The Hop (streetcar)

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The Hop
The Hop Mke logo.png
Hop car 02 at westbound St. Paul at Plankinton stop (2018).jpg
A Hop streetcar on St. Paul Avenue at Plankinton Avenue.
LocaleMilwaukee, Wisconsin
OpenNovember 2, 2018
Owner(s)City of Milwaukee
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead line750 V DC[2]
Stock5 Brookville Liberty Modern Streetcars
Route length2.1 miles (3.4 km) [3]
Stops18 (3 more planned)[5]
2,191 daily[4]
Phase 1
Burns Commons
Ogden at Astor
(at Van Buren)
Jackson at Juneau
Cathedral Square
City Hall
US 18 (WI).svg
US 18
Wells Street
Wisconsin Avenue
Michigan & Jackson
The Couture/BRT
Milwaukee County Transit System
Clybourn & Jefferson
US 18 (WI).svg
US 18
East Michigan Street
Lake Freeway / East–West Freeway
Historic Third Ward
(between Broadway and Milwaukee Street)
St. Paul at Plankinton
Milwaukee Intermodal Station
Fiserv Forum
Kilbourn Avenue
Wisconsin Center
Operations & maintenance facility

The Hop, also known as the Milwaukee Streetcar, is a modern streetcar system in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 2.1-mile (3.4 km)[6][3][7] initial line connects the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and Downtown to the Lower East Side and Historic Third Ward neighborhoods.[8] A 0.4-mile (640 m) Lakefront branch,[6] to the proposed "Couture" high-rise development, has been mostly constructed, but is not projected to open until late 2022. The system is owned by the city and operated by Transdev.

Construction of the system began in late 2016 and was completed in summer 2018. Service to the public began on November 2, 2018.[9][3]


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.[10][11][12]

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.[13] On March 2, 1958, the city's last streetcar route was closed.[14]

Route description[edit]

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 run only northbound on Van Buren Street and only southbound on Jackson Street were changed to reduce utility relocation costs.[citation needed]

A streetcar crosses the St. Paul Avenue Bridge over the Milwaukee River
A streetcar on opening day, November 2, 2018, stopping at the Burns Commons station

The first line, designated the M-Line, from Burns Commons to Milwaukee Intermodal Station, is 2.1 mi (3.4 km) long.[6][3][7] The route follows separate streets in opposing directions for around 0.575 miles (925 m) of its length.[15]

In October 2015, the project received a federal grant which will cover approximately half the cost of a spur to the lakefront.[16] This spur, or branch, to N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. will go via E. Michigan St. and E. Clybourn Street;[17] in fall 2018 it was expected to commence service in late 2020.[15][3] 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.[15] 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.[18]

The system's car house, its storage and maintenance facility, is on Vel R. Phillips Avenue (4th Street), under an elevated section of the I-794 freeway.[15]

Of the 2.1-mile (3.4 km) length of the first line, 3,300 feet (1 km)[15] is not equipped with overhead wires. The streetcars cover these sections along Kilbourn Avenue and Jackson Street powered only by their batteries.[15] About two-thirds of the track sections that will be brought into use later for the Lakefront Line will also be unwired.[18]

The City of Milwaukee has applied for a TIGER Grant to gain federal funds to fund 50% of the system's extension up 4th Street towards the new Fiserv Forum and the Bronzeville neighborhood.[19]


Funding and approval[edit]

The total cost to construct the streetcar was estimated in 2015 to be US$123.9 million (equivalent to $141.64 million in 2021).[20] 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.[21][22]

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.[23]

Construction and testing[edit]

A Hop car turning from Broadway onto St. Paul Avenue Avenue, passing the Milwaukee Public Market

On August 19, 2016, Omaha contractor Kiewit Infrastructure was announced as the winning bidder for the contract to construct the line and carhouse.[24] In February 2017, it was announced that track construction was projected to begin in April that year, which it did.[25][26][27][28] Work on utility relocation relating to the project had already started in 2016,[29] as did construction of the maintenance facility for the line.[30] 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.[6]

In mid-2017, the city signed a contract with Transdev to operate and maintain the streetcar system for at least five years.[1] The first test trip covering the entire line under power was made on the night of June 18/19, 2018.[15] Training of operators also began that month.[15]

Naming rights[edit]

Opening-day crowd at Cathedral Square stop

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.[31][32][33] These corporate sponsorship funds would also allow all Hop service to be free for the first year, city officials said.[31][32]


The L-line lakefront loop was expected to commence service in 2020. However the lakefront station will be integrated with a real estate development whose start of construction has been delayed to 2021.[34] 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.[35][36] A portion of the northerly M-line extension was originally planned to be operational in time for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. For political reasons, construction approval was bundled with planning approval for the Bronzeville and Walker's Point extensions; controversy over the location of the Walker's Point terminal scuttled approval for all three proposals.[37] Since the 2020 Democratic National Convention ultimately became a virtual event due to the COVID-19 crisis, the short term need for the partial extension became moot.


The line is operated by Transdev, under contract to the city of Milwaukee, the streetcar system's owner.[1] The contract goes through December 2023, covering the first five years of in-service operation, with an option for a five-year extension.[38]

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.[9] Fare-free service originally planned to end after one year is still in effect due to delays in procuring a fare sale/validation system.[39]

Rolling stock[edit]

The first streetcar for The Hop, when newly delivered, March 2018
Interior view

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.[40] In November 2015, the city awarded an $18.6-million contract to Brookville Equipment Corporation to build four "Liberty" model streetcars for Milwaukee.[41][42] A fifth car was added to the order later, to expand the fleet sufficiently to be able to serve the future Lakefront extension.[43]

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;[15] 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.[15] 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,[44] and made the first test run over a short section of the line on April 11.[45] 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.[44] On May 14, 2018, the second streetcar was delivered,[46] followed by the third on July 26. The fifth and final car on order was delivered on September 7, 2018.[47]


Stop Neighborhood(s) Connections
Burns Commons The Lower East Side MCTS: Routes 30, Gold Line
Ogden/Astor The Lower East Side MCTS: Routes 14, 30
Ogden/Jackson The Lower East Side MCTS: Routes 15, 30
Jackson/Juneau Yankee Hill MCTS: Routes 15, 33
Cathedral Square East Town MCTS: Routes 30, 49, 143
City Hall East Town MCTS: Routes 15, 18, 49, 57, 143, Green Line
Wisconsin Avenue East Town MCTS: Routes 14, 30, 40, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49, 79, 143, Gold Line
Historic Third Ward Historic Third Ward MCTS: Routes 15, 18, Green Line
St. Paul/Plankinton Station District
Milwaukee Intermodal Station Station District Amtrak: Hiawatha Service, Empire Builder, MCTS: Routes 12, 31, 34, 57, Blue Line, Badger Bus, Wisconsin Coach Lines/Coach USA, Greyhound Lines, Amtrak Thruway, Lamers Bus Lines, Jefferson Lines, Indian Trails, and Megabus (North America).


Month 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
January N/A 48,354 50,444 15,057 17,055
February N/A 45,000 48,028 13,344 18,454
March N/A 50,000 27,447 18,321 25,843
April N/A 55,657 7,285 17,070 23,972
May N/A 62,937 9,762 20,806 25,537
June N/A 71,367 14,947 24,691 30,910
July N/A 103,625 17,110 28,576 48,433
August N/A 80,113 19,310 33,145
September N/A 66,986 18,796 37,606
October N/A 62,010 18,479 33,313
November 80,361 52,998 14,339 30,408
December 76,131 61,274 15,356 28,833
Totals 156,492 760,321 261,303 301,170


The busiest day for The Hop was July 13, 2019 with 9,000 riders.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Barrow, Keith (September 13, 2017). "Transdev to operate Milwaukee Streetcar". Railway Age. ISSN 0033-8826. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  2. ^ Glaszcz, Rachael; Gotter, Brian (May 16, 2018). "How will the streetcar handle Milwaukee weather?". WTMJ. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Ryan, Sean (November 2, 2018). "Milwaukee streetcar draws a crowd on first day of service". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  4. ^ "Milwaukee streetcar 'The Hop' ridership outpaces estimates". TMJ4. November 30, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  5. ^ "About the HOP". Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Shaw, Dan (March 7, 2018). "Clybourn, Milwaukee intersection to close for streetcar work". The Daily Reporter. BridgeTower Media. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions – About Streetcars". City of Milwaukee DPW. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  8. ^ Walker, Don (January 16, 2015). "Feds approve route change for proposed Milwaukee streetcars". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Nelson, James B. (November 2, 2018). "Everything you need to know about the new Milwaukee streetcar, at least for now". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  10. ^ Nelson, James B. (January 16, 2015). "Rep. Jim Steineke says Milwaukee streetcar would be '1900s style trolley'". Politifact Wisconsin. Retrieved August 19, 2016. 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.
  11. ^ "Historical Milwaukee Streetcar Maps". The Squeaky Curd. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  12. ^ "Speaking the Truth". The Milwaukee Streetcar. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  13. ^ Dries, Mike (February 16, 1997). "Undoing urban sprawl : Norquist pushes urbanism agenda in attempt to lessen reliance on cars". Milwaukee Business Journal.
  14. ^ Schultz, Russell E. (1980). A Milwaukee Transport Era: The Trackless Trolley Years. Glendale, CA: Interurbans. p. 88. ISBN 0-916374-43-2.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Milwaukee streetcar set for November opening". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: Light Rail Transit Association. August 2018. p. 286. ISSN 1460-8324.
  16. ^ "Streetcar spur to lakefront awarded $14 million federal grant". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  17. ^ Jeramey, Jannene (May 22, 2018). "City Advances Streetcar Extension Plans". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  18. ^ a b Simons, Vic (February 2019). "Revitalising Milwaukee". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: Light Rail Transit Association. pp. 50–53. ISSN 1460-8324.
  19. ^ Spicuzza, Mary (April 29, 2016). "Milwaukee seeks $20 million grant for streetcar extension". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  20. ^ "Capital Costs/Construction". The Milwaukee Streetcar Project. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  21. ^ Stephenson, Crocker (February 10, 2015). "Milwaukee Common Council OKs streetcar plan". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  22. ^ Jannene, Jeramey (February 10, 2015). "Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee Streetcar Approved". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  23. ^ Spicuzza, Mary (April 19, 2016). "City opens bidding to lead Milwaukee streetcar construction project". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. 3A. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  24. ^ Ryan, Sean (August 19, 2016). "Milwaukee hires lead streetcar contractor, allowing work to begin as early as fall". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved August 19, 2016. Kiewit Infrastructure Co. of Omaha, Neb., was selected for the estimated $60 million contract to lead the first phases of Milwaukee's streetcar construction.
  25. ^ Handelman, Luke (April 4, 2017). "'Huge project': Welding of steel begins as construction gets underway on controversial streetcar". WITI. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  26. ^ Spicuzza, Mary (February 17, 2017). "Milwaukee Streetcar route construction to begin in April". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  27. ^ Aevermann, Kyle (February 17, 2017). "Milwaukee Streetcar Construction To Begin in April". WDJT-TV. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  28. ^ Wainscott, Kent (February 17, 2017). "Construction of Milwaukee streetcar to begin in April". WISN-TV. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  29. ^ Jannene, Jeramey (February 17, 2017). "Streetcar Track Construction Starts in April". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  30. ^ Spicuzza, Mary (April 18, 2016). "City opens bidding to lead Milwaukee streetcar construction project". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  31. ^ a b Spicuzza, Mary; Glauber, Bill (October 7, 2017) [online date October 6]. "Streetcar gains sponsor: Potawatomi Hotel has inked $10 million deal for 12 years". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. pp. 1A, 10A. Retrieved August 8, 2017.
  32. ^ a b Keith, Theo (October 6, 2017). "Milwaukee streetcar to be named "The Hop" under deal with Potawatomi, free rides for a year". WITI. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  33. ^ Kirchen, Rich (October 6, 2017). "Potawatomi deal 'significant step' in avoiding city tax support for Milwaukee streetcar". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  34. ^ Daykin, Tom. "Long-delayed Couture high-rise receives HUD loan guarantee for $103.5 million, setting the stage for construction". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  35. ^ Spicuzza, Mary (May 1, 2019). "Milwaukee plans to extend The Hop streetcar route before 2020 Democratic National Convention". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  36. ^ Jannene, Jeramey (July 23, 2019). "Transportation: No Streetcar Expansion in Time for DNC". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  37. ^ Sandler, Larry (December 13, 2019). "Why The Hop's Expansion Plans Went Off the Rails". Milwaukee Magazine. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  38. ^ "Transdev to operate, maintain Milwaukee Streetcar". Progressive Railroading. September 7, 2017. ISSN 0033-0817. Archived from the original on September 10, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  39. ^ Jannene, Jeramey. "Transportation: Free Streetcar Rides Planned for 2020". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  40. ^ Ryan, Sean (April 7, 2015). "Milwaukee plans to buy four initial streetcars, could pay more than $4M each". Milwaukee Business Journal.
  41. ^ "Milwaukee Approves Agreement With U.S. Streetcar Manufacturer To Build New System's First Four Vehicles". Milwaukee Streetcar. November 13, 2015. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  42. ^ Vantuono, William C. (November 16, 2015). "Brookville streetcars for Milwaukee". Railway Age. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  43. ^ "First of five Brookville Liberty Streetcar vehicles for The Hop Streetcar arrives in Milwaukee" (Press release). Brookville Equipment Corporation. March 28, 2018. Archived from the original on June 6, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  44. ^ a b Spicuzza, Mary (March 26, 2018). "First new Milwaukee streetcar vehicle rolls into downtown". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  45. ^ "Worldwide Review [regular news section]". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: Light Rail Transit Association. June 2018. p. 233.
  46. ^ Delong, Katie (May 13, 2018). "2nd streetcar vehicle for 'The Hop' arrives in Milwaukee Monday". WITI (Fox 6). Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  47. ^ "Worldwide Review [regular news section]". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: Light Rail Transit Association. November 2018. p. 434.
  48. ^ "The Hop MKE | Milwaukee Streetcar".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°02′03″N 87°55′02″W / 43.03417°N 87.91722°W / 43.03417; -87.91722