MilwaukeeBus SignMKE Transit

"We can achieve enormous social, economic, and environmental benefits at almost no cost simply by subsidizing people and places, not parking and cars."
--The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C. Shoup, p. 602.

"Place-based strategies that create walkable urbanism will attract the broad spectrum of talent required to build a great and vibrant economy."
--The Option of Urbanism by Christopher Leinberger, p. 170.

Edited by John December

This is a summary of options for transit in and around the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, with a focus on public transit systems1. Milwaukee has supported a wide range of transporation systems during its history. Streetcars, trains, bicycles, trolleys, horses, buses, boats, and people walking have all played a role in transit, and this legacy remains in some areas of downtown. Today, Milwaukee's role as a major air, rail, highway, and water hub give you many choices in getting to and around Milwaukee.

For Travel by ... Use these Carriers To Reach... Comments
Human Walk Sign
Bike Route Sign Rickshaw
Foot Downtown, Lakefront, Shopping
Yield to Pedestrians
Milwaukee has some walkable places. Indeed, it is very possible to live car-free in Milwaukee. The Riverwalk extends along the Milwaukee River in the downtown area. The walking path along the shore of Lake Michigan stretches from Bradford Beach to the mouth of the Milwaukee River. Other good walking areas: Brady Street, The Third Ward, and Wisconsin Avenue. These places are often a bit more difficult for walking because unfortunately speed limits as well as the laws requiring automobiles to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks are not consistently obeyed in Milwaukee. Please note: as a pedestrian, use designated crosswalks, obey walk light signals, and don't suddenly move in front of cars. As a driver, you must yield to pedestrians who have started walking in crosswalks--it is not optional by law (although it is not observed by many motorists in Milwaukee). You might see YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS signs on various streets, but remember this law applies to every crosswalk in the State of Wisconsin, and the fine is $133. Pedestrians are regularly killed in Milwaukee (and elsewhere, around 5,000 per year in the USA). Please see the site and work to make streets safe for all users of the streets--walkers, bicyclists, and drivers of automobiles, trucks, and buses.
Bicycle Milwaukee and surrounding counties
Oak Leaf Trail
There is a very good system of county bicycle trails; look for the "Oak Leaf Trail." The city of Milwaukee also has designated bike trails. For maps and resources, check out Milwaukee By Bike.

See for a bike-sharing program where you can pick up a bike from a self-service bike rental kiosk and return it to any other kiosk.

Pedicab / Rickshaw Milwaukee downtown Check out Cream City Rickshaw and let someone else take you around town in a human-powered, pedal-driven rickshaw (pedicab)!
Auto Sign
Car Sharing Highways and city streets
Zipcars live here
Why own a two-ton piece of useless metal that is idle most of the time--while all of the time you are paying for insurance, opportunity costs, parking, and other sunk costs of owning a car? Instead, just pay for what you use-- borrow or rent a car only when you need it--and be car free otherwise. In Milwaukee, Zipcar and Zimride for UWM provide memberships.
Automobiles, buses, trucks Highways and city streets The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has projects planned for southeastern Wisconsin. A big project is the $1 billion I-94 Freeway project expected to last until 2022. Taking care of the local streets is done by the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works and the County of Milwaukee Department of Public Works.
Taxi: Uber, lyft, BidRide, (app), or seach yellow pages points in the county and beyond Cabs are very difficult to get during summer festival weekend evenings. Do NOT depend on finding a cab to get back from Summerfest grounds or any special event! Check with MCTS seasonal services or ridesharing options instead..
Limo and van service to/from airports. To Milwaukee's Mitchell / Chicago's O'Hare or Midway airports. Van and limo includes door-to-door service from hotels, businesses, and many residences (see restrictions). Milwaukee County Transit Bus GreenLine also stops at the MKE airport. See Airport Connection, Airport Town Car Express, and Corporate Limousine Service
Trolley Trolley Sign Operated by Transit Express a loop in the downtown area This is a fun way to get around the downtown area. Stops also at the lakefront. Operated by Transit Express. For information or to provide comments, call 414-562-RIDE or visit
Streetcar Streetcar Sign in development a loop in the downtown area See for the latest information on the plans.
Bus Sign
Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) anywhere in Milwaukee county and connections to Waukesha and Ozaukee counties This is a very good (and award-winning2) bus system! The buses are frequent, reliable, safe, and convenient. The system now offers real-time tracking online or by text message. There are services for special events--festival buses as well as special buses out to home games of the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Phone (414)344-6711. You can plan routing using Google Transit.
Badger Bus *excellent* Airport, Milwaukee to Madison The Badger Bus offers reliable, frequent round trips every day between Madison and Milwaukee and points in between. Also connections to Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport. The Badger Bus maintenance depot is moving to Oak Creek, and after the move, it will have a stop at Milwaukee's Intermodal Station 433 W St Paul Ave downtown as well as a stop at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport. If in doubt, check online or call by phone (414)276-7490.
Greyhound US Greyhound offers frequent service from Milwaukee south to Chicago, west to Madison, and north to Green Bay. Greyhound's station is now at Milwaukee's Intermodal Station 433 W St Paul Ave. Phone (800)231-2222.
Indian Trails Region Service from Milwaukee north via Sheboygan and Manitowoc to Green Bay and the UP. Station at the Amtrak station, 433 W St Paul Ave. Phone (800)292-3831.
Wisconsin Coach Lines Service in Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Milwaukee, Mukwonago, Kenosha, Racine, to Milwaukee's Mitchell and Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports; also service to Gurnee, IL. A regional bus company with connections in Milwaukee (downtown, UW-Milwaukee, Marquette Univ, MKE Airport), Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Oconomowoc, Delafield, Mukwonago; and Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports. Phone (877)3-AIRPORTS. From Milwaukee to Chicago with buses from Chicago on to Minneapolis/St Paul, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, and Detroit. Bus from Milwaukee (Amtrak or the College Ave Park and Ride) to Chicago's Union Station. Ticket sales are online and by reservation only on Web site.
Jefferson Lines service from Milwaukee to Green Bay and connections throughout the midwest including Minneapolis/St Paul, Sioux Falls, Kansas City, and Dallas. Bus from Milwaukee's Intermodal station. Phone (800)451-5333
Ozaukee Transit North to Ozaukee County The Ozaukee County Express is operated by Milwaukee County Transit System. It provides service connecting Mitchell Street, Downtown Milwaukee, Cedarburg, Fredonia, Grafton, Mequon, Port Washington, and Saukville. Phone (414)344-6711. There is also an Ozaukee Taxi available in Grafton, Saukville, and Thiensville. Phone Ozaukee Shared-Ride Taxi (800)925-9590 and Ozaukee County Express (414)344-6711.
Washington County Commuter Express Northwest to Washington County Public transportation service between Washington County Park and Ride parking lots and Milwaukee County areas, including Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, Mayfair Mall, and Watertown Plank Road and Highway 100. Phone 1-888-675-WCCE (9223).
Waukesha Metro Transit In and around Waukesha city and county You can transfer at the Brookfield Square Shopping Center between Milwaukee County Transit Service buses to Waukesha Metro Transit buses. Also Waukesha Metro Transit serves Goerkes Corners Transit Station for transfer to Wisconsin Coach Lines or the Badger Bus. Phone (262)524-3636.
Belle Urban System (BUS) In and around Racine County Racine Metro Transit Center is near State Street and Memorial Drive. Phone (262)637-9000. BUS connects with Kenosha Transit at the University of Wisconsin--Parkside when school is in session.
Kenosha transit In and around Kenosha County. You can connect in Kenosha via Metrarail to Chicago. Kenosha transit connects with Racine's Belle Urban System (BUS) at the University of Wisconsin--Parkside. Kenosha transit also connects with Wisconsin Coach Lines at the Metra Station in Kenosha. Phone (262)653-4287.
Lamers Bus Lines North to Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, Wausau Operates a regular route bus from Wausau to Milwaukee and on to Chicago. Also charters. Phone (800)236-1240.
Train Sign
Amtrak US and Canada Amtrak is located at Milwaukee's Intermodal Station, downtown at 5th and St. Paul Streets. (The Amtrak code is MKE for the downtown station.) A station is also at Mitchell International Airport (The Amtrak code is MKA for the airport station; airport station is at South 6th St & Airport Spur Freeway). The Amtrak rail service connects Milwaukee south to Chicago and west to Minneapolis. Phone (800)872-7245. See the Hiawatha and Empire Builder schedules.
Ferry Sign
Port of Milwaukee Lake Michigan, St. Lawrence Seaway Lake Michigan is immediately to the east of Milwaukee. You can use the Port of Milwaukee for shipping through the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway. Some Great Lakes cruise ships periodically stop in Milwaukee.
Lake Express LLC ferry service Across Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, WI to Muskegon, MI Lake Express is a high speed ferry service across Lake Michigan. The boat is a 58-meter long catamaran with four engines and nine megawatts of power. Traveling at up to 63 kilometers per hour, it crosses Lake Michigan in about 2.5 hours with up to 250 passengers and 46 automobiles as well as bicycles and motorcycles. The Milwaukee terminal is at 2330 S. Lincoln Memorial Drive, near the south end of the Hoan Bridge. Phone (866)914-1010.
SS Badger Carferry Across Lake Michigan from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI Manitowoc is about 128 km north of Milwaukee. Taking this ferry could save you time driving an auto to the northern part of the lower Peninsula of Michigan or other destinations. Phone (888)FERRY-4U.
Airport Sign
MKE Airport US and world Many airlines serve Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport, the largest airport in Wisconsin.
MWC Airport regional The Lawrence J. Timmerman Airport is located on the northwest side of Milwaukee and serves the general aviation community.

"Having a real downtown, and, I would posit, having a sense of place at all, are not possible where the car reigns supreme."
--How Cities Work by Alex Marshall, p. 183.

"If we want to make the most of our national highway program, we must keep most of the proposed expressways in abeyance until we have done two other things. We must replan the inner city for pedestrian circulation, and we must rebuild and extend our public forms of mass transportation."
-- Lewis Mumford, "The Highway and the City," Architectural Record, April 1958.

"If you live in a city, you don't need to own a car."
--William Clay Ford Jr., CEO, Ford Motor Company Ltd.

For Further Exploration

Transit Information

  • Bus Bike Walk Wisconsin: tools and tips here for using buses, biking, or walking; sponsored by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin Department of Transportation Travel Information: links to Wisconsin resources on travel by air, bike, foot, public transit, rail, road, truck, and water.
  • Your Other Wheels: an official site describing transit systems in southeastern Wisconsin; promoted to consumers as part of advertisements including the 1-866-2-THEBUS phone number. Includes introductory information about how to use the bus.
  • Milwaukee Parking information: Find out the rules are for parking an automobile in Milwaukee by using this information from the City of Milwaukee.

Transit Projects

Urban Development

  • Center for Urban Transportation Studies: an academic department at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee which studies urban mass transit, management, land use, forecasting, futures, planning, ride sharing, port operation, rail operation, environment, and communities.
  • Congress for New Urbanism: an urban design pattern that stresses walkability, mixed use developments, and the density that leads to urban efficiency and human interest. Critiqued for being overly nostalgic for the past or its reliance on gentrification, this movement nonetheless is a counterpoint to automobile-centric urban development theory and practice. The national convention for the Congress for New Urbanism was held in Milwaukee in 1999, and New Urbanist ideas have been influential in Milwaukee's downtown master plan. John Norquist, mayor of Milwaukee from 1988 to the end of 2003, is President and CEO of the Congress for New Urbanism. The CNU is headquartered in Chicago.
  • People Places Books about urban forms: A list of books related to making places more attuned to the needs of people. Topics include works in urban criticism, planning, architecture, cultural geography, and demographics.
  • People Places Links about transit and urban issues: A list of Web sites about human mobility, urban planning, and transportation issues. Includes organizations, public information, and advocacy sites that work to re-focus urban planning, architecture, and transportation policies and systems toward serving the needs of human beings

Articles of Note


  1. I have used mass transit in New York, London, Mexico City, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Stockholm, Vienna, Chicago, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Jose, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Washington DC, Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, New York State's Capital District, St. Louis, Wichita KS, Honolulu HI, Madison WI, Kenosha WI, Racine WI, Waukesha WI, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I have been car-free since 1989.
  2. The Milwaukee County Transit System was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award--the highest award a transit company can achieve--by the American Public Transit Association in 1987 and 1999.

Is something missing or incorrect? Please send a correction.

Streetcar Streetcar Sign

Icon made by Freepik from is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Save this page to any social bookmarking site! Share · Search · Market · Directory
2017-04-21 · John December · Contact · Terms of Use © December Communications, Inc.