Potawatomi to Sponsor Milwaukee Streetcar, Provide Free Rides for One Year

Oct 6, 2017

The CEO of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino joined Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Friday to announce a partnership between the city and the Forest County Potawatomi Community. The agreement calls for the Potawatomi to give $10 million to the city over the course of 12 years. The mayor's office says the money "will be used to offset operating costs and will include free rides for all for the first 12 months of the streetcar's operation."

As part of the deal, the Potawatomi Community becomes a major sponsor of the streetcar system, which will be dubbed, "The Hop, presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino."

The streetcar system is under construction. The first phase of service is expected to get begin next fall. A planned extension will later connect the line to the lakefront. Designers also have drawn up proposals for additional legs.

Federal funding and money raised through three downtown tax incremental finance districts are being used to construct the system. Mayor Barrett's office says operating costs "will be funded through a combination of fare box revenue, advertising, sponsorships, federal funding opportunities, operating agreements with partners and/or the City's parking fund." In addition, Barrett's office says a federal CMAQ grant will help cover operating expenses for the first three years. His office adds that city officials will seek additional sponsorships and advertising partnerships.

Despite the varied funding mix -- which does not tap into property tax revenue -- critics of the streetcar are wary about the financial commitment that the city is taking on, by creating the system. And Ald. Tony Zielinski has pointed out that the mayor's proposed 2018 budget includes an allotment of $208,000, which would pay for two streetcar management positions. Zielinski says the funding should instead be used to hire police officers. The alderman says the money would pay for 2.5 officer positions.