what is this?

Stagnant growth rates in recent decades have left many major Great Lakes cities with an outsized proportion of pre-war urban fabric relative to counterparts elsewhere in the US. As the kids say, they have "good bones".

Considering that this region is among the most naturally resilient to climate change, it would seem wise to encourage smart, dense growth in these osteologically blessed cities. In Milwaukee Metro 2050, I imagine a comprehensive urban rail network to serve the Milwaukee of that optimistic timeline.

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the metro

The metro itself comprises two lines serving 58 stations over 64 kilometres of track. The lines form a rotated U shape similar to that of the Montréal Metro. Line 1 forms the system's east-west axis along Wisconsin Avenue, turning north along the lakefront to serve UW Milwaukee and ultimately becoming a northern crosstown line along Capitol Drive. Line 2, the meridian to line 1's baseline, travels parallel to the lakefront along 6 Street and I-43, connecting to intercity trains at Intermodal station and to the airport.

These alignments match several key routes in the existing MCTS bus network. Line 1 duplicates the Red and Gold lines, two "express" routes which form part of the network's backbone. Line 2 mostly duplicates the frequent 80 bus, which closely parallels the express Green line.

Hitachi Rail Italy Driverless Metro train on Taipei's Circular line

The metro uses medium-capacity, automated trains operating on fully grade-separated track both above and below ground. To begin, trains operate every 3 minutes, but headways as short as 90 seconds should be possible. High frequencies and a modest metropolitan population allow the metro to meet capacity needs using short trains, which helps reduce construction costs.

the suburban lines

The metro system is complemented by a main-line suburban rail network serving 65 stations along 210 kilometres of existing rail rights-of-way. Lines A and B connect Intermodal station to the airport, where line B terminates. Line A continues south, making local stops at major arterials up to the urbanised boundary. Back in central Milwaukee, line A turns north and line B turns west, each promptly splitting in two to serve the outer suburbs. Line C follows a C-shaped trajectory orbiting Milwaukee, interchanging with all radial lines to enhance suburb-to-suburb travel. Line D is a shuttle service connecting Sussex to line B1 at Redford.

Stadler FLIRT train in the Netherlands
CC BY-SA 4.0 Jan Derk Remmers

The suburban lines use overhead-powered electric multiple units. The moderate size of these trains allows them to operate on simple, metro-style viaducts in locations where grade separation is warranted. Trains run every 15 minutes on trunk lines A, B, and C, resulting in a 7.5-minute headway between the city and the airport. Line D sees a 30-minute headway, with timed connections to line B1.

Amtrak Great Lakes

Amtrak Great Lakes is an Amtrak division providing local rail service between primary and secondary population centres of the Great Lakes region. From Milwaukee, rail service is available to Janesville, Madison, Green Bay, and Sheboygan, in addition to the existing Hiawatha train to Chicago. These services are not part of Milwaukee Metro 2050 and thus are omitted from the system map, but an icon denotes select suburban rail stations served by Amtrak Great Lakes.

what about busses?

Milwaukee Metro 2050 is designed to serve as a backbone to a Toronto-style local bus system. Straight arterial routes form a grid of high-frequency service, and coverage is fleshed out by windier neighbourhood feeders. Some arterials are additionally served by limited-stop routes, including 27 Street, North Avenue, and Oklahoma Avenue. This model does not guarantee one-seat rides, but the network's simplicity, high level of service, and deliberately planned rail connections make transferring convenient.

transit-oriented development

While the entire rail network is expected to catalyse densification of surrounding areas, three interchange stations are identified as potential secondary centres: 44 St, South Cross, and West Cross.

44 St and South Cross are each served by the frequent A/B trunk, with the former also served by line 1 and the latter by lines 2 and C. Both stations are situated near freeways that serve no unique purpose in the regional road network: respectively, the Stadium Freeway and the 43/94 concurrency. Done in concert with ambitious transit investment, the removal of these roads should not result in increased travel times. This unlocks valuable land on which to develop dense, mixed-use suburban hubs.

West Cross is served by lines 1, B2, and C, at the intersection of Blue Mound and Mayfair Roads. This junction is surrounded by a tight suburban street grid, several surface parking lots, and a sprawling business park. Interstates 41 and 94 are close enough to provide express bus connection opportunities, but far enough not to immediately restrict growth of the secondary centre. Being near the geographic centre of the metropolitan area, with rail service available in all directions, West Cross is prime TOD real estate.

the logo

I came up with the Milwaukee Metro 2050 logo while playing with the letter "m". Upon interlacing the legs of two letters "m", I noticed that they formed a shape resembling a flowing liquid. The orange and yellow colours are meant to invoke beer being poured, in a nod to the city's history as a centre of brewing. The logo turned out to look a bit dated, so I ran with the "retro" vibe and set the wordmark in tightly-kerned Helvetica Bold.

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