The Milwaukee Common Council may have put a crimp in the plans for the Bus Rapid Transit route.
On July 31 the council unanimously approved an amended resolution that puts conditions on any possible city of Milwaukee involvement in the future development of a BRT line along the East-West Corridor through portions of Milwaukee.
Plans still moving forward
The BRT is Milwaukee County’s proposed 9-mile, regional, modern transit service connecting major employment, education and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s near west side, Marquette University and others, including the Medical Center in Wauwatosa.
Brendan Conway, Milwaukee County Transit System chief marketing & communications officer said that the city of Milwaukee's resolution did not change the route of the BRT project.
"(The resolution) just means there will not be dedicated bus only lanes on Bluemound," Conway said. "The route will still use Bluemound, but will travel in mixed traffic like all of our buses currently do."
Milwaukee Alderman Murphy
Milwaukee Alderman Michael J. Murphy, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said the measure provides clear protections for city taxpayers and city interests if the BRT is moved forward by Milwaukee County and the Milwaukee County Transit System.
Murphy said the plan to use dedicated traffic lanes for east-west BRT buses on West Bluemound Road was “simply not practical.” Murphy represents District 10 which includes the Milwaukee neighborhood to the south of Wauwatosa.
“After careful review of the BRT analysis and listening to area citizens and businesses at various public hearings, it doesn’t seem practical to develop and use single, dedicated lanes west of Hawley Road (on Bluemound Road)," Murphy said.
Murphy said the only way the project could move forward on its current route is if the BRT buses operate in mixed traffic. He said he thinks the dedicated bus lane would cause severe traffic backups and cause drivers to become frustrated and drive in a worse manner then they already do.
Wauwatosa District 3 Alderman Tim Hanson said he agrees with the analysis by Murphy. He said that he has not heard from any of his constituents that have said they are in favor of the BRT.
"We are going to spend how much money to save 13 minutes?" Hanson said. "It's all about the Medical Complex and feeding that beast."
Hanson added that he would like to see the MCTS add more buses as a way to make the system more efficient. District 3 in Tosa includes the area around Bluemound Road west of Honey Creek Parkway.
Alderman Dennis McBride disagrees.
McBride, who represents District 4 in Wauwatosa, is disappointed the Milwaukee Common Council did not discuss the matter with Tosa city officials prior to passing the resolution. District 4 includes the area around Bluemound Road on the city's far east side.
"Why didn't they bring this up when the whole discussion started?" McBride said. "I am not happy at all with what they are doing."
McBride said he has worked closely with the Milwaukee Common Council in the past and would have liked to see more cooperation between the two councils.
"The Milwaukee Metro area is competing with other major cities and our public transportation system is not competitive with those cities," McBride said. "We keep fighting amongst ourselves while other communities are eating our lunch."
McBride said he is very familiar with mass transit and its needs because he has spent a good amount of time observing and studying the systems, including in graduate school.
Bauman co-sponsored resolution
The Milwaukee council's resolution was co-sponsored by Alderman Robert Bauman and he said the amended resolution includes other key requirements and stipulations. Bauman represents District 4 which is where much of the proposed BRT may run.
“The amended resolution stipulates that the city ‘shall not incur any direct or indirect expenses, including the forfeiture of any revenue, related to the development or operation of the BRT system,'" Bauman said.
He added that this means the city of Milwaukee shall not contribute financially to the development or management of the BRT system, nor provide assistance or management of the BRT system, unless the city is reimbursed for those costs.
Murphy said he and Bauman will continue to keep a close eye on the county-led BRT project and will make sure citizens are kept informed about developments.
A conceptual video of the planned 9-mile Bus Rapid Transit Route that Milwaukee County and the Milwaukee County Transit System are exploring. Milwaukee County Transit System