Route unveiled for $148 million North-South Bus Rapid Transit service in Milwaukee County

Rendering of a BRT station, courtesy of Milwaukee County Transit Service
Rendering of a BRT station, courtesy of Milwaukee County Transit Service.

Last updated on September 21st, 2022 at 02:17 pm

Milwaukee County’s East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service has yet to officially begin, but county officials are moving forward with plans for a second possible bus route.

The county, along with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, are finalizing a feasibility study that recommends a north-south route along and near 27th Street, between Bayshore in Glendale and Northwestern Mutual’s campus in Franklin.

“The recommendation is a result of a series of analyses and public input that considered various transit types and route options,” according to a press release from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

The 27th Street route would provide access to an additional 116,000 people. The recommended route is expected to cost around $148 million. 80% of the project cost would be federally funded. The route is expected to open to the public by 2027 or 2028.

The proposed north-south BRT route along 27th Street.

It is recommended that the route be made up of nearly 80% dedicated transit lanes. It would be about 15 minutes faster than the existing Milwaukee County Transit System’s PurpleLine, with extended service hours and buses every 10 minutes or less. Stations would be located 1/4 to 1/2 mile apart. The BRT service would replace the existing PurpleLine, but a traditional MCTS bus route would still serve many existing stops and connect with the BRT service.

According to the press release, initial ridership estimates show that BRT service along this north-south route could increase ridership by 45 to 60% over the existing ridership on the PurpleLine.

BRT offers faster and more frequent service to riders through the use of battery-electric buses, dedicated lanes, raised platforms at optimized stop locations, traffic signal prioritization, off-board fare collections and other features.

County officials believe the dedicated lanes could also help curb reckless driving through the introduction of additional pedestrian safety measures, narrowing travel lanes, and delineating transit lanes. The study also recommends 6.7 miles of new dedicated bike lanes along the route. Residents are able to provide feedback on the proposed new route online.

The initial East-West BRT project – a nine-mile, regional bus service aimed at connecting downtown Milwaukee, the Near West Side, Marquette University, Wauwatosa, and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, is expected to open for service in 2023. The roughly $55 million project formally received funding in December of 2020.

Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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