WMT and MCTS Brookfield by SEWRPC staff BRIGHTENED_edited_edited.jpg

PUBLIC TRANSIT

 

VISION 2050 recommends a significant improvement and expansion of public transit to expand access to jobs and other necessities for the 1 in 10 households in the Region without a vehicle, to reduce congestion on the Region's highway network, to support economic growth, and make the Region more competitive with other metro areas, among other benefits. Review the key recommendations related to public transit and a summary of recent activity. Then, explore relevant metrics the Commission monitors using the interactive maps and charts provided below.

WHAT VISION 2050 RECOMMENDS:

  • Significant improvement and expansion of the public transit system, including commuter rail, rapid transit, and improved fixed and flexible transit services

  • Programs to improve access to suburban employment

  • "Transit first" designs on urban streets

  • Other initiatives to promote transit use and improve quality of service

HOW ARE WE DOING?
Activity since VISION 2050 was originally adopted in 2016 through 2020

Modest increase in transit services with 3 new express bus routes in Milwaukee County, new and extended bus service to Kenosha Area employment centers, and new countywide shared-ride taxi in Walworth County

New streetcar service in the City of Milwaukee

Service reductions on 5 MCTS freeway flyer routes

Elimination of MCTS Jobslines and 5 special service routes

The continued roll out of MCTS NEXT—a system redesign that will result in faster service, more connections, and easier-to-understand routing

Photo: City of Milwaukee

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TRANSIT SYSTEMS & SERVICE AREAS

Existing Public Transit Services in Southeastern Wisconsin: 2020

Source: SEWRPC

TRANSIT SERVICE TYPES IN SOUTHEASTERN WISCONSIN

LOCAL TRANSIT SERVICE

Local transit systems provide service within a given county, typically in the form of local, fixed-route bus service. These are the systems that provide the majority of transit trips in the Region. In Southeastern Wisconsin, local transit service is sponsored by Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Waukesha Counties and by the Cities of Kenosha, Racine, and Waukesha.

COMMUTER BUS SERVICE

Commuter bus service typically connects residential areas with employment centers, often between counties or across other municipal boundaries. In Southeastern Wisconsin, commuter bus service is sponsored by the City of Racine for travel between Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee; and by Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha Counties for travel between those counties and Milwaukee County. Kenosha County sponsors flexible-route service that connects western Kenosha County with the City of Kenosha, which is also included in this category.

SHARED-RIDE TAXI SYSTEMS 

Shared-ride taxi systems provide demand-responsive, public taxi service, typically in areas without local fixed-route services. Shared-ride taxi service is sponsored by Ozaukee, Walworth, and Washington Counties and by the Cities of Hartford, West Bend, and Whitewater.

PARATRANSIT SERVICE

Paratransit vehicles serve people with disabilities who are unable to use fixed-route bus services. Paratransit service is sponsored by Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Waukesha Counties and by the Cities of Kenosha, Racine, and Waukesha.

STREETCAR SERVICE

Streetcars are passenger vehicles that operate on fixed-rail guideways on public streets. Streetcar service in the Region is sponsored by the Cities of Milwaukee and Kenosha. 

COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE

Commuter rail service in the Region operates between Kenosha and downtown Chicago and is sponsored by Metra, the commuter rail agency serving northeastern Illinois.

INTERCITY RAIL SERVICE

Amtrak's Hiawatha intercity passenger rail service, sponsored by the States of Illinois and Wisconsin, provides commuter-type service between Milwaukee and Chicago and provides connections in Chicago to Amtrak's national rail network.

RECENT CHANGES TO TRANSIT SERVICE
2016 - 2021

Additions/Expansions:
Reductions:

2017: Three new high-frequency local routes added to the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS)

2019: Elimination of "Joblines" bus routes between Milwaukee and Waukesha County

2018: New streetcar service in Milwaukee (The Hop)

2019: Reductions in five freeway flyer service routes

2017: New Kenosha Area Transit bus service to job centers

2017: New countywide shared-ride taxi service in Walworth County

2020: Funding for East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Milwaukee County

 
 
 

RIDERSHIP TRENDS

Fixed-Route Transit

Fixed-Route Transit

Shared-Ride Taxi

Shared-Ride Taxi

Paratransit

Paratransit

Fixed-Route Public Transit System Boardings in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1950-2019

Note: There was a gap in City of Waukesha transit service between 1976 and 1980 while the City decided how the service would be operated and funded.

Source: National Transit Database and SEWRPC

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Passenger boardings on fixed-route transit systems have declined by 25% during the five-year period between 2014 and 2019, and by 35% during the ten-year period between 2009 and 2019. This decline is likely due to a variety of external reasons including demographic changes, sustained low fuel prices, an increased availability of sub-prime automobile financing, economic conditions, and the increased availability of ride-hailing services.

For demand-responsive public shared-ride taxi service, passenger boardings have increased slightly—by 5%—for the ten-year period between 2009 and 2019, and decreased by 1% for the five-year period between 2014 and 2019.

Amtrak Hiawatha Ridership

Ridership on Amtrak's Hiawatha service has increased by 18% in the last ten years and by 9% in the five-year period between 2014 and 2019. 

 

While there have been no major changes to service since the route frequency was increased to the current seven trips per day in 2003, growth in ridership has likely been due to a variety of external factors, including the strength of the economy, which has increased both business and personal travel between the Milwaukee and Chicago areas.

 

An effort to expand frequency on the route from 7 to 10 trips per day is currently underway.  

Source: WisDOT and SEWRPC

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TRANSIT SERVICE LEVELS

Fixed-Route Transit

Fixed-Route Transit

Shared-Ride Taxi

Shared-Ride Taxi

Fixed-Route Public Transit System Service Levels in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1950-2019

Note: There was a gap in City of Waukesha transit service between 1976 and 1980 while the City decided how the service would be operated and funded.

Source: National Transit Database and SEWRPC

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While there have been significant decreases in passenger boardings in recent years for fixed-route transit, revenue miles have remained relatively stable, with an increase of 3% during the five-year period between 2014 and 2019, but an overall decrease of

2% during the ten-year period between 2009 and 2019. There have been some service reductions and some modest expansions in recent years. MCTS has improved service on several high-frequency local routes since 2015 and service expansions in the City of Kenosha have expanded access to job centers outside of the primary transit service area. The City of Milwaukee's streetcar service, The Hop, opened to service in November 2018. 

Annual revenue miles for shared-ride taxi services in the Region have increased by 23% over the ten-year period between 2009 and 2019; however, that increase has tapered off in recent years with an increase of 2% in the five-year period since 2014. In 2017, Walworth County introduced Wal-to-Wal DIAL-a-RIDE, a countywide shared-ride taxi service.

 
 
 

TRANSIT FARES

Fixed-Route Transit

Fixed-Route Transit

Shared-Ride Taxi

Shared-Ride Taxi

Base Adult Fares Charged by Intracounty Public Transit Systems in Southeastern Wisconsin: 2000-2019

Source: SEWRPC

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FARE REVENUE & OPERATING ASSISTANCE

Fixed-route transit and shared-ride taxi services are supported by funding assistance from the Federal, State, and local governments. Funding is allocated to these transit systems through a combination of formula-based grant programs and discretionary grants, with some funds restricted for certain uses such as for capital (buying vehicles or construction projects) or operating (paying for drivers or fuel) purposes.

For most transit systems in the Region, State funding provides the largest share of funding support, primarily through Wisconsin's State Urban Mass Transit Operating Assistance program, which provides operating cost assistance to municipalities or counties with populations greater than 2,500.

Fixed-Route Transit

Fixed-Route Transit

Shared-Ride Taxi

Shared-Ride Taxi

Fare Revenue and Operating Assistance by Fixed-Route Transit System: 2008-2018

Total funding from Federal, State, and local sources for all fixed-route transit systems in the Region has decreased by about 5% over the ten-year period between 2008 and 2018 with some year-to-year fluctuations for various transit services.

​Fare revenue for Kenosha Area Transit, RYDE, and Waukesha Metro also has remained relatively stable between 2008 and 2018. However, fare revenue for the Milwaukee County Transit System, adjusted for inflation, had decreased by about 44% during this period.

Source: SEWRPC

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