Milwaukee selects vendor for streetcar smart kiosks initiative

City will receive portion of kiosk ad revenue

Last updated on February 21st, 2020 at 02:30 pm

Smart City Media LLC has been selected by the city of Milwaukee to install and operate a network of 35 smart kiosks along or near The Hop streetcar route, which city leaders say will provide real-time operational information, better connect the system to nearby activity centers downtown and also provide the streetcar with another source of revenue.

The kiosks, called CityPosts, will be installed this spring, according to a news release. Jeff Polenske, commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works, told members of the Common Council’s Public Works Committee on Thursday that the exact locations of the kiosks are still being determined.

“We’re working on identifying the locations of where those would be,” he said, adding that they will be located within the public right-of-way, such as at streetcar stops and on sidewalks.

According to information provided to the committee, the kiosks will stand roughly 8.5 feet tall and contain a 55-inch interactive screen. They will provide free Wi-Fi, and also contain microphones, video and audio capabilities, and a 360-degree surveillance camera that will be accessible by the Milwaukee Police Department.

Installation comes at no cost to the city.

Polenske said the kiosks will provide passengers will real-time information on when the next streetcar will arrive at a specific stop. They will also provide other information, such as the location of nearby bus stations and Bublr bike stations, local business directories and a calendar of downtown community events.

And, per an agreement with the vendor, the city will receive a portion of all advertising revenues. Polenske said the city will receive 20% of ad revenues in the first three years of the 10-year agreement. That revenue-share percentage will increase in the years following, reaching up to 33%.

The advertisements will be displayed when the kiosks are not in use, along with other content such as public service announcements and community messaging. About 55% of the screen time is reserved for city content.

Polenske said the department expects the kiosks would generate between $300,000 and $500,000 in revenue annually, which would be put toward streetcar operations.

“Our CityPost kiosks infuse media, technology and interactivity into public spaces, creating a synergy that provides tremendous benefits for the entire community,” Tom Touchet, Smart City chief executive and president, said in the release. “We look forward to contributing to a more dynamic and connected streetcar system and downtown environment in Milwaukee.”

The streetcar has remained free to riders since it opened in late 2018, but it could start charging sometime after this year. The streetcar’s operation has largely been funded though corporate sponsors, such as Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, Everstream and We Energies. But, the city can also dip into its parking fund if needed.

DPW awarded Smart City the contract after a request-for-proposals was issued in 2019.

“Our smart kiosk program will be a tremendous asset to the entire community and significantly enhance the streetcar experience for regular riders and visitors alike,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in the release. “Our vision for the streetcar has always been for it to bridge gaps between centers of activity in the city, making the people and places that make our city great more accessible and connected. This kiosk program will
help us bridge the gaps between high-traffic downtown areas while generating a meaningful revenue stream to support our streetcar operations.”

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.