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MCTS re-evaluating routes to make buses more efficient

Posted at 1:04 PM, Nov 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-29 14:49:38-05

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Transit System is revealing the results from its MCTS Next survey. There won't be any new routes, but officials say they hope to make the current system more efficient.

Now, they're looking for public input during three open house events over the next week. 

"The idea is to make the route network work with modern travel needs," Brendan Conway with MCTS said. "MCTS has not done a full route examination in 40 years. It's no longer where people have two cars and that sort of stuff. We have ride shares and bike shares and scooter shares and people want to use transit. They want to live in urban areas."

Conway says the months-long study researched every one of the 60 routes and 5,500 bus stops in the county. They found information about where more buses were needed and where some could use less. He says, this new idea will not increase fares. 

"The trade off of course is, since we don't have more money, you need to then maybe reduce service somewhere else in lesser used routes," Conway said. 

"Sometimes it doesn't matter," Taiesha Potter of Wauwatosa said. "They're never on time. It's very frustrating."

Potter says she takes two to three buses each morning to get from Wauwatosa to Milwaukee. Time is of the essence for her. So inconsistency in her route is detrimental to schedule. 

"Some bus lines, according to the schedules, are exactly on time," Potter said. "Some bus lines are never on time every single day. You kind of have to remember which ones."

"When you get further north and west in the city, if folks don't have access to a vehicle, getting around can sometimes be hard," Ald. Cavalier Johnson said. 

In Johnson's district, he says public transportation is an important part to the every day life of residents. The first open house meeting is taking place in his district and he wants his community to be a part of it to make sure the proper service continues through his area. 

"If you know the bus is coming in 15 minutes, you can do a better job of plotting your day out," Johnson said. "Making [the routes] more fluid and more frequent and having them traveling in straighter lines as opposed to some routes that zigzag around, so folks know when the buses are coming. I think it will be a positive impact on the transit system."

"You ask riders what they want," Conway said. "Always, in the top three list is more frequency. Whether you're in Milwaukee, Milan, Moscow, Madison, they all say the same thing. We're trying to basically do that here."

Conway says the plan is to add more buses to some routes so people aren't waiting as long for individual rides. 

"A trip you took today that might take 40 minutes, under this would take you 32 minutes," Conway said. "Doesn't seem like a lot. Oh, it's only eight minutes. If you're taking that to and from work, that's 16 minutes. If you're doing that 5 days a week, it's hours of your life back every year you can spend doing whatever you want. That's what the idea is here. It's a simple idea but it's very important to be publicly driven."

Nothing will change for quite some time. Conway says they will get public feedback during these open house sessions and in 2019, they will come up with a final plan. Then, it will be voted on by the County Board of Supervisors.

If they approve it, the change would go in place around 2020. However, Conway urges everyone to get out and voice their opinions on what needs to be done to improve the public transit system. 

"This is not MCTS telling you it's this or this," Conway said. "It's, here are some ideas. Give us your feedback. Our planners want to have good feedback down to the bus stop. Let us know what works and what doesn't work.

The planning team is going to use that information and in the spring, have a final, here's what it looks like, and go through public process then."

The first meeting is Thursday, Nov. 29 from 5-7 p.m. at the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center. 
Tuesday, Dec. 4, MCTS will hold a second open house at American Serb Hall from 5-7 p.m. The third meeting will be Thursday, Dec. 6 at the Brady Street Firehouse from 4-7 p.m.

Add your voice to the discussion and get more information about MCTS NEXT here.