Heavy downtown traffic and outrageous parking fees during major lakefront festivals got you down? There’s a streetcar for that. And maybe some “enhanced” service to go along with it.

On Wednesday, Milwaukee’s Public Works Committee briefly discussed its intention to ask the Department of Public Works to “develop a plan for enhanced streetcar service from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station to the Couture during major lakefront festivals.”

The tentative “enhancement” would run four—or possibly all five—streetcars on both of The Hop‘s routes (the M-Line and the L-Line) during certain lakefront festivals, decreasing the wait time between streetcars (or “headway”) to 10-15 minutes. The Hop currently runs three streetcars solely on the M-Line (two during off-peak hours) and one solely on the L-Line, with headways of 20 minutes.

“Basically that connects the Intermodal Station with the Couture, which is 500 feet from the North Gate of Summerfest,” said Public Works Committee chair Ald. Bob Bauman. “Theoretically you could park at Astor and Lyon on the East Side, free of charge, and take the streetcar to Summerfest, free of charge, versus paying $50 to park at some of the parking lots nearby.

“Or $75!” Bauman continued. “Somebody complained that they were charging $75 to park for festivals. I said, ‘Take the bus! Park downtown! Park at City Hall! Take the streetcar, totally free, versus paying very high parking rates!”

Blue = M-Line; Tan = L-Line

Bauman said the point of the plan is to “utilize the streetcar to try to mitigate some of the traffic issues that seem to plague the Third Ward and other downtown areas during the Summerfest weekends, and now increasingly during some of the ethnic festivals, especially Irish Fest and Mexican Fiesta.”

The Department of Public Works has been given 15 days to present a final plan to the Common Council.


In April, the city celebrated the opening of the Couture Transit Center, located in the street-level belly of the just-about-finished Couture luxury apartment tower at 909 E. Michigan St. The public concourse serves as the eastern terminus for The Hop’s L-Line, which is a “nearly 2-mile route incorporating five existing streetcar stations along the Milwaukee/Broadway corridor with three new stops along a new spur connecting to Milwaukee’s Lakefront.” Milwaukee County Transit System’s CONNECT 1 bus rapid transit line will also utilize the concourse beginning June 2.

The Hop began service in 2018. It recorded a total of 494,445 rides in 2023. From January through March 2024, it recorded 109,880 rides. April 2024 numbers have yet to be reported.

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