The Hop attracts new ridership high during Summerfest, Bastille Days

Saturday recorded a single-day high of 8,968 riders

The streetcar headed southbound along North Broadway.

Last updated on November 21st, 2019 at 02:37 pm

The downtown Milwaukee Hop streetcar system achieved a new high for ridership during the days of two of the city’s biggest annual festivals, city officials announced today.

Speaking at a news conference at City Hall, Mayor Tom Barrett revealed that between June 26 and Sunday, dates which encompass the opening of Summerfest and closing of Bastille Days, the Hop saw an average of 3,821 riders per day.

Those numbers more than doubled the city’s pre-launch projected average ridership of 1,850 riders per day.

In addition, Saturday recorded a single-day high of 8,968 riders. This also eclipsed the previous system high of 7,798 riders recorded on the Saturday of the opening weekend of passenger service in November.

“It’s the summertime, it’s the time we know people love to be in our community,” Barrett said. “What we have found since the beginning of Summerfest is that the Hop, which has been generously presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, has been growing to record-setting levels in recent weeks as the city has celebrated two of its most iconic summer festivals.”

Barrett added these numbers also demonstrate the system’s popularity among residents and visitors. He said most people he’s heard from who have ridden the streetcar say they are “far more likely” to hop aboard again.

“These strong numbers we’re seeing are further confirmation The Hop is delivering on its promise of creating a more connected city and providing an easy and efficient way for residents and visitors alike to access many of the incredible destinations and events that make Milwaukee special,” he said.

Alderman Robert Bauman, who represents the area of the streetcar system, called the numbers “impressive.” He said he observed over the weekend riders packing the streetcar cabs all day long.

“Frankly, the Saturday of July 13 with the 9,000 (riders), basically that’s the capacity of the system,” he said. “If anything, this is an argument for requiring more cars, because you basically can’t put many more people on these vehicles.”

Streetcar ridership for the month of June was 65,239, averaging 2,175 each day. Ridership prior to the start of Summerfest averages 2,029 a day, which still would have been the highest month in 2019 on its own.

July ridership through Sunday averaged 4,149 per day, with the four-day run of Bastille Days seeing 28,453 riders, or an average of 7,113 each day. The previously monthly high was December, which saw an average of 2,453 riders a day using the system.

Barrett earlier this year put forward a $52 million spending plan that calls for the streetcar to be extended to the intersection of Vel R. Phillips and Wisconsin avenues by next summer and to continue planning efforts on extending the system in the Bronzeville and Walker’s Point neighborhoods. The plan also includes $5 million for the construction of a public plaza where the streetcar would be extended to, right across the street from the Wisconsin Center.

The spending plan has not yet been voted on by the Common Council. Some aldermen are pushing to include things such as financing an initiative to prevent displacement and gentrification in the neighborhoods where the streetcar would be extended. Others say they want to see the streetcar extended even further into the Walker’s Point neighborhood than the proposed terminus at the intersection of First Street and Pittsburgh Avenue.

Barrett again today called on the Common Council to approve his spending plan. He said if officials wait too long to begin construction of the new extension, the city would miss its goal of opening it for service in time for the Democratic National Convention next July.

“I think that the plan is a solid plan, and I think if it’s brought up to a vote it will pass,” he said.

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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.

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