The Hop (streetcar)
A Hop streetcar on St. Paul Avenue at Plankinton Ave.
|Open||November 2, 2018|
|Owner(s)||City of Milwaukee|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||750 V DC, overhead wire|
|Stock||5 Brookville Liberty Modern Streetcars|
|Route length||2.1 miles (3.4 km) |
|Stops||18 (3 more planned)|
The Hop, also known as the Milwaukee Streetcar, is a modern streetcar system in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 2.1-mile (3.4 km) initial line connects the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and Downtown to the Lower East Side and Historic Third Ward neighborhoods. A 0.4-mile (640 m) Lakefront branch, to the proposed "Couture" high-rise development, has been mostly constructed, but is not projected to open until late 2020. The system is owned by the city and operated by Transdev.
In 1860, Milwaukee opened the first line of its original streetcar system using horse-drawn streetcars. The system continued to grow in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, culminating in a large network of electric streetcar lines.
After World War II, the federal government invested heavily in the development of an interconnected interstate highway system, and raised taxes on private railway and streetcar operators. This stimulated massive urban sprawl and car dependency to the detriment of public transport systems. Commenting on this trend, philosopher and planner Lewis Mumford said when the Interstate Highway Act passed that more damage would be done to American cities in the next 10 years than all the bombing the Germans did to European cities during World War II. On March 2, 1958, the city's last streetcar route was closed.
The northern terminus of the line is at Burns Commons (Ogden Avenue at Prospect Avenue). From there, the line follows Ogden Avenue in both directions to Jackson Street and then Jackson Street to Kilbourn Avenue. After a short segment of two-way running on E. Kilbourn Avenue, the route connects with N. Broadway (southbound running) and N. Milwaukee Street (northbound running). Two-way running resumes at E. St. Paul Avenue. After crossing the Milwaukee River, the line then follows W. St. Paul Avenue in both directions to N. 4th Street, terminating at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. Earlier plans to begin the line at Ogden Avenue and Farwell Avenue, and to run northbound on Van Buren Street and only southbound on Jackson Street were dropped to reduce utility relocation costs.
The first line, designated the M-Line, from Burns Commons to Milwaukee Intermodal Station, is 2.1 mi (3.4 km) long. The route follows separate streets in opposing directions for around 0.575 miles (925 m) of its length.
In October 2015, the project received a federal grant which will cover approximately half the cost of a spur to the lakefront. This spur, or branch, to N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. will go via E. Michigan St. and E. Clybourn Street, and is expected to commence service in late 2020. By June 2018, it had already been fully constructed except for its outermost section, where delays to the start of work on the proposed "Couture" high-rise development prevented construction of the streetcar line. The branch is planned to be served by a route, designated as the L-Line, which would also use the tracks of the M-Line along Milwaukee Street and Broadway to make a loop around downtown.
Of the 2.1-mile (3.4 km) length of the first line, 3,300 feet (1 km) is not equipped with overhead wires. The streetcars cover these sections along Kilbourn Avenue and Jackson Street powered only by their batteries. A portion of the future Lakefront Line will also be unwired.
Funding and approval
The total cost to construct the streetcar was estimated in 2015 to be US$123.9 million (equivalent to $133.64 million in 2019). The project was approved by the Milwaukee Common Council on January 21, 2015, and upheld on February 10, 2015, by a vote of 10 to 5.
In mid-April 2016, the city invited bids for the construction of the project's first phase, with a June 1 due date for proposals. At that time, it was estimated that construction could begin in late summer or early fall 2016 and be completed in 2018.
Construction and testing
On August 19, 2016, Omaha contractor Kiewit Infrastructure was announced as the winning bidder for the contract to construct the line and carhouse. In February 2017, it was announced that track construction was projected to begin in April that year, which it did. Work on utility relocation relating to the project had already started in 2016, as did construction of the maintenance facility for the line. Installation of the tracks along the route began in May 2017. By March 2018, more than 90% of the track had been installed along the initial line.
In mid-2017, the city signed a contract with Transdev to operate and maintain the streetcar system for at least five years. The first test trip covering the entire line under power was made on the night of June 18/19, 2018. Training of operators also began that month.
In October 2017, it was announced that a 12-year sponsorship deal, including naming rights, had been reached between the Potawatomi Native American community and the city of Milwaukee. Under the agreement, the Milwaukee Streetcar was formally renamed "The Hop, presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino" – The Hop, for short – in exchange for $10 million in funding from the Potawatomi. These corporate sponsorship funds would also allow all Hop service to be free for the first year, city officials said.
The L-line lakefront loop is expected to commence service in 2020. The city intends to extend the M-line to Fiserv Forum. Two additional extensions are being planned: one north past Fiserv Forum into Bronzeville and the second as a new branch from the Third Ward and extending south to Walker's Point. The M-line extension to Fiserv Forum was originally planned to be operational in time for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (originally scheduled for July). For political reasons, construction approval was bundled with planning approval for the Bronzecville and Walker's Point extensions; controversy over the location of the Walker's Point terminal scuttled approval for all three proposals.
The line is operated by Transdev, under contract to the city of Milwaukee, the streetcar system's owner. The contract goes through December 2023, covering the first five years of in-service operation, with an option for a five-year extension.
Hop service runs seven days a week, from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight Saturdays, and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. No fares will be charged for the first year of service, under the 12-year sponsorship deal with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.
On April 6, 2015, the city invited bids for the supply of four streetcars, with the issuing of a request for proposals to interested manufacturers. In November 2015, the city awarded an $18.6-million contract to Brookville Equipment Corporation to build four "Liberty" model streetcars for Milwaukee. A fifth car was added to the order later, to expand the fleet sufficiently to be able to serve the future Lakefront extension.
The city specified that the streetcars be capable of operating in service using only battery power part of the time, because almost one third of the line is not equipped with overhead wires; the batteries are charged when the vehicles are on the wired portions of the line. The sections that will be operated on battery power only are along Kilbourn Avenue and Jackson Street. All other parts of the line have overhead wires, although a portion of the future branch to the Lakefront area is also planned to be unwired.
The first of the five vehicles arrived in Milwaukee from Brookville on March 26, 2018, and made the first test run over a short section of the line on April 11. The cars are numbered 01–05; each is 67 feet (20 m) long, weighs 83,000 pounds (38,000 kg; 38 t) and is designed to carry 120 to 150 passengers. On May 14, 2018, the second streetcar was delivered, followed by the third on July 26. The fifth and final car on order was delivered on September 7, 2018.
|Burns Commons||The Lower East Side||MCTS: Route 30, Gold Line|
|Ogden/Astor||The Lower East Side||MCTS: Routes 14, 30|
|Ogden/Jackson||The Lower Side||MCTS: Routes 15, 30|
|Jackson/Juneau||Yankee Hill||MCTS: Routes 15, 33|
|Cathedral Square||East Town||MCTS: Routes 30, 49, 143, Brewers Line|
|City Hall||East Town||MCTS: Routes 15, 57, Green Line|
|Wisconsin Avenue||East Town||MCTS: Routes 14, 30, 40, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49, 79, 143, Brewers Line, Gold Line|
|Historic Third Ward||Historic Third Ward||MCTS: Route 15, Green Line|
|St. Paul/Plankinton||Station District||MCTS: Route 19, Blue Line|
|Milwaukee Intermodal Station||Station District||Amtrak: Hiawatha Service, Empire Builder, MCTS: Routes 12, 31, 57, Badger Bus, Wisconsin Coach Lines/Coach USA, Greyhound Lines, and Megabus (North America).|
- Milwaukee County Transit System
- Streetcars in North America
- The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company – the primary operator of streetcar service in Milwaukee from 1890 to 1958
- Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad – an interurban railway that operated a local streetcar service in Milwaukee from 1907 to 1951
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The previous system began in 1860 with a small network of horse-drawn cars. Those lines eventually grew into a large network powered by electricity. The streetcar became an important part of the city's fabric – and the foundation for the city's electric utility.
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Kiewit Infrastructure Co. of Omaha, Neb., was selected for the estimated $60 million contract to lead the first phases of Milwaukee's streetcar construction.
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