Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Brookville "Liberty" 03 turning at Broadway/St. Paul, Milwaukee Public Market inbound. Photo by Peter Ehrlich, 10/18/2018.


Milwaukee's HOP Streetcar line is a 2.1-mile (3.4km) modern streetcar line that operates through the central business district and into a neighborhood that is situated along Lake Michigan. It was constructed by, and is operated by, the City of Milwaukee. With its opening for service on November 2, 2018, surface electric rail transit returned to the Beer City for the first time since the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee was abandoned in January 1963. Milwaukee's city system had closed in March 1958, sixty years before HOP opened. The cost to build the HOP was $123,9 million. The Milwaukee City Council approved the project in early 2015. A construction contract was awarded in August 2016; construction commenced in February 2017, and was substantially completed by Spring 2018.

The line uses five Brookville Liberty low-floor streetcars, numbered 01-05. They have built-in off-wire capability (battery power), similar to those currently operating in Dallas, Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Tempe, as there are certain sections of the route that have no overhead wire. The cars are sponsored by the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, under naming rights granted to the Potawatomi Native American tribe by the City of Milwaukee.

The route runs from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station at Vel R. Phillips Avenue (formerly N. 4th Street) and St. Paul Avenue. The carbon, which is tucked under the I-794 elevated freeway (Portland had a similar arrangement when its Vintage Trolley was operating). Amtrak's Hiawatha Service and the Empire Builder stop at the Intermodal Center, and Greyhound and other intercity bus lines are based here as well. The single-track line at Intermodal turns eastward onto W. St. Paul and immediately changes to double-track. The next station is at Plankinton Avenue. Then the line crosses the Milwaukee River across a very unusual drawbridge (actually, the roadway is pushed upward) and over into the Historic Third Ward, where the next station is located. The thriving Milwaukee Public Market, which opened in 2004, is at St. Paul and Water Streets, and there are many pubs, restaurants and chic stores situated in the historic reconstructed warehouses in the Third Ward. After the Third Ward stops (westbound at Water Street, eastbound at Broadway), the line reaches Broadway, used by southbound cars, and there is a turnback here. Outbound cars continue one more block to Milwaukee Street, where they will turn northward. The line passes through the Central Business District on those separate streets, with stops at Wisconsin Avenue. and Wells Street The historic 1895 City Hall is served by the stop at Wells Street.

At E. Kilbourn Avenue, the line then turns eastward, stopping at Cathedral Square before turning north at N. Jackson Street. There is a switchback at Milwaukee and Kilbourn. It will follow Jackson to Ogden, with stops at Juneau Avenue and Ogden/Jackson. The line again turns eastward to a terminus at Burns Commons (Ogden/Prosapect) Along the way on Ogden, there is a stop at Astor.

Service is approximately every 15-20 minutes, with more frequent service during the many Festivals that take place in Milwaukee. The entire line is quite scenic, and many parks are served along the route.

The line is referred to in the timetables as the M-Line. An L-Line, which will operate via the Michigan/Clybourn couplet east of Milwaukee Street, is slated to open in early 2023.

As mentioned, part of the line is wire-free. This includes all of Jackson Street and all of Kilbourne Avenue. Inbound cars drop their pans on Jackson after turning from Ogden, and they go up again at the Broadway/Wells stop. Outbound cara drop their pans at Milwaukee/Wells, and pantograph operation resumes after the cars turn onto Ogden, at the stop between Jackson and VanBuren. The carbarn area, also, is wire-free.

Before the pandemic, ridership had been steadily climbing upward, reaching nearly 104,000 riders in July 2019–the HOP's best month ever. With the pandemic recovery, total monthly ridership is about half that, but still a respectable 48,500 riders hopped on the HOP in July 2022.

There are two proposed extensions. One is northward from the current inner terminal to Bronzeville; the other is a southward extension to Walker's Point from the Third Ward stops. Another possibility is a northeastward extension along the lakefront from Burns Commons.

Milwaukee's HOP Streetcar was the first of four new systems that opened for service over an amazing six-week period in 2018. The other were El Paso (November 9); St. Louis-Delmar Loop Trolley (November 16, but currently not operating); and Oklahoma City (December 14).

Photo locations: Burns Commons, Ogden/Prospect, Ogden/Astor, Ogden/Jackson, Jackson/Juneau, Jackson/Kilbourn, Cathedral Square, City Hall East Town, Broadway/Wells, Wisconsin Avenue, Broadway/Michigan, St. Paul/Broadway, Milwaukee Public Market, Historic Third Ward, St. Paul Bridge/Milwaukee River, St. Paul/Plankinton, Milwaukee Intermodal Station, Maintenance Facility

Five Random Images

Image 160152

(811k, 1024x681)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: St. Paul Bridge/Milwaukee River

Image 160157

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Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: St. Paul/Broadway

Image 160160

(764k, 1024x673)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Broadway/Michigan

Image 160172

(607k, 1024x681)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Ogden/Astor

Image 160174

(734k, 1024x681)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Burns Commons

More Images: 1-31


The Hop MKE (Official Site)

The Hop Streetcar (Wikipedia)

Page Credits

By Peter Ehrlich.

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