The Hop is Here: What You Need to Know About the Milwaukee Streetcar

Here’s how to move on and around Downtown’s newest transit option.

The long-awaited arrival of Milwaukee’s streetcar is about to make getting around Downtown easier – if also a little more complicated.

The Hop, as it has been branded, will shuttle up to 150 passengers on rails in the street along a 2-mile route starting in late October or early November, with a loop to the lakefront coming online in 2020. Further expansion north and south is being considered, too.

Streetcar rides are free for its first year, so you’ll be able to board without a ticket or smartphone fare app – easy breezy. Inside are some subway-style seats, but the low, open area in the center of the cars is ideal for wheelchairs or strollers, and bikes can be hung from hooks. Overhead straps help steady riders, though officials promise a smooth, 25-30 mph ride with a car arriving at each of The Hop’s 10 stops every 10-15 minutes.

“I don’t expect the streetcar is going to be for everybody,” City Engineer Jeff Polenske says. “But it is another means of getting around Downtown, and ultimately it will take some of the circulation traffic off the streets of Downtown. So there is a benefit to everybody.”

Even if you don’t Hop, the 67-foot-long streetcar, which runs in the street along with other traffic, will change the way you get around along its route.

Tips for pedestrians and cyclists

KEY: Keep your head on a swivel along the route.

– Pedestrians along the route need to pay attention and use common sense: Don’t look at your phone while walking, avoid earbuds (the streetcar is pretty quiet), and cross only at crosswalks.

– Bike tires can get caught in the tracks, so be careful along the route. Cross the rails as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. (Turn left across tracks one street at a time.) And the tracks will be slippery when wet.

Tips for drivers

KEY: Drive as usual; be careful where you stop.

– Parking along the route is the biggest adjustment for residents when a streetcar starts in a city. Cars parked too close to the rails require the streetcar to stop, though sideswipes and clipped mirrors do happen in other cities. New striping painted along our route – a foot or so wider than a standard curb spot – is your guide. Keep your car on the curb side of that line and your mirrors and fender paint will be safe.

– The streetcar has its own set of stoplights, so it may have a right of way that you don’t, even if you’re sharing a lane with it. Keep an eye on your own signals. Watch pavement markings at intersections – you may need to stop farther back from the corner. Don’t turn right in front of the streetcar.

“Hop to It” appears in the October 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning Oct. 1, or buy a copy at

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Executive editor, Milwaukee Magazine. Aficionado of news, sports and beer. Dog and cat guy. (Yes, both.)