Have you ever been waiting for The Hop and thought to yourself, “I wish there was a 55-inch screen here that provided me with real-time tracking data, 360-degree surveillance from the Milwaukee Police Department, and a chance to take a fun selfie”? Well, if so, you’re in luck! Thursday morning at a Public Works Committee meeting, city and streetcar officials outlined a plan to install 35 so-called “smart kiosks” at various streetcar stops and other places near the streetcar route. Here’s the official site.

According to Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Polenske and streetcar spokesman Mark Rosenberg, transit kiosk company Smart City Media will install—and pay for—the so-called “CityPost” kiosks. The kiosks are approximately 8.5 feet tall, each with a 55-inch interactive digital screen. They will provide real-time “next-vehicle” information for the streetcar. Microphone and live video capabilities will allow the kiosks to double as surveillance cameras monitored by MPD. Also, according to Rosenberg, you’ll be able to take a selfie with them, which is fun. Oh, and free Wi-Fi.

More importantly, the kiosks will allow for advertising and create revenue for streetcar operations. The City of Milwaukee will collect 20% of the total ad revenue for the kiosk system’s first three years of service. After that, the cut increases to 25% for the following three years, and to a third for the final four years of the company’s 10-year contract. Polenske estimated city revenue to be between $300,000 and $500,000 annually.

Again, for the folks who are preparing their standard “More money wasted!” comments (not that you actually read the articles you comment on): Smart City Media is paying for the installation and maintenance of the kiosks. Not Milwaukee. Milwaukee is receiving money.

As for screen time, 45% percent of it will be dedicated to advertising (when the kiosk is not being used). The other 55% will be set aside for city content like downtown maps, event calendars, restaurant listings, and so on. The kiosks will be able to integrate with other transit apps as well, like Ride MCTS and Bublr Bikes.

“We really wanted something that was going to have a very local angle,” Rosenberg said. “It’s not just advertising. It’s local content that the city can benefit from.”

Polenske said some kiosks could appear as early as May. The Milwaukee Business Journal notes that “all 35 are expected to be live before the Democratic National Convention that starts July 13,” and that “about 17 will be located along the initial route of the downtown streetcar. Others will be built in busy areas of downtown, including East Brady Street, outside Fiserv Forum and at the Wisconsin Center convention hall.”

“We think these are going to be incredible additions to our downtown experience,” Mayor Tom Barrett told the Business Journal. “They really are part of our very creative approach to informing people about what’s going on in the city, but also getting revenue to help us with our streetcar operations.”

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