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Bus route would link MATC downtown, north campuses

May 10, 2010
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By Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel

May 10, 2010 0

A new Milwaukee County Transit System route would link Milwaukee Area Technical College's downtown and Mequon campuses, while a bus route to Pewaukee is being dropped after 15 years.

The transit system is seeking County Board permission to create the Mequon-to-Milwaukee route, which would be the first new county bus route in four years.

For the past two years, the transit system has been serving the MATC North campus with an extension of Route 49U (Brown Deer UBUS), which was originally designed to link the North Shore suburbs to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

But MATC officials have been pressing the county for service that connects to the main MATC campus downtown, transit system Managing Director Anita Gulotta-Connelly says in a report to the board's Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee. At the same time, Concordia University, also in Mequon, was pushing for bus service and considering joining the U-PASS program, which provides unlimited bus passes to students in exchange for an increase in student fees, the report says.

Transit officials realized they could create a new route and return Route 49U to its previous form for the same amount they were spending to operate the extended Route 49U, the report says.

If supervisors approve, the new route would run from MATC-North and Concordia to MATC downtown and the Downtown Transit Center from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays during the school year, starting this fall.

Meanwhile, Quad/Graphics Inc. is cutting off funding for Route 8 (Quad/Graphics Sussex-Pewaukee), which runs from Milwaukee's south side to the Quad printing plants in Sussex and Pewaukee, Gulotta-Connelly says in a separate report to the committee. That route will end June 26.

Quad had picked up part of the route's cost since the route started in 1995, with the company's share rising to 70% when Waukesha County cut off funding in 2006. But declining ridership led Quad to pull the plug, and Milwaukee County has no money to keep the service going, the report says.

In another transit matter, the county is planning to sell the last four of its rubber-tired trolley buses.

Using federal funds, the county bought 10 small buses, resembling old-fashioned trolleys, for a year-round downtown transit service that provided more than 1 million rides from 2000 to 2003. When the federal cash ran out, County Executive Scott Walker ended the service and sold six vehicles.

Downtown businesses then raised money for a summer-only, tourist-oriented loop similar to the original trolley service that ran from 1997 to 1999. The transit system operated that service, using the remaining three trolleys, until 2008, when federal rules banned use of federally funded buses for charters. A private company now operates the downtown trolley service.

As with the first six trolleys, proceeds from the sales would be used for buying new buses or other equipment.

About Larry Sandler

Larry Sandler has been writing about government, politics, transportation, business and education in Wisconsin and Illinois for more than 25 years. He joined the Milwaukee Sentinel's staff as a general assignment reporter in 1982, after covering county government, politics and business for The Pantagraph of Bloomington-Normal, Ill. At the Sentinel, he reported on higher education, the Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee County government and the manufacturing and transportation industries. After the April 1995 merger of the Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal, Sandler became the transportation reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and from May 2001 to May 2007, he also wrote the weekly Road Warrior column. His investigation into flaws in aviation security earned a first-place award in the Milwaukee Press Club’s 2004 Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism Contest. Sandler was named City Hall reporter in June 2007 and continues to cover public transit issues as well. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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