Is light rail the answer to metropolitan Milwaukee’s traffic problems?
Urban areas around the developed world are wrestling with the related problems of traffic congestion and air pollution. These problems are most evident during the peak commuting hours on weekday mornings and late afternoons and evenings. A number of urban areas have attempted to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution by building urban rail systems (rapid rail, light rail, and commuter rail), in the expectation that automobile drivers could be attracted to transfer to public transit service. In the same vein, serious consideration has been given to light rail in Milwaukee and there have been proposals to establish commuter rail service as well.
This report examines the American experience with new light rail systems (built since 1980), especially with respect to reduction of traffic congestion and air pollution. It then reviews Milwaukee planning documents to evaluate the potential for using light rail to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. A brief evaluation is also provided of commuter rail proposals.