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  • 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.

  • 20 Jun 2022 8:47 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    An earlier version of this story stated that La Crosse's electric buses were the first in the state. Racine had already launched electric buses.

    Two new electric buses will hit the streets of La Crosse Monday, in what officials and project leaders are calling a major step forward in creating a more sustainable city and state.

    Mayor Mitch Reynolds, elected officials and leadership from the La Crosse Municipal Transport Utility (MTU) gathered Wednesday at the La Crosse Center to celebrate the launch. With the two green electric buses parked in the background, officials spoke of the journey toward achieving this milestone.

    Since development began in 2018, the road to launching the electric buses has not been straightforward. From responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, securing funding and getting approvals from the City Council, officially launching the buses felt like "proof" that La Crosse was backing up its commitment to sustainability, said Adam Lorentz, MTU director of transit.

    "It's easy to talk about sustainability and it's easy to talk about plans for the future," Lorentz said. "But when you bring in two vehicles, it's hard to say that we're not doing what we promised to do. I look at this as just not only for today, but also for the future."

    Powered completely by electricity, the buses will operate full time in the city's fleet of public transport vehicles. With gas prices continuing to rise across the country, the number of riders is expected to increase after the launch of the electric buses, Lorentz said.

    Lorentz said the city wanted to give people another option for getting to work and dealing with rough road and parking conditions. The almost silent buses will also create a better experience for riders and people commuting around La Crosse, he said.

    City and project leaders discussed how this launch will impact people outside of La Crosse, and Reynolds said it will "set the bar for sustainability in communities across the country."

    "That's a model that other communities really should be looking at and seeing if they can follow because that says everything about how we can improve our future," Reynolds said.

    Support from state and federal representatives was instrumental to getting the buses on the roads, Reynolds said. Elected officials that helped advocate for and promote the electric buses include state Rep. Jill Billings, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Ron Kind.

    To help build and launch the buses, La Crosse MTU also partnered with Xcel Energy for funding and budgeting expertise and with Proterra to develop the bus design.

    Given the environmental and economic benefits, leaders are already looking to launch additional electric buses in the future to improve the rider experience. Eventually, La Crosse hopes to have a completely electric fleet of public transport vehicles, Reynolds said.

    "For those who come here, for those who live here, for our current riders, for future riders, they're just going to have a better experience," Reynolds said.

  • 16 Jun 2022 8:34 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    With gas prices hitting record highs some are already turning to mass transit to save money.

    "They're kind of rediscovering it in the moment," said Kristina Hoffman, the communications manager for the Milwaukee County transit system. "And reconsidering their lifestyle."

    It isn't hard to see why. With gas prices topping $5 per gallon, the Milwaukee County Transit System is seeing its highest ridership of the year.

    "This time of year, ridership normally starts to take a drop because we're coming into summer, schools not in session, colleges aren't in session, so it's a natural drop for us," Hoffman said. "But we're seeing a big increase."

    So far it's a 14% increase since the fall and it's not done rising.

    "You cannot sustain," said Justin Biddle, a Milwaukee County commuter. "Keep driving to work, paying $80 a week with gas prices like they currently are. It's unheard of."

    Amtrak is now offering itself as a way to beat high gas prices, especially for commuters between Chicago and Milwaukee.

    But for most, mass transit means the bus. The surge is even rekindling the possibility of reviving perhaps the most advantageous routes for commuters, the Freeway Flyers. The service was suspended in January for a lack of staffing.

    "I think that's another thing we can look at," said Hoffman. "If more people are returning to transit, if they're looking at changing their lifestyle, and saying 'hey, the bus is a better choice,' then absolutely we'll look at that."

    So exactly how much are you saving with mass transit? Right now a $5 pass gets 24 hours of rides on county buses.

  • 13 Jun 2022 8:04 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Madison's Transportation Policy and Planning Board approved the redesign of the city’s bus network during a meeting Monday night. 

    The plan was approved with a 7 to 1 vote and will now head to the Common Council.

    The Metro Transit redesign is meant to increase access and frequency, decrease travel times and improve the experience of riders. 

    It has been a controversial topic because some people think it will lead to longer walks to the new bus stops.

    After 25 years with the current design, many believe it's time to make a change. 

    "Most of the problems we've heard really come down to just we need more transit, and more transit funding, and that's always going to be the case, but we can't let that hold us back from laying a new groundwork that we can move from going forward,” said Chris McCahill, an expert in transportation engineering and urban planning.

    "Certainly it (the plan) has weaknesses. It has strengths, but I'm not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. We need to move forward,” said Margaret Bergamini, Greater Madison MPO Policy Board member.

    Officials say they will also continue to look into any other possible changes as they move into the next phase of planning and funding.

    "I think the sooner we hit the ground running with a dry run, the sooner we can learn some of those tweaks we need to make," said McCahill. 

    The Common Council is scheduled to vote on the redesign at its meeting Tuesday, June 7. If it's approved at that level, changes could be in place by 2023.

  • 9 Jun 2022 7:38 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    The national average price for a gallon of gas reached a new all-time high of $4.76 Friday, with Wisconsin drivers paying an average of $4.68, according to AAA. Prices in Milwaukee have soared near or above $5 per gallon, and the frustration could lead more drivers to leave their car at home for the weekday commute this summer.

    Since the start of the year, bus ridership in Milwaukee County has been up 14%. While it may be difficult to attribute the increase to fuel costs, the Milwaukee County Transit System said it expects more people to catch a ride on the bus, with no imminent signs of relief at the pump.

    “People are noticing the bus,” MCTS marketing director Kristina Hoffman said. “They’re looking at it as an alternative to their current lifestyle, an alternative to their car, paying high gas prices, high parking prices. They’re stressed out. Let us do the driving.”

    For many drivers, the switch would be a big change to their daily routine, but some, like frequent rider Brian Ambers, find the savings worth the shakeup.

    “If you put five bucks in your tank, it’s not going to get you anywhere,” said Brian Ambers, who takes a bus from South Milwaukee to work an early shift in Bay View. “I’m saving a lot of money. I mean, I wish the prices would go down, but I don’t know when that’s going to happen.”

    Each ride on an MCTS bus costs $2, and an all-day bus costs $5 in the service’s new Umo mobile app. Ambers said beyond the money he saves, his mind gets a break while he would otherwise be dealing with weekday traffic.

    “If there’s a bus stop available, get on there,” Ambers said. ”Saves you a lot of money; you can enjoy your ride, listen to music, watch videos on your phone. That’s the way I do it.”

    For Ambers, $2 each way is an easy tradeoff to the 40-minute round trip to work. He may be joined by more Wisconsinites as gas prices continue to soar.

  • 6 Jun 2022 7:03 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    When President Biden visited Superior in March, he touted how billions of dollars will be dedicated to improving infrastructure in Wisconsin.

    Tuesday morning, Madison Mayor Sayta Rhodes-Conway discussed how some of the funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be spent.

    “This is a once-in-a-generation federal investment in critical infrastructure that will make a huge difference in Madison,” Rhodes-Conway told reporters during the kickoff of Opportunity Wisconsin's 'Paving the Way' statewide tour. The event highlighted how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will impact the Badger State.

    President Biden's spending package puts $89.9 billion toward public transit over the next five years. The City of Madison will use those funds to pursue an all-electric fleet of buses.

    The city expects to buy 46 brand new electric buses without contributing any additional local funding. However, that wasn't always the plan.

    “We had been planning to do a mixed fleet,” Rhodes-Conway explained. “Some electric buses and some conventional diesel buses, but with the advent of the funding for electric vehicles in the infrastructure act, we're able to switch our fleet to fully electric so that we won't be buying diesel buses and locking in that pollution for years.”

    The mayor also hopes the switch can lock in years of savings. She expects the shift to an all-electric fleet will:

    • Cut back on nearly a quarter-million gallons of diesel fuel every year
    • Save the city up to $125,000 in maintenance costs per vehicle over its lifetime
    • Reduce up to 135 metric tons of greenhouse gases for each bus every year

    “Each of these projects represents good, family-supporting jobs for Madisonians, and each of these projects represents an opportunity to advance our city's goals around climate, equity and economic development,” Rhodes-Conway said.

    The mayor said bus rapid transit routes will start operating as soon as next year, with everything fully operational by 2024.

  • 2 Jun 2022 9:16 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Adam Bellcorelli said the new technology added to GO Transit buses is a win for him and a win for the bus drivers in the city.

    And Bellcorelli loves a win-win as much as anybody.

    “Being able to ride the bus and not to have to have the driver jump out and get on the floor and do the ratchet straps, or when it’s wintertime, the floor gets a little slushy or dirty, so I feel better for them,’’ said Bellcorelli, a 17-year Oshkosh resident. “And I just tell them where I’m going to stop, then jump on and hit the button, and it secures me right in. It’s independence, and it’s a lot of fun to use.’’

    The independence Bellcorelli speaks of comes in what is called Quantum securement technology, a device that allows riders in wheelchairs and mobility devices to have complete independence while riding city buses.

    GO Transit, the public transportation service to the Greater Oshkosh area, unveiled the new technology Wednesday as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

    “It gives independence and safety, really the two main issues, for people using the bus with mobility devices,’’ said Steve Tomasik, operations manager for GO Transit. “They can get on the bus by themselves and the device actually secures the wheelchair for them.’’

    Tomasik said the devices were installed to fill a need, as both riders and drivers became concerned during the COVID pandemic.
    “Everyone was scared of how all of this was going to transpire,’’ he said. “You can’t keep six feet of safe distancing if you have someone reaching over you to help you secure your device.”

    GO Transit retrofitted 12 of their buses at a cost of $180,000, Tomasik said. Four new buses, which will be delivered later this year, will already have the technology installed.

    Tomasik said new air purification systems were also added to all GO Transit buses. They also added a cashless payment system, whereby riders download an app to their cellphone, purchase tickets online, then show their phone to the driver when they get on.

    “And the nice things about this system is, let’s say you go over a bump or (the bus) takes a turn or whatever, this will, throughout the course of the ride, readjust itself to make sure you’re still clamped in,” Tomasik said. 

    Tomasik said the option will remain for riders with mobility devices to be strapped in the old way, as the new system requires the rider to face the back of the bus. 

    “I really like this,’’ said Bellcorelli of facing the opposite way. “I didn’t think I would at first because normally I do ride, when I was in the old system, I’d ride the other way. But because you put your back against the pad, it feels so much more secure. So, yeah, I do like it. I’ve found it more comfortable riding this way," he said. 

    Bellcorelli said based on talking with other riders with mobility devices, the new technology is a hit.

    “People love it,’’ he said. “The more you can do this on your own, the less you feel like you have to rely on someone else to do things for you.

    “It makes all the buses much more accessible and much more fun to use.’’

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