Streetcar supporters had better get on board

Commentary

The first streetcar vehicle has finally arrived in Milwaukee.

Love it or hate it, this is a big deal. The federal transportation funds for the project were allocated to Milwaukee in the early ’90s, but officials spent years arguing about what to use them for. After so much discussion and debate, it’s almost surreal to see the streetcar is actually here.

The streetcar remains an extremely controversial project. A short video on the BizTimes Facebook page of the streetcar arriving in Milwaukee generated an enormous response, far more than usual. The post received dozens of “likes” and “shares” by supporters. But there was also a long list of comments that were overwhelmingly negative.

For opponents, the streetcar is the ultimate symbol of government waste. For supporters, it is an investment that will make the city more attractive and provide a clean transportation alternative to get around downtown.

There will be a ton of scrutiny of the streetcar. Every problem it has will get a massive amount of attention and the critics will howl.

Passenger service is expected to begin this fall. If supporters of the streetcar want to see it succeed, they had better ride it. A lot.

That includes the members of Milwaukee’s business community who have pushed for the project. They include Marcus Corp. president and chief executive officer Greg Marcus, former ManpowerGroup CEO Jeff Joerres, General Capital Group partner Linda Gorens-Levey, Lubar & Co. president and CEO David Lubar, Mandel Group Inc. president Barry Mandel, former Johnson Controls International plc CEO Alex Molinaroli and Medical College of Wisconsin senior vice president Greg Wesley. All of them were part of a coalition that pushed for Common Council approval of the streetcar in 2015.

The streetcar got even more support from Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, which is providing $10 million over 12 years to be the naming sponsor for the streetcar. With the Potawatomi sponsorship, rides on the streetcar will be free for a year.

It will be very interesting to see how many people actually ride the streetcar. Who will it appeal to? Perhaps it will be an alternative for people making short trips around downtown who would rather not walk several blocks or have to find parking.

Streetcar supporters have also said it will attract development along the route. That remains to be seen. Some projects are already occurring there, but did the streetcar have anything to do with them?

The initial streetcar line, which runs from the Intermodal Station northeast through the Third Ward, downtown and to the Lower East Side, is only supposed to be a starter line. City officials want to get more federal funds for extensions. So far, they have been unable to get funds to extend the streetcar to the new arena.

If the city and streetcar supporters want to grow this system, they need to prove it can succeed.

The first streetcar vehicle has finally arrived in Milwaukee.

Love it or hate it, this is a big deal. The federal transportation funds for the project were allocated to Milwaukee in the early ’90s, but officials spent years arguing about what to use them for. After so much discussion and debate, it’s almost surreal to see the streetcar is actually here.

The streetcar remains an extremely controversial project. A short video on the BizTimes Facebook page of the streetcar arriving in Milwaukee generated an enormous response, far more than usual. The post received dozens of “likes” and “shares” by supporters. But there was also a long list of comments that were overwhelmingly negative.

For opponents, the streetcar is the ultimate symbol of government waste. For supporters, it is an investment that will make the city more attractive and provide a clean transportation alternative to get around downtown.

There will be a ton of scrutiny of the streetcar. Every problem it has will get a massive amount of attention and the critics will howl.

Passenger service is expected to begin this fall. If supporters of the streetcar want to see it succeed, they had better ride it. A lot.

That includes the members of Milwaukee’s business community who have pushed for the project. They include Marcus Corp. president and chief executive officer Greg Marcus, former ManpowerGroup CEO Jeff Joerres, General Capital Group partner Linda Gorens-Levey, Lubar & Co. president and CEO David Lubar, Mandel Group Inc. president Barry Mandel, former Johnson Controls International plc CEO Alex Molinaroli and Medical College of Wisconsin senior vice president Greg Wesley. All of them were part of a coalition that pushed for Common Council approval of the streetcar in 2015.

The streetcar got even more support from Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, which is providing $10 million over 12 years to be the naming sponsor for the streetcar. With the Potawatomi sponsorship, rides on the streetcar will be free for a year.

It will be very interesting to see how many people actually ride the streetcar. Who will it appeal to? Perhaps it will be an alternative for people making short trips around downtown who would rather not walk several blocks or have to find parking.

Streetcar supporters have also said it will attract development along the route. That remains to be seen. Some projects are already occurring there, but did the streetcar have anything to do with them?

The initial streetcar line, which runs from the Intermodal Station northeast through the Third Ward, downtown and to the Lower East Side, is only supposed to be a starter line. City officials want to get more federal funds for extensions. So far, they have been unable to get funds to extend the streetcar to the new arena.

If the city and streetcar supporters want to grow this system, they need to prove it can succeed.

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