The Milwaukee streetcar—a.k.a. The Hop—launched in November 2018. Seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it? Since the service’s “Grand Hop-ening,” there’s been no shortage of drama: lawsuits, angry press releases, more angry press releases, in-limbo extension talks. But there’s one thing that’s hard to deny about the 2.1-mile streetcar system: people are riding it.

Here are The Hop’s ridership numbers so far:

Total rides: 76,125
Average daily ridership: (excluding opening weekend): 2,297

Total rides: 76,044
Average daily ridership: 2,453

Total rides: 49,501
Average daily ridership: 1,597

(Data missing)

APRIL 2019
Total rides: 55,558
Average daily ridership: 1,852

MAY 1 – 21, 2019
Total rides: 40,467
Average daily ridership: 1,927

“Numerous malfunctions” in The Hop’s automated passenger counters (APC) resulted in incomplete data for February and March. “We have not been able to recover missing data for much of February and early March, and consequently cannot provide accurate totals for either month,” The Hop said in a statement.

So…is ridership good? Excluding a cold-weather dip in January, the numbers are on-target. “Beginning in April, we’re seeing the numbers increase and they’re very, very solid numbers, and they’re exactly where we want to be,” Mayor Tom Barrett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. An environmental impact statement released in 2011 anticipated 1,800 daily rides.

So here’s the part where someone inevitably says, “Yeah, but what will happen when the thing isn’t free?” Yes, rides on The Hop are free for its first year, thanks to a 12-year, $10 million presenting sponsorship deal with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino (and an 18-month federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant). So what will happen when the no-fare rides theoretically dry up in November 2019?

The Hop’s website has this to say about an eventual fare:

Expected fare (after initial 12-month free period): $1.00. After the first year of operation, passengers will purchase tickets off-vehicle as there are no fareboxes on board. Fare inspectors will make random checks of all passengers throughout the day to make sure they have valid streetcar passes.

Mayor Barrett, however, has expressed hope that the free rides will extend beyond November 2019. “We would love to see it extended and we’re working to see if we can make that possible right now,” he said at a January press conference.

Another sign that The Hop may remain fare-less for a bit longer: a formal bidding process for fare-collection equipment (either at stations or in vehicles) has yet to begin. A planned update on the matter was put on hold at a Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday.

So…we’ll see! Until there’s more news, please consider donating $1 million or so to get this thing extended to the downtown convention center before the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.