FAST FACTS

RAIL LINES
  • Hiawatha
  • Empire Builder
  • Hop streetcar (upcoming)

 

POPULATION
  • 595,047

 

RIDERSHIP
  • 594,597

 

HISTORY

Literally in the same year the territory of Wisconsin was established, a committee was formed to plan transportation connected to Milwaukee, the only major city at the time. By 1850, the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad has completed its first five miles. From there, the company grew rapidly thanks to leadership from several enterprising Milwaukeeans.
The Milwaukee Road became an important intercontinental line in its heyday in the early twentieth century. At its height, it boasted many passenger services, including the predecessor to the modern-day Hiawatha train, which today runs between Milwaukee Intermodal Station and Chicago Union Station.
Milwaukee has had a major passenger rail station since the late 1800s. The Gothic Everett station was the first, opened in 1887 and featuring a brick clock tower. The station was replaced in 1965 by a new minimalist passenger rail station that is still the site of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station today.
More recently, the state of Wisconsin bought the station and made plans to renovate it; those renovations were completed in 2007. The station is now ADA compliant and features Amtrak, Greyhound and Badger Bus service.
Today the city of Milwaukee is looking to expand its transportation options. City advocates support increasing the frequency of the Empire Builder train, and have also successfully pushed for the creation of a new streetcar, known as the Hop, that is set to open in November, with more service scheduled later for the Lakefront area. Currently, the line is about 2.5 miles and will be a 22-minute, 7 stop ride end-to-end. The streetcar will be free for its first year of operation.

 

CHALLENGES

STREETCAR FUNDING

The streetcar faced significant opposition from the state legislature despite receiving no state funds (the project is funded entirely through city and federal funds, plus some corporate sponsorship). When the streetcar line was being designed, planners realized that utilities would have to move some lines in the center of certain roads in order to accommodate the streetcar lines. State law at the time mandated that if the utilities were in the way of a public project, it was the financial responsibility of the utilities to move their lines out of the way. After the city of Milwaukee proved this in court, the legislature passed an exemption on behalf of the utilities, but only in the case that a city is looking to build a streetcar. Despite this, Milwaukee still found the funds, and a new path, to get their streetcar built.

One Comment

  • James Nielsen says:

    Hi Jacob!
    I’m a metro Milwaukeean for 47 years. It’s refreshing to see a young man, such as yourself, come to our city and give such a descriptive and positive opinion. I appreciate that. I hope you had a good time here.

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