The MKE Hop loses 3 million a year and too expensive to shut down

FOX 6 News/ MILWAUKEE-The COVID-19 pandemic may have closed bars, restaurants, courthouses and schools, but Milwaukee never stopped running The Hop streetcar. City leaders say it was too expensive to shut down. Now, the city finds itself in a financial hole as the streetcar struggles to rebound.

Every 20 minutes, a modern electric train pulls up to a boarding station in Milwaukee's Cathedral Square. But more often than not, the platform is empty.

The October 2018 launch came with great fanfare and an incentive. Thanks to a 12-year, $10 million sponsorship agreement with Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, the city announced rides would be free for the first year.

Two and a half years later, the novelty has faded.

"Who’s paying for it?" he asked, rhetorically. "Taxpayers, in every way."

The two-mile loop from the Third Ward to the east side is one of two dozen modern streetcar systems operating across the country. More than half of them started operating in just the past eight years. It's a fixed-rail revival aimed at upping the "cool factor" of America's downtowns.

In 2021, The Hop will cost the City of Milwaukee more than $4.5 million to operate. The Department of Public Works expects to raise just over $1.3 million, primarily sponsorships and advertising. That leaves a gap of $3.1 million.

story credit: Fox 6 Milwaukee Milwaukee streetcar struggles to rebound, bleeds red ink
photo credit: Fox 6 Milwaukee

Photo: Fox 6 Milwaukee

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