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Milwaukee County Transit hears from public about possible Connect 2 higher-speed bus route

7 Mar 2024 11:00 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

The Milwaukee County Transit System is taking the public’s temperature on a possible faster bus line from roughly Bayshore Mall, down 27th Street, and all the way to the IKEA store in Oak Creek.

The so-called Connect 2 bus is at least four years away and needs a lot of federal money to become a reality.

The first Connect bus—also known as BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) — started operation last summer. It travels between the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and downtown, with fewer stops than the typical transit system route.

BRT has had some glitches and all the electric buses on Connect 1 had to be halted for weeks, due to a battery concern. But now, the nine-mile route is back to its planned mix of battery-electric buses and ones that run on diesel. Also, due to a supply chain problem, the Transit System is months behind in charging money for rides on the BRT. But fares may start in April.

Thursday morning, WUWM rode in a half-full Connect 1 bus, rolling along bumpy Bluemound Rd. at about 64th St.

Transit System and Milwaukee County officials say they’re happy enough with Connect 1 to continue planning for Connect 2—an 18-mile route going through Glendale, Milwaukee, Greenfield, Franklin, and Oak Creek, mostly along the densely populated north and south 27th Street.

At a transit system open house on the north side Thursday afternoon, Jacobi Jackson of Milwaukee said he likes Connect 1.

“Connect 1, I ride it almost every day, and the thing I really like is it is fast route. There is far stop spacing, and the station designs [bus stops] look really nice. I also love the electric buses too," Jackson says.

Jackson says Connect 2 would provide faster links to other county buses that he rides.

Glendale resident Mark Caballero says he’s not a frequent bus rider. But he says Connect 2 would make him so.

“Visiting family, we’d go to maybe Tosa. I could see myself taking Connect 2 down to Connect 1. I could see myself going to a lot of restaurants downtown. So, Connect 1 again to Connect 2," Caballero says.

Quartaria Wilder of Milwaukee says she’d take Connect 2 for its mostly straight route. “Yeah, it’s going to be easier to get to my destinations, cause it’s one shot down — school," Wilder says.

At a southside open house earlier this week, Maria Parade, with Spanish to English translation by Marina Hernandez says Connect 2 would help her get to and from work.

"That would benefit me because there are buses that are really slow, like bus line 53, 54... oh my, I was freezing waiting for the bus the other day," Parade says in Spanish.

A few of the people at the open houses did tell WUWM some worries about the possible Connect 2 but declined to be recorded. The concerns range from believing the faster buses could lead to more reckless driving along the route, as car drivers try to get ahead of the bigger vehicles on roads that are narrowed for car traffic, to concerns that coordination of economic development along the north-south route would be lacking, to outright opposition to more government spending on the transit system.

Milwaukee County is seeking $118 million from the federal government and needs $30 million from non-federal sources just to develop Connect 2.

But County Executive David Crowley says he’s been making this pitch:

“I think this is a route about equity. Right? When we think about the people who live around this corridor and the amount of access they can have to job opportunities. When we think about the families who are struggling and need access to employment and want access to healthier outcomes and their families. I think that is going to help us tell the story of what Connect 2 can do for all the residents in Milwaukee County," Crowley says.

This might be a good year for the county to push for the money. As he was running for reelection in 2020, former President Donald Trump tweeted that he committed about $40 million in federal funds to what became Connect 1.

Trump, and transit supporter, Biden, appear headed for a presidential re-match this year.

Read the full article here.

Wisconsin Public Transportation Association

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