Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 18, 2019
Here’s the least-surprising headline of the day: Ridership falls for the Hop.
As Urban Milwaukee reports, with November ridership data in, we now have year-over-year comparisons for the boondoggle that is the city’s streetcar.
Hop daily average ridership declined 28 percent, from 2,459 daily rides in November 2018 to 1,767 last month. Those numbers don’t include the 16,413 total passengers over the three-day opening weekend launch of the system.
“For the calendar year, ridership continues to exceed estimates with 2,088 daily rides,” the news outlet reports.
But the rides are free — for now. Mayor Tom Barrett’s $128 million-plus pet project is underwritten by a three-year federal operating grant (thanks taxpayers) and a $10 million, 12-year sponsorship agreement with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino (thank you private sector).
What happens when the “free” ride ends?
The Hop will look a lot like struggling or failed streetcar and trolly systems across the country – from St. Louis to Cincinnati, Kansas City to Detroit.
Within weeks after the city of Detroit started charging a few dollars per ride on the expensive QLine, ridership plummeted 40 percent, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The Hop will remain free for a while. Free rides on the 2.1-mile streetcar line helped Milwaukee lure the Democratic National Convention next July.
No surprise there, either. The party’s presidential candidates have been demanding free stuff for a long time — on the taxpayer’s tab, of course.