• 1 Aug 2022 7:52 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Racine Electric Bus


    Alternative forms of transportations such as electric cars and trains have been on Americans’ minds for many years. Increases in gas prices and continuing alarming news about global warming have added to the discourse.

    The scene in Racine, however, is reflective of hope that we can do better. The city received $9 million in grant money from the federal and state government to purchase nine electric buses. The largest fleet in Wisconsin, these buses will cut back on 2.3 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The man responsible for leading this new project is Trevor Jung, Racine’s current transit and mobility director. He is also responsible for the popular electric scooters around the city. This interview discusses how mass transport links to inequality, why Racine is a good candidate for alternative transportation, and plans for handling the climate crisis.

    How did you come to the transportation sector?

    I was born in Russia and adopted when I was two years old. Growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, I developed a sense of gratitude for my hometown; anything I could do to give back and make it a better place, that’s what I wanted to do. After thinking about what the needs of my community are and what would make Racine the strongest place it could be, I thought that mass transit really is about access to opportunity. I went off to university for a degree in urban studies and came home to serve my community. I served on the common council for two terms as the chair of the transit commission and now I’m the transit mobility director of the city.

    Has your degree in urban studies aided your new position?

    It’s been valuable. Urban studies is a holistic field that is interdisciplinary and highlights such subjects as public administration, sociology and economics. The field shows that the health of a community involves all these different disciplines. For me, transportation is one piece of a very large puzzle, but it’s great insight because I understand the importance of land use and I’m connecting with other departments that have different charges but are just as connected to the wellbeing of Racine.

    Explain how public transportation can aid in the fight against inequality.

    Public transportation is critical in making sure we have equity in our community. It is the great equalizer: people take the bus to work, school or the grocery store. It provides a way of getting from point A to point B for those who can’t afford a car or choose to not own a personal vehicle. It is a tool for providing access to opportunity.

    What’s been the strategy for promoting this system to those who may have reservations (i.e. those worried about budgets or public transport not reaching rural areas)?

    We’ve got to market the transit system as a modernizing force. We can’t only talk about it as a way to get from place to place, we have to talk about it in terms of sustainability. We’re electrifying 25% of our fleet and exploring opportunities to power those buses through solar. It has started a conversation around mass transit in Racine which Is beneficial to marketing the system.  Secondly, it’s about partnering with institutions such as Racine Unified School District and Gateway Technical College to get the students engaged with the system. Third, it’s about relationships with our neighborhood municipalities. We have intergovernmental agreements with Yorkville, Mount Pleasant and Caledonia to connect their residents and employers to our city. It’s bridging the urban and suburban divide that you imply in your question.

    Why do you think Racine is an ideal place for experimenting with alternative public transportation projects?

    Racine has a tradition of being innovative. At one point, we had more patents per capita than anywhere else in the country, so the spirit of innovation lives strong. We also have a built-in environment conducive to public transport with a dense urban center where there’s a population that needs public transportation. Due to that, there are multiple modes whether it’s the fixed route transit system or an on-demand system for the disabled and elderly or the scooter share, a partnership between the city and Bird Scooters. Whether you’re on a bus or on a scooter, we want to make sure you can get where you’re going safely and comfortably.

    Where do you see this project heading in the future?

    I think we need to have a “Multi Model Mindset,” viewing Racine as an opportunity for economic growth with public transportation as a tool for that. Transit oriented development is a way to spur economic growth using the built-in environment around transportation to encourage private investment. The city of Racine is exploring opportunities for projects like extending commuter rail from Kenosha to Racine and Milwaukee. The long-term benefits of that have been seen across the country where there’s fixed rail transit creates density and commercial development. Additionally, thinking about the future, we’ve launched an app for transit riders so they can see in real time on the phone where their bus is and which route to jump on. The word I’d use to describe the work we’re doing is “modernization, modernization modernization.” Excited days are ahead for transit in Racine.


  • 21 Jul 2022 7:33 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Electric Cars

    The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is seeking the public's input on a plan for the future of electric vehicles in the state.

    According to a news release from WisDOT, the plan outlines an effort to build and place electric vehicle charging stations across Wisconsin. Those would be implemented under a program funded by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

    WisDOT will be receiving around $78.65 million over the next five years as part of the National Electric Vehicle program.

    The entire plan can be found online here, where you can also submit a comment.


  • 18 Jul 2022 7:22 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    A Milwaukee County Transit System bus passes a bus shelter near 6410 W. Silver Spring Drive on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The shelter has recently been adorned with a colorful mural. This mural is part of the City of Milwaukee Office of Early Childhood Initiatives "Pop Spots" mural series meant to promote early literacy and parental involvement with young children.

    Say goodbye to restless, squirming youngsters at the bus stop.

    Milwaukee children and families now have something fun and educational to do while waiting for the bus.  

    Twenty-four Milwaukee County Public Transit bus shelters around city will soon be adorned with colorful, interactive murals as part of the city's Office of Early Childhood Initiatives' "Pop Spots" mural program. 

    The murals are the latest of OECI's many efforts to promote early childhood learning and literacy in Milwaukee's public spaces through its Mighty Small Moments campaign.

    The campaign encourages parents to prepare their young children for success in school by incorporating simple, educational activities into their daily routines.

    The murals will direct parents to engage their children in a variety of activities including counting, reading, storytelling, physical activity, and identifying shapes, colors and food.

    The collection of murals includes designs in both English and Spanish, and some even feature cultural elements significant to the bus shelter's location, said Gary Mueller, creative director of Serve Marketing, the nonprofit advertising agency that helped design the murals.

    The first mural was unveiled last week at a bus shelter on the city's northwest side at the intersection of West Silver Spring Drive and North 64th Street. It depicts a young boy and his father preparing to ride the bus. The illustration is accompanied by a short story.

    According to Milwaukee Public Schools senior director of curriculum and instruction Felicia Saffold, this first mural promotes language development by encouraging children to engage with a story. Reading a story with your child also strengthens the parent-child bond, Saffold said.

    Ultimately, the goal of the mural project is to create accessible learning spaces, especially for children ages 5 and under.

    Saffold said this age group represents a "critical window for development" and is an important time to prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

    Four of the murals will be near MPS schools.

    According to the 2018-2019 MPS District Report Card, more than 57% of economically disadvantaged MPS students achieved below basic proficiency in English language arts.

    Statistics like these are why, when Office of Early Childhood Initiatives director Dea Wright began working with MCTS to decide on locations for the murals, she prioritized under-resourced ZIP codes where she said children are more likely to have a smaller vocabulary and fewer reading skills when entering kindergarten.

    According to Milwaukee Public Schools senior director of curriculum and instruction Felicia Saffold, this first mural promotes language development by encouraging children to engage with a story. Reading a story with your child also strengthens the parent-child bond, Saffold said.

    Ultimately, the goal of the mural project is to create accessible learning spaces, especially for children ages 5 and under.

    Saffold said this age group represents a "critical window for development" and is an important time to prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

    Four of the murals will be near MPS schools.

    According to the 2018-2019 MPS District Report Card, more than 57% of economically disadvantaged MPS students achieved below basic proficiency in English language arts.

    Statistics like these are why, when Office of Early Childhood Initiatives director Dea Wright began working with MCTS to decide on locations for the murals, she prioritized under-resourced ZIP codes where she said children are more likely to have a smaller vocabulary and fewer reading skills when entering kindergarten.

    Wright cited the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, who found that for every dollar invested in quality early childhood education programs, taxpayers save up to $16.

    Heckman's research showed that children who receive early childhood education opportunities are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system or need special education services.

    However, children do not need to be enrolled in a top-notch daycare program to reap these benefits. Simple activities like singing, talking and reading with a young child can make a big difference, Wright said.

    Creating 'Mighty Small Moments'

    OECI opened with Wright as director in 2018. Soon after, she started the Mighty Small Moment campaign, which includes the mural project. 

    Mighty Small Moments advocates for the importance of talking, reading, singing and playing with children ages three and under.

    Studies show these activities increase a child's vocabulary which in turn makes learning to read easier when they enter school. The better a student reads early on in school, the more likely they are to graduate from high school.

    According to the OECI website, "even short bursts of brain-boosting interactions can make a big difference."

    This is why Mighty Small Moments urges parents to take advantage of small, everyday moments — like waiting in line, doing laundry or walking to the bus stop — and turn them into opportunities to engage with their children.

    "We have to imagine our city splattered with things where parents can be their child's first teacher," Wright said.

    In September 2019, OECI opened Milwaukee's first "Read, Play and Learn" public early learning space at Riverworks Coin Laundry on Holton Street. 

    The space offers various levels of books and literacy materials, allowing parents and caregivers to read with their children while doing laundry. It was created in partnership with the LaundryCares Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to promoting early learning at laundromats — and Too Small to Fail, the early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation. 

    Tratavia Hardmon, a mother of four and a member of the OECI Family Advisory Board, said in a Common Council meeting last week that she appreciates that her children are able to play and learn while she does laundry.

    “A lot of families are busy like myself, so we don’t get a lot of one-on-one time where we can sit down and talk (to our children) and interact with them," Hardmon said. "I think Mighty Small Moments creates those moments for families like mine.” 

    Following the success of the laundromat space, OECI introduced similar educational waiting spaces to the Keenan Health Center, the Marcia Coggs Center, the Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center, and other WIC clinics and community spaces.

    Wright said patrons and employees of many of these locations report that children have been better behaved and less disruptive since the introduction of the educational spaces.

    "(Without the educational spaces), I've seen children at the DMV literally crawling under chairs and playing chase. Other people get annoyed, and it's not safe," Wright said. "If children are going to be in these spaces ... you have to have something to engage them."

    Although some of the educational spaces are still being reassembled after being removed to comply with pandemic restrictions, Mueller — the creative director of the mural project — said, including the bus shelter murals, there are now 33 interactive public learning spaces located throughout the city.

    Of course, Wright thinks there can never be enough of these spaces.

    "I think parents have to see these until they're like 'Ugh, everywhere I go someone's telling me to talk, read, share, love,'" she said. "Then, they won't have to think twice, it just becomes second nature."


  • 14 Jul 2022 11:32 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    The recent issue of the Wisconsin Counties Association Magazine highlights public transit; as Chair of the Wisconsin Public Transportation Association, Transit Director Rebecca Smith was asked to contribute an article. Rebecca worked with HWZ to prepare the article, found on page 23, for submission.

    Read the magazine here: https://indd.adobe.com/view/93c6c83d-6ae8-4887-be70-6e503c092a65

  • 11 Jul 2022 7:38 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    In support of the city’s environmental, economic and social sustainability framework, the City of Beloit is using federal funds to purchase a hybrid electric-diesel bus, the city announced Monday.

    The Beloit City Council accepted a Surface Transportation Program-Urban grant earlier this month, which will cover 80% of the the cost of the $629,960 bus. The other $154,490 is coming from the city’s Capital Improvement budget.

    According to the city, Beloit Transit is utilizing the bus, the city’s first hybrid bus, to replace an aging diesel bus in their transit fleet.

    “Beloit Transit is actively seeking ways to lower emissions while being fiscally responsible,” Teri Downing, Deputy Community Development Director who oversees the Transit Division, said. “With fuel prices rapidly increasing, bringing a hybrid bus into our fleet helps reduce operating expenses while providing for a cleaner future for our community.”

    Manufacturing lead time for buses in around 12-18 months, according to the city. The new bus is expected to be placed into service during the second half of 2023.


  • 7 Jul 2022 8:14 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MyRapid Pass | Metro Transit, City of Madison, Wisconsin

    As part of Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s MetroForward >> initiative, the City of Madison has teamed up for the second year with the Madison Metropolitan School District to distribute a summer Metro Transit pass to ALL middle and high school students, providing a safe and easily accessible way to navigate our community this summer.

    “In its first year this initiative distributed 2,375 passes to young people who took 37,989 bus rides over just one summer. It’s clear that these passes make a real difference for Madison youth and their families,” said Mayor Rhodes Conway. “We are working hard to improve transit access, and we want young people to benefit from that. Partnering with MMSD is the best way we can help Madison youth get to jobs, school, City parks, pools and more this summer, all while advancing our climate, equity and economic goals.”

    Empowering youth to be public transit riders now prepares them to access Madison’s transit network, improved through the Transit Network Redesign process, as well as the coming Bus Rapid Transit system that will connect all sides of the City like never before.

    Free passes were distributed to middle and high school students 6th grade and up via their schools and are now available for pickup from school summer semester sites . Students that live in Madison but attend other school districts, or who did not receive a summer pass from their school, are eligible for the free pass and can pick them up at Metro Transit (1245 E. Washington Ave., Ste. 201). Passes are valid for the summer, through September 6.

    For more information, contact Metro Transit at (608) 266-4466. Complete information is also available here.


  • 5 Jul 2022 7:40 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MCTS, MPS and city of Milwaukee team up to create interactive bus stops for kids

    Milwaukee County Transit System bus stops around the city are getting a lot more colorful and interactive as a part of a new initiative between MCTS, Milwaukee's Office of Early Childhood Initiatives, Milwaukee Public Schools and BVK.

    "We're sharing a very important message today, and that message is getting young people engaged and heading in the right direction early on in their lives is essential," said Mayor Cavalier Johnson during a Tuesday morning press conference. "I want young people in Milwaukee to be curious. I want young people in Milwaukee to be inquisitive. I want young people to learn about the world that's around them."

    Children will be able to do just that with the now Pop Stop murals that will decorate 24 bus shelters around the city. Part of the MCTS Bus Shelter Art Project, the murals will feature interactive games and other activities for children to enjoy while waiting with their parent or guardian for the bus.

    "We designed each shelter with several criteria in mind," said Gary Mueller, founder and creative director of BVK and SERVE. "The activities include counting, identifying shapes, objects, colors, foods. Some are designed around reading stories or scavenger hunts. Some even include physical activity."

    Dea Wright is the director for the city of Milwaukee's Office of Childhood Initiatives. She says the idea for the Pop Spots has been in the works for years. She's happy to see it finally come to fruition.

    "It's going to be really special when I'm driving down the street and I see someone standing there and looking at it," Wright said. "I believe that it is possible for Milwaukee to be covered with opportunities for children to be able to engage with their families. Talk, read, sing, love, learn together wherever they are."

    Wright says the bus stops are just one stop on her and her office's mission to keep kids engaged and educated.

    "I am sick and tired of the achievement gap, the opportunity gap; everything I hear about children of color," Wright said. "Every single child, regardless of race or income, should have access to spaces that promote healthy development."

    Dr. Felicia Saffold works for Milwaukee Public Schools as senior director of curriculum and instruction. She echoed the importance of keeping kids engaged when not in the classroom.

    "Pop Stops are an exciting, interactive learning opportunity for families and children," Dr. Saffold said. "We think about early literacy and promoting literacy and oral language, and capitalizing on every moment that you can do that, so this is awesome."

    All 24 shelters where Pop Stops will be located are set to be finished within the next two weeks. The goal is to have the murals up for years to come.


  • 30 Jun 2022 6:18 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Milwaukee County had plans to overhaul its transit system before the pandemic. But the declines in ridership brought on by a shift to working from home and ongoing worries about virus transmission has made it even more urgent for the transit agency to bring in new riders and retain existing ones.

    The county transit system is nearly a year into its MCTS Next redesign, which includes making 60 percent of buses arrive at least every 15 minutes during service hours, up from 40 percent. The system removed some stops that were close together, shortening some routes while extending others. It’s been in the works for years, but wasn’t fully implemented until last summer.

    “With COVID hitting in 2020, we had to adjust some of our plans in terms of outreach and such,” said Tom Winter, director of scheduling and planning for MCTS. “But the basic tenets of providing more frequent service in neighborhoods where there’s more people and more jobs were valid regardless of the pandemic.”

    Transit agencies around the country were seeing declining ridership even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Shelter-in-place policies created even steeper drops. The federal pandemic relief packages set aside money for the states to spend on transportation, but those efforts have been criticized for directing funds into highways rather than transit. In Milwaukee, for example, millions are going toward the controversial expansion of the I-94 interstate. At the same time, the Wisconsin legislature is cutting funding to Madison and Milwaukee by 50 percent over the next two years.

    The Milwaukee County Transit System is expecting a $32.8 million budget deficit by 2025. Those state cuts, budget difficulties and a bus driver shortage prompted the suspension of specialty routes like its Freeway Flyers and shuttles to Summerfest, the state fair, Brewers games and the city’s ethnic festivals.

    Winter said the agency has seen about a 15 percent increase in ridership since it rolled out all three phases of MCTS Next last summer. But it’s still only got about 60 percent of the ridership it had pre-pandemic.

    “We’re trying to get back to that original number, but given that the pandemic is still in play, it’s going to be kind of a big hill to climb going forward,” he said. “This is kind of a big question across the country, of what is that new normal for transit ridership, given all the larger structural changes that are going on in our economy.”

    A recent report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that Madison saw the steepest drop in transit ridership — it has been down 65 percent or more since the first month of the pandemic. There were also declines in Eau Claire, Green Bay, Oshkosh and other transit systems.

    Winter said Milwaukee is continuing to tweak its routes in response to rider and driver feedback — it’s made sure all the bus drivers’ routes have bathrooms they can access, for example. And it worked with the organization Beyond Vision to have one of the bus routes in West Allis stop at the organization’s new facility, which opened last fall.

    “We’re always looking to continue to improve transit in the community, and we rely on the feedback from the riders, from the drivers, from other stakeholders to make that happen,” Winter said.


  • 27 Jun 2022 7:46 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Milwaukee County Transit System bus

    The Milwaukee County Transit System will be implementing new route changes later this year, and officials say last year's changes increased ridership and racial equity. 

    MCTS hosted public hearings in recent days where officials shared plans and allowed for public input. As part of the hearings, MCTS also shared quarterly results.

    Last year, MCTS implemented a three-phase change to routes, a process they have called MCTS Next. Statistics provided by MCTS show that the implementation was an overall success. 

    Generally speaking, ridership declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, MCTS averaged more than 79,000 rides a day. However, in 2020, that number dropped to less than 43,000 and declined even more in 2021. 

    Statistics on ridership from the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2021 shows an increase in ridership for the first time since the pandemic. 

    From 2021 to 2022, system ridership increased 15% or roughly 6,000 rides a day, while ridership increased 10% on high frequency routes, according to MCTS. 

    MCTS last year increased the number of high-frequency routes, which are routes that run more buses so that travel times and wait times decrease. 

    MCTS also found that ridership on routes that primarily serve people of color increased 17%, or roughly 5,000 rides a day from 2021 to 2022. 

    An annual survey administered by MCTS found that 75% of riders reported MCTS exceeds or meets their needs, while nearly 70% of riders reported they feel the frequency of service developed during MCTS Next exceeded or met their needs. 

    The last phase of MCTS Next was implemented in August of last year and MCTS is now making adjustments to routes based on public input.

    "Our goal is to really either expand the frequency or make them easier to understand," said Jesus Ochoa, planning manager at MCTS. 

    Here are the nine routes set to be adjusted starting August 28:

    Route 18 —National-Greenfield 

    Route 18

    High-frequency service will be extended west along Greenfield Avenue from 84th Street to Highway 100 along route 18. 

    A new service will be provided to Beyond Vision's new VisAbility Center at 108th and Lapham Streets. The 130,000 square-foot facility, currently under construction, will provide jobs to the vision impaired and, potentially, new or existing bus riders. "We are really stoked about that," said Ochoa. 

    Route 18 service on National Avenue will be replaced with an extension of Route 54 from Mitchell and Burnham Streets. 

    Buses will continue to run from 5 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. (no change).

    Route 54 — Mitchell-Burnham 

    Route 54

    Service will be extended further west for Route 54 along National Avenue to 112th Street. Currently, it ends around 70th Street. 

    The new service will replace Route 18 buses that are being moved from National Avenue to Greenfield Avenue. 

    "This proposed change was actually something that our customers actually asked for, they wanted that one bus ride further," Ochoa said. 

    Frequency will be increased on the weekend from a 45-minute wait to a 35-minute wait. Weekday buses will continue to run every 30 minutes. 

    Buses will continue to run from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. (no change). 

    Route 60 — 60th Street 

    Route 60

    The one-way loop service between 60th Street and Layton Avenue near Southridge Mall will be eliminated due to low ridership. Riders still have access to Southridge via Route 14 at Forest Home Avenue, MCTS said. 

    There will be shorter wait times — every 30 minutes instead of 45 minutes and buses will continue to operate from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. (no change). 

    Route 28 — 108th Street 

    Route 28

    This route will be modified at the southern end (near Grange Avenue and Forest Home Avenue) to provide restroom access for bus drivers. Public Allies AmeriCorps Ambassador to MCTS Leean Le said this is a "critical improvement, as (drivers) are the front lines of our service."

    Le said a part of the route that confuses riders will also be simplified between Janesville Road and the Hales Corners park ride lot.

    There will be no changes to wait times, and buses will start earlier and end later from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. 

    Route 80 — 6th Street 

    Route 80

    Service on Route 80 will be extended north via Green Bay Avenue and Good Hope Road to Teutonia Avenue. Route 80 service from MATC South to Oak Creek will be replaced by an extension of Route 19. 

    All buses will go to Mitchell International Airport. During the school year, every other bus will go to College Avenue / MATC South.

    Travel times to Oak Creek will be shorter on Route 19 buses compared to Route 80, because Route 19 will travel more directly than Route 80, which travels to both the airport and MATC. 

    Buses will continue to operate from 4:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. (no change). 

    Route 19 — Dr. MLK Drive-S. 13th 

    Route 19

    Route 19 will be extended to Howell Avenue and Centennial Drive in Oak Creek, which replaced Route 80 service. 

    Route 19 will maintain service to Drexel Town Square and Oak Creek business park and will provide restroom access for bus drivers on the southern end.

    Buses will continue to run from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. (no change). 

    Route 35 — 35th Street 

    Route 35

    MCTS is eliminating a part of Route 35, which runs to Green Bay Avenue and Good Hope Road. Instead, Route 80 will now travel those roads. 

    Buses will continue to run from 4:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. (no change). 

    PurpleLine — 27th Street 


    PurpleLine one-way only service on Ramsey Avenue, 35th Street, and College Avenue will be eliminated due to low ridership, MCTS said. 

    The change will allow for a longer layover for drivers at IKEA. 

    Buses along the remainder of the PurpleLine will continue to run from 4 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. (no change).

    Route 66 — Burleigh Street

    Route 66

    Route 66 has high demand and therefore frequency will be increased along the route. Wait times will now be around 20 minutes compared to 30 minutes. 

    Buses will continue to run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. (no change). 


  • 23 Jun 2022 8:40 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)


    As Northeast Wisconsin and the country continue to contend with high gas prices, the city of Appleton is promoting public transportation with "Dump the Pump" Day.

    The mayor of Appleton signed a formal declaration to recognize Dump the Pump Day, which was presented Friday during a public event.

    According to the mayor's declaration, National Dump the Pump Day was created in 2006 by the American Public Transportation Association to encourage people to use local and national transit and railway systems.

    City officials promoted Appleton's public transit during a morning event Friday, highlighting the economic value of taking a bus rather than driving. The Valley Transit general manager called public transportation a cost-effective way to travel.

    More information about Appleton's public transit can be found here.


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