing heavily in local projects important to Americans.

    “The infrastructure bill actually is the first time in 50 years that the federal government has taken a substantial amount of taxpayers’ dollars and put them back exactly where the taxpayer said they wanted them,” he said.

    Landrieu added that the first electric buses being used in La Crosse are state of the art vehicles.

    Reynolds said the bus system is important in giving city residents a way to “move about the community, so they can live their best life.”

    Read the full article here!

  • 12 Apr 2024 9:51 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MADISON, Wis. -- The City of Madison is set to receive over $13 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, officials announced Thursday.

    The funding is meant to support public transportation like buses, light rail and ferry systems and is part of a total $20.5 billion that will be sent to states and communities nationwide for Fiscal Year 2024.

    "We’re making history’s biggest-ever federal investment in transit – trains, buses, ferries, and more – so people can reliably and affordably get to wherever they need to be," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. "This $20.5 billion investment in public transportation will support the daily lives of millions of Americans across the country."

    Each community gets money based on formulas and apportionments set by Congress. The formulas factor in data points including population, population density and the revenue miles of a community's public transportation system.

    Statewide, Wisconsin will receive $121,085,311 in formula funding. Madison will receive $13,128,446 while Milwaukee will get $34,506,685. Green Bay is in line for $3,610,808.

    Full article here!

  • 8 Apr 2024 1:37 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Milwaukee County residents are weighing in this month on plans for CONNECT 2, a new bus rapid transit line planned for 27th Street, and how it could affect their neighborhoods.

    The Milwaukee County Transit System, or MCTS, plans to use CONNECT 2 to strengthen transit service on the heavily used PurpleLine route.

    CONNECT 2 also aligns with Milwaukee County’s goal of achieving racial equity by attempting to improve transit access for communities of color along the corridor.

    “Reliable and safe transit options are paramount in addressing the health disparities right here within our community,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said at a news conference at the project’s Feb. 27 public information meeting.

    The $148 million project is in the environmental review and design phase and will not be ready for riders until at least 2028.

    MCTS has been gauging public interest in the faster CONNECT 2 bus route. It is taking feedback until the end of March.

    Some community members and bus riders voiced their concerns at public information meetings for the project held in late February.

    “It’s going to be pretty helpful for me because … sometimes I wouldn’t have to take more than one bus because it’s going to go all the way down to Bayshore and stuff,” said Quartaria Wilder, who lives near Walker’s Point and is a member of the MCTS Transit Teen Advisory Board.

    Sam Kovnar, a MCTS bus rider who lives on the South Side and attended a public information meeting at Wilson Senior Center, 2601 W. Howard Ave., said he thought the plans looked good.

    “I think there are a few places that look to me like compromises, but I can also see the reasons for not having things like a dedicated lane or certain features on the stops,” he said. 

    However, David Ashley, who lives near 27th Street in Midtown, said he felt the plans did not keep enough stops in densely populated areas on the North Side and parts of the South Side.

    “I understand cuts have to be made, but you don’t want to cut the most vulnerable people away from their source of public transportation, or transportation period,” he said.

    How will it work?

    CONNECT 2, also known as the Milwaukee North-South Transit Enhancement project, will follow an 18-mile route that’s similar to the PurpleLine but with fewer stops.

    David Locher, manager of enhanced transit at MCTS, said CONNECT 2 will build off of results from CONNECT 1, the  bus rapid transit, or BRT line, that runs between downtown Milwaukee and Wauwatosa.

    “We want to do the same things: achieve travel time savings and increase the frequency between buses, and ultimately, what we want to do with BRT is to make a more consistent and reliable service,” Locher said.

    The project’s concept plan does not include in-depth designs yet, Locher said, and the designers will use public feedback as they move forward.

    Addressing disparities and equity

    Of 118,000 people living within a half-mile of the CONNECT 2 planned route, 73% are people of color, according to the project’s website.

    Within this area, 21% of households do not have a car, 25% are in poverty and 15% of people have disabilities, all higher than the Milwaukee County averages, according to the American Community Survey data from 2014-2018 used in the project’s feasibility study.

    If bus service along 27th Street and Layton Boulevard is more reliable and efficient, it will help residents access jobs, medical centers, schools and essential services, according to Robert Schneider, an urban planning professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    How could it affect Milwaukee’s neighborhoods?

    With proposed stops planned near vacant lots, Schneider sees potential for community reinvestment in neighborhoods along the CONNECT 2 route.

    “Each of those things provide an opportunity for a new building to go in, or some kind of reinvestment that provides for new jobs, new potential services like health care, new shopping opportunities, and other investments that hadn’t been made in a lot of these neighborhoods for a long time,” he said.

    Locher said that MCTS plans to continue the underlying PurpleLine service when CONNECT 2 is added, but will analyze if changes will need to be made to the service.

    “Our commitment is to find ways to not leave anyone behind,” he said.

    Ashley said he thinks the BRT line will be successful if PurpleLine service is maintained because it will meet everyone’s accessibility needs.

    “If that’s the path they want to go with, let’s ride,” he said.

    Full article here.

  • 1 Apr 2024 2:29 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MADISON, Wis. — Madison’s city bus system will soon have another option for riders.

    What You Need To Know

    • The new rapid transit line is expected to be done by fall
    • There will be 31 covered boarding stations on the line, with bike access and pedestrian crossings
    • The line will also offer new buses that can hold more passengers and trigger green lights
    • There will be dedicated bus lanes

    A new rapid transit line is expected to be done by fall.

    There will be 31 covered boarding stations along the line, with bike access and pedestrian crossings. The line will also offer new buses that can hold more passengers and trigger green lights to stay on schedule and reduce travel time. There will also be dedicated bus lanes.

    “The overall strategy is to get people along the line faster, easier and more conveniently,” said Mike Cechvala, capital projects manager with Metro Transit.

    Cechvala said it comes as more people are relying on the city bus system. Just this past fall, Metro Transit provided more than one million rides in a single month for the first time since the pandemic.

    “It has since started escalating,” Cechvala said. “We’re now back up to basically where we were in ridership before COVID.”

    Douglas Meier has been using city buses since starting as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison five years ago.

    “It was just the most convenient option,” he said. “Parking is really, really expensive on campus, if not impossible, and it was just a really convenient way to get around.”

    Meier said he welcomes the upgrades.

    “I’m excited to have an actual platform to wait on when it gets rainy or snowy,” he said. “It’s kind of sucky to sit on the curb without any shelter.”

    But he said he still wishes bus wait times were shorter. According to the city, buses on this new line will still operate every 15 minutes.

    “I think it could be more frequent,” Meier said. “Every 15 minutes is great, but if you miss your bus, then you’re kind of stuck waiting around for a while.”

    Cechvala said the city is always looking to make public transportation the best it can be.

    “We hope that the people who are currently using the bus will have a better experience,” he said. “We also hope that new people will see this service and start to use it and see it as a good option for getting around town.”

    Full article here.

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