Getting up to speed on the streetcar

Exploring the basics and announcing an event to learn more

By Brian Peters, Community Access & Policy Specialist
 
The City of Milwaukee’s new streetcar, “The Hop,” will be opening in November. Potawatomi Hotel & Casino has generously agreed to fund the first year of operation so that all of the rides will be free! The initial route will travel from South 4th Street and St. Paul Avenue near the Intermodal Station to the Third Ward, where it will travel on Milwaukee Street north to Kilbourn Avenue then head east to Jackson Street, then north to Ogden Avenue, heading east along Ogden Avenue. It will then return back along much of the same route to the Intermodal Station, traveling along Broadway instead of Milwaukee Street.

Interior view of Streetcar
Interior view of a streetcar, courtesy of The Hop.

The second route will make the same loop through downtown and the Third Ward, and loop around Clybourn Street and Michigan Street with a planned stop at the planned Couture tower that will have a transit concourse for both The Hop and the planned bus rapid transit service from downtown to the Regional Medical Center by West Watertown Plank Road. The city is planning a pedestrian bridge from the Couture to the lakefront, giving easy access to the amenities along the lake such as Discovery World and the Summerfest grounds. More information on the new streetcar can be found at thehopmke.com.

This is an exciting development as it adds another transportation option for people with disabilities. People travelling in the downtown area will soon be able to access the Milwaukee County bus system, the streetcar, Bublr Bikes (the city is currently planning to add adaptive bikes) and new bike paths, as well as improved pedestrian sidewalks and curb ramps in many locations.

The new Hop streetcar system will be very accessible. The boarding platforms are designed to be zero-step to the streetcars, and the shelters have an ADA space for a wheelchair next to the bench. The streetcar interior will have wheelchair/scooter spaces (which are separate from spaces to hang bikes), folding seats (default position is folded up), as well as both audio and visual announcements on upcoming stops. The Hop was kind enough to share a picture of the interior, even though it’s not completed yet.

However, there are some potential concerns about accessibility, particularly where the streetcar rails curve through crosswalks, creating the potential for wheelchair casters to become stuck in the gaps. It could also be hazardous to other wheeled devices such as bikes, strollers, roller blades/skates and scooters (the stand-on-board type). IndependenceFirst hopes to work with the City of Milwaukee to resolve our concerns.

IndependenceFirst's Transportation Consumer Advocacy Team is hosting a “brown bag lunch” at noon September 25, during which representatives from the city and the Hop will discuss the new streetcar route, the boarding process, the accessibility features and future plans. They will also be open to feedback. If you are interested in attending the brown bag lunch, please contact Brian Peters at 414-937-5912 VP/Relay.   

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