Frequently Asked Questions about BRT

View of Chicago Loop Link from above.
  • What is BRT?

    Bus rapid transit, or BRT, is an increasingly popular approach to deliver enhanced public transportation services in communities seeking cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion, improve mobility and increase transit ridership. BRT features unique branding, specialized vehicles and improved transit stations to enhance the transit experience for riders. Technology improvements include real-time arrival signs at stations, and they may include road features such as traffic signal priority and queue-jumps at busy intersections to help buses increase reliability and maintain schedules. Buses may also operate in exclusive transit lanes.

  • Why BRT?

    • BRT is a key part of the regional transportation plan, building on existing Milwaukee County Transit System routes and providing opportunities to spur the development of and connection to additional rapid transit corridors in the region.
    • BRT plays a vital role in a healthy, multimodal transportation system that connects people to jobs, and businesses to their customers.
    • BRT is cost-effective, efficient and has been proven to increase transit use with improved service frequencies, travel time and reliability.
    • BRT supports and sparks millions of dollars in economic development.
    • BRT meets a critical need to mitigate traffic congestion during the multi-year reconstruction of I-94.
  • What is the East-West BRT project?

    East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is Milwaukee County’s planned 9-mile, regional, modern transit service connecting major employment, education and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s Near West Side, Marquette University, Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center. BRT would provide improved access to the region’s most vital, most traveled and most congested corridor.

  • How does BRT fit within the Regional Transportation Plan?

    The region’s transportation plan, called Vision 2050, recommends significant improvement to and expansion of the public transit system to provide enhanced service that is time-competitive with a car. The regional plan focuses on high travel demand corridors and recommends the development of eight rapid transit lines. The East-West BRT, which is the region’s most heavily traveled and congested corridor, would be the first rapid transit corridor in the region, providing the “central spine” for MCTS and future transit connections. The East-West corridor could be expanded west to Waukesha and east to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the future.

  • What are the East-West BRT project features?

    • Up to 19 stations connect regional network of major employment centers, education facilities and recreational destinations.
    • Modern, hybrid electric buses provide a quiet, comfortable, sustainable vehicle with features for easy boarding and interior bike storage.
    • Shorter travel times because of dedicated lanes, fewer stops, traffic signal priority and pre-board ticketing.
    • Reduces traffic congestion by removing cars from the corridor.
    • More frequent daily service with buses every 10 minutes during peak hours and midday, and every 20-30 minutes in early morning, evening and late-night hours.
  • Who will use BRT?

    The East-West BRT is to average more than 9,500 weekday riders by 2035 and increase overall transit ridership in the corridor by 17 percent. Ridership will be fueled by activity generators within the half-mile station area around the preferred route including:

    • 9 colleges and universities, and 8 high schools
    • 47,000 residents
    • 120,000 jobs
    • 100+ businesses with 250 or more employees
    • 7 medical facilities
    • 25 hotels
    • Countless attractions including the county zoo, Miller Park, Buck’s arena, art museum and Summerfest.
  • When will BRT service begin?

    Implementation of a new transit service must go through various phases of development before the new service can be initiated. In 2016, Milwaukee County completed a Feasibility Study and selected a preferred route option. Beginning in 2017, Milwaukee County will advance the project’s design phase which will include developing roadway and station designs, completing an environmental assessment and requesting federal funds. Upon the successful completion of the design phase, construction of the system could begin in 2019 with service starting as early as 2020.

  • What environmental analysis will be done on this project?

    Milwaukee County, in coordination with the Federal Transit Administration will complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The EA will evaluate the benefits and impacts of both the No Action (or No Build) alternative and the BRT (Build) alternative. Topics covered in the EA will include noise, air quality, historic resources, traffic, communities and neighborhoods, environmental justice, land use and economics. Following the release of the EA for public review, Milwaukee County will hold a public meeting to present the results of the EA and obtain public input.

  • How much does it cost to build BRT?

    BRT is a cost-effective mobility solution that delivers significant public transit enhancements at a fraction of the cost of rail technologies. The BRT capital cost is estimated at $50 million. This cost assumes 11 new 40-foot modern buses, 19 stations and various roadway and traffic signal improvements. The financial plan for the project anticipates the capital cost may be funded up to 80 percent through the federal Small Starts program, which requires a minimum local match of 20 percent. Milwaukee County submitted its Small Starts application to the Federal Transit Administration in September 2017.

    With systemwide MCTS operating improvements, the new BRT service will only add about 1 percent to MCTS’s overall operating and maintenance costs. Operations will be funded as part of the existing MCTS service, which comes from bus fares, advertising and sponsorships, state and federal funding and local tax levy.

  • How much will a BRT ride cost?

    BRT will be fully integrated into MCTS, and the cost to ride BRT will be the same as the cost to ride other MCTS services. Currently, an adult MCTS fare is $1.75 per ride using an M•CARD and $2.25 if paid in cash. The BRT system will also accept MCTS daily, weekly and monthly bus passes.

  • How fast do BRT buses travel?

    BRT bus drivers are trained to never go faster than the legal speed limit. The "rapid" in "bus rapid transit" refers to the travel time savings realized by BRT service features that make travel more efficient compared with normal bus service. The full 9-mile East-West BRT route is expected to take less than 40 minutes, a travel time savings of up to 8 minutes compared with existing bus service.

  • How does BRT impact road safety?

    A recent report released by the American Public Transit Association states that BRT transit is 10 times safer than car travel. In addition, many experts believe adding bus service makes neighborhoods safer by taking cars off the road; plus, BRT features calm traffic and increase driver awareness. Exclusive transit lanes reduce weaving and cars won’t get stuck behind idling buses. Enhanced boarding stations provide lighting to make safer, more visible locations. They also remind motorists to watch for buses and passengers getting on and off at the stations.

  • I’d love to use transit more often but it takes too long, and I can’t be late for work. How will BRT change that?

    One of the main purposes of implementing BRT is to improve the reliability and frequency of the system so more people want to use transit. During morning and afternoon commutes BRT service would run every 10 minutes, meaning you would never have to wait long to catch a ride. Other BRT features such as pre-board ticketing, transit-only lanes and transit-signal priority at busy intersections will also add to an improved transit experience. One more plus: You won’t need to pay for parking!

  • Where is BRT used?

    BRT is used successfully in hundreds of cities worldwide and dozens more are under construction across the country. Cities similar in size to Milwaukee that have BRT operations include Kansas City, Missouri; Jacksonville, Florida; San Antonio and El Paso in Texas; and Cincinnati and Cleveland in Ohio.

  • How will BRT work with existing transit services?

    BRT will provide opportunities to modify other MCTS routes in the corridor to provide an enhanced transit experience. Based on further analysis and public input, Milwaukee County will determine bus service modifications during the project’s design phase. While most MCTS routes will be unaffected, some potential modifications may include integrating some routes with BRT; replacing some route segments; and relocating some existing local and freeway flyer routes in downtown to adjacent streets.

  • How does BRT operate in residential neighborhoods?

    BRT operates safely and successfully in residential neighborhoods across the country. BRT is flexible and can be customized to fit the unique needs of individual neighborhoods. Stations will be designed to fit within the existing neighborhood scale and aesthetic, and will incorporate lighting to make the station safe and visible for the community.

  • How will East-West BRT service affect quality of life issues such as traffic congestion, noise and safety? How will this help congestion on Bluemound Road during rush hour?

    BRT has a proven track record of reducing traffic congestion and noise and improving safety – particularly by reducing the number of cars and buses on the road. Milwaukee County is in the process of analyzing traffic and parking to evaluate potential impacts and benefits for the motoring public along the route. Traffic simulation models will use existing and projected traffic data to analyze BRT service, for example, looking at the introduction of BRT service on Wisconsin Avenue and Bluemound Road during peak travel periods during the day. These models will also help to understand any changes in traffic on intersecting or parallel roads throughout the project area. The results of this analysis will be shared with stakeholders and the public.

  • Why is this better than existing Gold Line service? Could we just upgrade the Gold Line service?

    Conventional bus services like the Gold Line utilize general traffic lanes, which can be slow due to traffic congestion. The speed of the bus service is further reduced by the time spent at bus stops for passengers to board the vehicle, pay the fare, and pull back into traffic. BRT would include features such as transit-only lanes, off-board fare collection, traffic signal priority, and more frequent service levels to provide an enhanced transit experience. Also, BRT will provide level boarding platforms to allow quick and easy boarding for all passengers including persons with wheelchairs, strollers, or carts.

  • How will this affect my property value?

    Incorporation of BRT systems in similar cities (e.g., Cleveland, Pittsburgh) has shown BRT as a catalyst for economic development. FTA is continuing research on the effects of BRT on surrounding land uses, economic development and property values. The 2012 FTA Research report, Land Use Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit, found evidence from exiting BRT systems to support the assumption that access to high-quality transit such as BRT can induce increases in property values.

  • If I have to walk further to get on the bus, am I really saving time?

    It is true that the BRT will consolidate local bus stops in the corridor. However, we have studied the current number of people riding the bus along this alignment and have placed the BRT stations in areas with the highest number of bus riders and where MCTS currently has bus routes intersecting the BRT line. Additionally, BRT will operate more frequently and more reliability in dedicated bus lanes. With dedicated bus lanes, BRT can maintain a precise schedule and the travel time for riders will significantly improve.

  • How will this affect crime in my neighborhood?

    BRT service can make neighborhoods safer. BRT operates safely and successfully in residential and commercial neighborhoods across the country. BRT systems’ safety features help to calm traffic. Stations will be designed to fit within the existing neighborhood setting, as well as incorporate appropriate lighting and fixtures to make the station safe and visible for the community.

  • What will happen to traffic on Brewers game days?

    The project’s traffic modeling engineers are analyzing traffic impacts of the project. Depending on game schedules (day versus night, or weekend versus weekday), MCTS would consider temporary adjustments to BRT operations to maintain overall traffic flow on game days.

  • Will this project affect my property taxes?

    Property taxes will not increase to pay for the capital costs of the project. Funding sources (both federal and local) have already been identified, planned and/or committed to fund the project.

View of Chicago Loop Link from above.
View of Chicago Loop Link from above.
  • What is BRT?

    Bus rapid transit, or BRT, is an increasingly popular approach to deliver enhanced public transportation services in communities seeking cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion, improve mobility and increase transit ridership. BRT features unique branding, specialized vehicles and improved transit stations to enhance the transit experience for riders. Technology improvements include real-time arrival signs at stations, and they may include road features such as traffic signal priority and queue-jumps at busy intersections to help buses increase reliability and maintain schedules. Buses may also operate in exclusive transit lanes.

  • Why BRT?

    • BRT is a key part of the regional transportation plan, building on existing Milwaukee County Transit System routes and providing opportunities to spur the development of and connection to additional rapid transit corridors in the region.
    • BRT plays a vital role in a healthy, multimodal transportation system that connects people to jobs, and businesses to their customers.
    • BRT is cost-effective, efficient and has been proven to increase transit use with improved service frequencies, travel time and reliability.
    • BRT supports and sparks millions of dollars in economic development.
    • BRT meets a critical need to mitigate traffic congestion during the multi-year reconstruction of I-94.
  • What is the East-West BRT project?

    East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is Milwaukee County’s planned 9-mile, regional, modern transit service connecting major employment, education and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s Near West Side, Marquette University, Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center. BRT would provide improved access to the region’s most vital, most traveled and most congested corridor.

  • How does BRT fit within the Regional Transportation Plan?

    The region’s transportation plan, called Vision 2050, recommends significant improvement to and expansion of the public transit system to provide enhanced service that is time-competitive with a car. The regional plan focuses on high travel demand corridors and recommends the development of eight rapid transit lines. The East-West BRT, which is the region’s most heavily traveled and congested corridor, would be the first rapid transit corridor in the region, providing the “central spine” for MCTS and future transit connections. The East-West corridor could be expanded west to Waukesha and east to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the future.

  • What are the East-West BRT project features?

    • Up to 19 stations connect regional network of major employment centers, education facilities and recreational destinations.
    • Modern, hybrid electric buses provide a quiet, comfortable, sustainable vehicle with features for easy boarding and interior bike storage.
    • Shorter travel times because of dedicated lanes, fewer stops, traffic signal priority and pre-board ticketing.
    • Reduces traffic congestion by removing cars from the corridor.
    • More frequent daily service with buses every 10 minutes during peak hours and midday, and every 20-30 minutes in early morning, evening and late-night hours.
  • Who will use BRT?

    The East-West BRT is to average more than 9,500 weekday riders by 2035 and increase overall transit ridership in the corridor by 17 percent. Ridership will be fueled by activity generators within the half-mile station area around the preferred route including:

    • 9 colleges and universities, and 8 high schools
    • 47,000 residents
    • 120,000 jobs
    • 100+ businesses with 250 or more employees
    • 7 medical facilities
    • 25 hotels
    • Countless attractions including the county zoo, Miller Park, Buck’s arena, art museum and Summerfest.
  • When will BRT service begin?

    Implementation of a new transit service must go through various phases of development before the new service can be initiated. In 2016, Milwaukee County completed a Feasibility Study and selected a preferred route option. Beginning in 2017, Milwaukee County will advance the project’s design phase which will include developing roadway and station designs, completing an environmental assessment and requesting federal funds. Upon the successful completion of the design phase, construction of the system could begin in 2019 with service starting as early as 2020.

  • What environmental analysis will be done on this project?

    Milwaukee County, in coordination with the Federal Transit Administration will complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The EA will evaluate the benefits and impacts of both the No Action (or No Build) alternative and the BRT (Build) alternative. Topics covered in the EA will include noise, air quality, historic resources, traffic, communities and neighborhoods, environmental justice, land use and economics. Following the release of the EA for public review, Milwaukee County will hold a public meeting to present the results of the EA and obtain public input.

  • How much does it cost to build BRT?

    BRT is a cost-effective mobility solution that delivers significant public transit enhancements at a fraction of the cost of rail technologies. The BRT capital cost is estimated at $50 million. This cost assumes 11 new 40-foot modern buses, 19 stations and various roadway and traffic signal improvements. The financial plan for the project anticipates the capital cost may be funded up to 80 percent through the federal Small Starts program, which requires a minimum local match of 20 percent. Milwaukee County submitted its Small Starts application to the Federal Transit Administration in September 2017.

    With systemwide MCTS operating improvements, the new BRT service will only add about 1 percent to MCTS’s overall operating and maintenance costs. Operations will be funded as part of the existing MCTS service, which comes from bus fares, advertising and sponsorships, state and federal funding and local tax levy.

  • How much will a BRT ride cost?

    BRT will be fully integrated into MCTS, and the cost to ride BRT will be the same as the cost to ride other MCTS services. Currently, an adult MCTS fare is $1.75 per ride using an M•CARD and $2.25 if paid in cash. The BRT system will also accept MCTS daily, weekly and monthly bus passes.

  • How fast do BRT buses travel?

    BRT bus drivers are trained to never go faster than the legal speed limit. The "rapid" in "bus rapid transit" refers to the travel time savings realized by BRT service features that make travel more efficient compared with normal bus service. The full 9-mile East-West BRT route is expected to take less than 40 minutes, a travel time savings of up to 8 minutes compared with existing bus service.

  • How does BRT impact road safety?

    A recent report released by the American Public Transit Association states that BRT transit is 10 times safer than car travel. In addition, many experts believe adding bus service makes neighborhoods safer by taking cars off the road; plus, BRT features calm traffic and increase driver awareness. Exclusive transit lanes reduce weaving and cars won’t get stuck behind idling buses. Enhanced boarding stations provide lighting to make safer, more visible locations. They also remind motorists to watch for buses and passengers getting on and off at the stations.

  • I’d love to use transit more often but it takes too long, and I can’t be late for work. How will BRT change that?

    One of the main purposes of implementing BRT is to improve the reliability and frequency of the system so more people want to use transit. During morning and afternoon commutes BRT service would run every 10 minutes, meaning you would never have to wait long to catch a ride. Other BRT features such as pre-board ticketing, transit-only lanes and transit-signal priority at busy intersections will also add to an improved transit experience. One more plus: You won’t need to pay for parking!

  • Where is BRT used?

    BRT is used successfully in hundreds of cities worldwide and dozens more are under construction across the country. Cities similar in size to Milwaukee that have BRT operations include Kansas City, Missouri; Jacksonville, Florida; San Antonio and El Paso in Texas; and Cincinnati and Cleveland in Ohio.

  • How will BRT work with existing transit services?

    BRT will provide opportunities to modify other MCTS routes in the corridor to provide an enhanced transit experience. Based on further analysis and public input, Milwaukee County will determine bus service modifications during the project’s design phase. While most MCTS routes will be unaffected, some potential modifications may include integrating some routes with BRT; replacing some route segments; and relocating some existing local and freeway flyer routes in downtown to adjacent streets.

  • How does BRT operate in residential neighborhoods?

    BRT operates safely and successfully in residential neighborhoods across the country. BRT is flexible and can be customized to fit the unique needs of individual neighborhoods. Stations will be designed to fit within the existing neighborhood scale and aesthetic, and will incorporate lighting to make the station safe and visible for the community.

  • How will East-West BRT service affect quality of life issues such as traffic congestion, noise and safety? How will this help congestion on Bluemound Road during rush hour?

    BRT has a proven track record of reducing traffic congestion and noise and improving safety – particularly by reducing the number of cars and buses on the road. Milwaukee County is in the process of analyzing traffic and parking to evaluate potential impacts and benefits for the motoring public along the route. Traffic simulation models will use existing and projected traffic data to analyze BRT service, for example, looking at the introduction of BRT service on Wisconsin Avenue and Bluemound Road during peak travel periods during the day. These models will also help to understand any changes in traffic on intersecting or parallel roads throughout the project area. The results of this analysis will be shared with stakeholders and the public.

  • Why is this better than existing Gold Line service? Could we just upgrade the Gold Line service?

    Conventional bus services like the Gold Line utilize general traffic lanes, which can be slow due to traffic congestion. The speed of the bus service is further reduced by the time spent at bus stops for passengers to board the vehicle, pay the fare, and pull back into traffic. BRT would include features such as transit-only lanes, off-board fare collection, traffic signal priority, and more frequent service levels to provide an enhanced transit experience. Also, BRT will provide level boarding platforms to allow quick and easy boarding for all passengers including persons with wheelchairs, strollers, or carts.

  • How will this affect my property value?

    Incorporation of BRT systems in similar cities (e.g., Cleveland, Pittsburgh) has shown BRT as a catalyst for economic development. FTA is continuing research on the effects of BRT on surrounding land uses, economic development and property values. The 2012 FTA Research report, Land Use Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit, found evidence from exiting BRT systems to support the assumption that access to high-quality transit such as BRT can induce increases in property values.

  • If I have to walk further to get on the bus, am I really saving time?

    It is true that the BRT will consolidate local bus stops in the corridor. However, we have studied the current number of people riding the bus along this alignment and have placed the BRT stations in areas with the highest number of bus riders and where MCTS currently has bus routes intersecting the BRT line. Additionally, BRT will operate more frequently and more reliability in dedicated bus lanes. With dedicated bus lanes, BRT can maintain a precise schedule and the travel time for riders will significantly improve.

  • How will this affect crime in my neighborhood?

    BRT service can make neighborhoods safer. BRT operates safely and successfully in residential and commercial neighborhoods across the country. BRT systems’ safety features help to calm traffic. Stations will be designed to fit within the existing neighborhood setting, as well as incorporate appropriate lighting and fixtures to make the station safe and visible for the community.

  • What will happen to traffic on Brewers game days?

    The project’s traffic modeling engineers are analyzing traffic impacts of the project. Depending on game schedules (day versus night, or weekend versus weekday), MCTS would consider temporary adjustments to BRT operations to maintain overall traffic flow on game days.

  • Will this project affect my property taxes?

    Property taxes will not increase to pay for the capital costs of the project. Funding sources (both federal and local) have already been identified, planned and/or committed to fund the project.

Frequently Asked
Questions about BRT