Streetcar: An economic engine for Downtown and the entire city
Alderman Nic Kovac said it well: "We don't need a Downtown streetcar now, we needed it 10 years ago."
Indeed, Milwaukee is behind the modern transportation times. We don't effectively connect our highly populated areas to jobs, and we haven't used fixed-guideway transit and streetcars as tools to help focus and direct economic development.
We haven't, yet. But, we are or better yet soon will. And, it's about time.
All things, though, happen as they should and as Milwaukee gets closer and closer to realizing the economic potential of a streetcar system it's time to think of this project for what it is – a part of an integrated, modern transportation system that includes roads, cars, buses, trolleys, rail, bikes, trails and more.
The streetcar isn't just about Downtown Milwaukee either. It's a start, though and it's a natural place to start since Downtown is the economic heart of the state of Wisconsin. More than 80,000 people work in greater Downtown, and more than 15,000 people live there, 5.5 million visit Downtown every year and while the land in the area accounts for only two percent of the City of Milwaukee, Downtown has nearly 14 percent of the city's tax base.
So, here's the deal. This month preliminary engineering will be completed for a fixed guideway rail two-mile streetcar line from the lower East Side of Milwaukee to the Intermodal Station.
The streetcars will supplement bus lines and connect Downtown destinations. It's what you expect in a modern city like Milwaukee and it's similar to what Cincinnati, St. Louis, Charlotte, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle and countless others have already done or are doing.
Operation could begin as early as fall of 2014 providing a new perspective on quality transit for our area. If you don't ride the bus, you'll ride these and so will your mom.
Why's mom important? Simple. The Mom Test. If your mom can use a product, item or service then it's easy, right and good. Simple, yes and it's not a cut on my mom or yours but let's be real, some people just don't or won't take the bus but will take fixed rail because it's permanent, new and frankly more fun. Fixed routes are easily to learn/understand than numbered bus routes. But, remember, the Milwaukee streetcar won't compete with the bus, it will complement. A rise in transportation tides lifts all boats, if you will.
The streetcar also will shape the brand and identity of Milwaukee. Go to any city. They all have buildings, people, stores, etc. People talk about what's new, what got them from here to there. The Milwaukee streetcar will do this, and more.
The streetcar is about economic development and building a more sociable area. We already are a very sociable city, but it's hard to get from one part of town to another without a car. And today, people expect to have this option.
Jim Peters, president of the Responsible Hospitality Institute, put it well when he said, "What distinguishes one community from another are the people and the opportunity to share food, drink, music, and dance in safe and convenient venues. It is the social connectivity and relationships that make life worth living and that define a vibrant community.
"Sociable cities attract conventions, tourists, residents, and a creative class of talented professionals who provide an economic base that helps emerging industries that are clean and sustainable. Planning for people in a 24/7 economy requires adaptation and efficient management of resources through common vision, communication and collaboration."
Portland, Ore., has seen $3.5 billion in new investment since its line opened in 2001. More than 10,000 new housing units and 5.4 million square feet of office, retail and hotel have been constructed within two blocks of its streetcar route. Think of what the streetcar will do in Milwaukee!
Transportation isn't political, or as I've written before, it shouldn't be. This is development 101. This is our economic heart getting a new engine. So get on board, the future's going to be fun.
Waste Of Money. Lets fix the potholes and try to energize our empty storefronts before putting up a silly amusement park ride that will do nothing but look pretty.
What a WASTE of Taxpayer fund$!! Before the polititions sink huge amounts of money into this Boondoggle, wouldnt it be a much BRIGHTER idea to use the fund$ to actually FINISH our HALF-BUILT CONVENTION Center?? What a JOKE this one horse town has become...time for some NEW Leadership!!
Ahh, downtownfan, one major problem with your comparison to the Hiawatha. It's on a dedicated track and is bypassing traffic and signals. That is not the case with the streetcar. That's why in this case busses already do the job at a fraction of the cost building of a rail based system. Adding another daily run to the Hiawatha should be a bigger priority than duplicating a service that already exists.
Dear nay sayers... Your suggestion that, I won't use it so we don't need it is not a reason to stop moving the ball forward. I contend that connecting nodes of downtown to other nodes in downtown, will stregthen each node, and aid in the filling in of the gaps between the nodes. Put a clean and quiet connector between them that is permanent, reliable, and people will use it. The more people who use it, the easier it will be to get around in the cars and buses full of people who aren't using it. (Either way - you win!) As for those who continue to suggest - "why not just use busses" I offer the folling analogy. Perhaps we should eliminate the Hiawatha service carrying nearly 35,000 passengers a day, and run the approximately 700 busses it would take to transport them every day. Put those monsters on the I94 connection to Chicago every day and we will be expanding the freeway some more because the auto drivers will be upset about how long it takes to get there! This is an expandable system that starts in the core of the city. Starting here, connects the most densly populated part of the state, with the highest concentration of jobs in the state. Expand this system out to other parts of town and it becomes easier to get to work. Fewer cars downtown, or more employees downtown, either way - you win again! You may not support this - that is your choice, but raging against it because you don't think you need it now is not necessary either. Let's see what happens, who knows, you might be riding next to me one day on the Streetcar... and I will politely thank you, we may end up doing business together. Can't do that isolated in your car! See you soon!
Sherman | June 28, 2011 at 1:26 p.m. (report)
The Streetcar WILL NOT remove parking. During construction, yes, but not while operational. Heres a little more. The Streetcar plans have been designed to preserve 99 percent of all on-street parking within a quarter mile of the route. There are some parking impacts at stop locations where the stop platforms will be located. The city is in the process of preparing an upcoming public meeting at which more detailed information about parking will be available. Announcement about the meeting coming soon.
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