The Hop MKE travels Milwaukee’s downtown streets daily. It’s been in full operation since November 2018, and ridership numbers for last month, May 2019, were over 60,000 people. With the expansion of tracks and routes in the near future, we can expect to see more streetcars out and about soon. However, the streetcar is not perfect, and there have been some significant accidents involving The Hop MKE.
Let’s take a look at a The Hop MKE, a few of these incidents to see what happened, and how we can move forward to try and prevent them in the future.
Basic Facts About The Hop MKE Streetcar
- The Hop MKE officially began regular transportation on November 2, 2018
- It has five streetcars that cover a distance of about two miles in the downtown area
- Riding is free for all of 2019 because of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino’s sponsorship
- A streetcar will arrive at a stopping platform about every 15 minutes
- It is wheelchair accessible with platforms level with the curb and also has audio announcements and Braille for visual aid
- Milwaukee streetcars are 100 percent electric, powered by overhead contact systems (OCSs)
- You can bring strollers, bikes, scooters and more onboard
- The streetcar’s capacity is about 150 riders
- The streetcars are double-ended and can be operated going in either direction on the tracks
As we mentioned, the streetcar has been very popular with downtown residents and visitors. The first weekend it opened, the ridership totaled over 16,000 riders. However, there have been some minor incidents that we should mention.
Milwaukee Streetcar Incidents
Two separate cars were damaged in a two-day span when engineers and operators began testing the streetcar back in October. Apparently, the streetcar runs very near to parked cars in some areas, and some drivers didn’t even know The Hop MKE was even running. Investigators said drivers opened the doors of their parked cars right into the path of the streetcar, causing minor damages to both the cars and streetcar itself.
In another incident, an individual incorrectly parked his vehicle on the tracks and left it there. It caused a significant traffic delay. Although the fault was on the car’s owner, many people were concerned that it could happen more often.
There is always a learning curve when new things are introduced like this. City officials say that people just need to be aware that this streetcar is here for good, and they need to learn how to coexist. There are plenty of cities that have similar transportation systems, and they work incredibly well with little to no accidents.
Claims and Lawsuits Against the City
Many bicyclists and motorcyclists have filed claims against the city for injuries and damages. Apparently, the tires get caught in the tracks very easily. Once they’re stuck in, it’s hard to get them out. This can obviously be dangerous with other cars and traffic around.
The very first incident involved a motorcycle rider who got his tires caught in the tracks, was thrown from his bike and broke an arm. His motorcycle was also totaled as a result of the crash. Another lady was riding a Bublr Bike and got her wheels caught in the tracks as well. She broke both elbows and a rib in the fall. Both individuals filed claims against the city of Milwaukee.
There have been other claims filed for similar reasons since the introduction of the streetcar back in November. Milwaukee city officials point to signs that indicate to always cross tracks at a 90-degree angle (riding parallel to the tracks is how the tires get caught). However, all cyclists are required to follow the rules of the street just like any car, including a streetcar. How is an independent cyclist who happens to be riding the same route as the streetcar supposed to ride perpendicular the entire time? Obviously, they couldn’t. The answer is to either design a new route to avoid the streetcar or just get on the streetcar with the bike.
Learn to Coexist with Milwaukee’s Streetcar
Regardless of what happens, it’s clear that The Hop MKE is not going anywhere. Thankfully, over time there have been fewer and fewer accidents as people learn to live with the streetcar. As many said, there was a learning curve that needed to take place. That learning curve appears to have come and gone. However, for those looking for more tips and advice to navigate Milwaukee’s streets more safely, we can provide tips to ensure your summer is accident-free.
Streetcar Tips for Drivers
- When making a left turn, be on the lookout for streetcars and traffic coming from the opposite direction
- When marking near streetcar tracks, make sure your whole car is inside the thick white lines on the ground, including mirrors.
- Be cautious when exiting a car parked near streetcar tracks
- Never park on streetcar tracks, even just momentarily
- Pay attention to pavement markings in the downtown area that tell you when and where to stop so streetcars can successfully complete turns
- Just like with city buses, never take a right turn in front of the streetcars
Streetcar Tips for Cyclists
- Always cross the tracks upright and as close to a 90-degree angle as possible to tires do not fall into the tracks
- When turning left across tracks, always ride in the right lane through the intersection … Then turn and cross the tracks perpendicularly at the next green light.
- Be extra cautious in wet conditions, as tracks can be slippery
- Even though bike lanes are clearly marked throughout most of The Hope MKE routes, an alternative route can be found often just a block away.
- Motorcyclists should also be aware to always stay in their normal lane, but never ride directly on top of tracks and to always make turns across tracks at as close to a right angle as possible
Streetcar Tips for Pedestrians
- Only cross streetcars tracks at designated crosswalks, only cross when signaled to do so, and look both ways before entering a crosswalk
- Never run in front of an approaching streetcar, and never run into the street from between two parked cars as operators may not see you right away
- Keep your phones away and remove headphones when crossing the street so you can see the streetcar and hear its warning bells
Call a Personal Injury Attorney Today
Has you or a loved one had an injury as a result of Milwaukee’s streetcar, or any other road-related accident for that matter?
Look no further. If you need legal representation, call Domnitz & Domnitz today. We’re an experienced team of personal injury lawyers dedicated to helping you win your case as quickly as possible.
We’ll work with you to get you the coverage and support you need, so you can get back to focusing on your recovery. If you’re in the Milwaukee area, contact us today, and let’s start this journey together.