Milwaukee’s Current Trolly/Streetcar Project Should Be Stopped and Subjected To More Logic

By Eugene Barufkin, Progressive Activist; Wisconsin Institute For Progressive Policies - see

February 24, 2016

As usual, there is too much politics in politics. Too many people promote one issue to throw up a smoke screen to hide political power play. The Milwaukee trolley/streetcar project is one of those cases.

The trolley issue is the trolley issue. It is not about an election. This issue has been festering far longer than the short time Barrett has had an opponent. However, now it looks like an election issue because it’s election time. It’s people who are making it an election issue.

To lead the community, outspoken people should not mix issues like a candidate vs an important physical community issue. It’s like making a pumpernickel/rye-looking loaf of bread, rather than two separate loafs.

For logical reasons, not because it’s become an election issue, Mayor Barrett should withdraw/cancel the now out-of-control trolley plans. Not withdraw from his re-election. The plan should be withdrawn because it’s growing more costly, is dangerous* and does not serve the vast needs of more deserving service areas.

Even better, the mayor should call for more logical use of the transit designated money. Milwaukee has needed interurban-suburban rail transit since its last viable system was dismantled in the 1950s. The last service ended in 1958. Into the 1950s, Milwaukee had urban rail transportation that served the area well. People from city center areas were able to travel to West Allis, and the county hospital/cemetery complex in Wauwatosa. And out National Avenue to Waukesha and Watertown.

Many of the rights of way are still clear, although some areas are now parkland. An example is the Wells/State Street, West Wisconsin Av corridor through the Miller Brewery complex and along the Menomonee River in Wauwatosa. Some of the land is now Doyne and Jacobus parks.
It’s never too late to begin planning. A viable system takes 20 to 30 years to plan and get to useful lengths to provide high value to a community.

Because Milwaukee was very shortsighted in the 1950s does not mean it should remain this way.

And many of the today’s bus route numbers are the old route numbers of the trolleys. See map for the extent Milwaukee trolley/rail systems in the old days:

Trolley Dangers, some specific facts that make trolleys impractical:

  • The steel tracks a trolley navigates on pose dangerous problems. Should trolleys be powered by an underground electricity source, a third slot is needed in pavement:

  • For bicycle peddlers, rails are slippery, thus cause skids; rails have groves (possibly 3) that narrow bike tires can get caught in.

  • Cars crossing steel tracks, especially when wet and snow/ice coated, have proven to skid and cause pedestrian and rubber wheeled vehicle crash accidents.

  • For trolley riders, especially handicapped people, to access a trolley, they must cross at least one lane of traffic, because trolleys, unlike buses, cannot safely pull up to a sidewalk curb.

Note - Should the ‘City’ trolley system get into financial problems any time during its lifetime, Milwaukee ‘County’ will be responsible. The city trolley proposal, by agreement, is an operating segment of the county transit system, which makes the ‘county’ a financial grantor.

Back to Peace of Mind Op-Ed.
Back to peace of mind
Back to top

Last edited by patricia obletz. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on February 26, 2016

Legal Information |  Designed and built by Emergency Digital. | Hosted by Steadfast Networks