The public transportation system in Milwaukee consists of a city bus service and trolley that are exceedingly wheelchair friendly. During my time in Milwaukee, I was forced to rely entirely on public transit, as there are no wheelchair accessible taxis in the city. Although services for the disabled are lacking in many transportation systems, that is not what I found in the Beer City.
Read more about my experiences on the Milwaukee County Transit System buses and the Amtrak rail below.
MCTS operates 62 bus routes within Milwaukee and in the larger county area. Each of the buses are wheelchair accessible via a ramp at the front of the bus.
In addition to the ramp, each bus features two spaces for wheelchairs, both with straps to secure the chair. Every time I boarded the bus, the driver secured my chair without my having to ask. I was treated with the utmost respect, and really enjoyed riding the city bus.
The bus routes seemed to cover the city well – I was never far away from a bus stop. They were generally on-time, and the schedules in the Google Maps mobile app were up to date. Some routes were served at high frequency, while others were once every 30 minutes. For a complete listing of the bus routes and schedules, visit www.ridemcts.com.
Fares on the bus are $2.25 if paid onboard using cash. I instead used a MCTS M•Card, which is a reloadable tap card. You can purchase an M•Card at more than 100 locations across Milwaukee – including gas stations/convenience stores. For a complete list, click here. When using the M•Card, the fare collected for each ride (including a transfer valid for 90 minutes) is $1.75. If you plan to use public transit often, I highly recommend the card – it will save you from fumbling for cash (and coin) when boarding the bus, and it also saves you 50 cents per ride!
If you have an M•Card, you’ll also be able to purchase day passes at a rate of $4.00 per service day (5:00 a.m to 4:59 a.m.). If you ride the bus more than twice in a day, you’ll save with the unlimited ride pass. Notify the driver you’d like to purchase a pass before tapping your card and follow his/her instructions.
Visiting Milwaukee in the Summer? Use the Downtown Trolley to reach the top attractions at the city’s center, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, Third Ward River Walk, Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee Boat line and more.
The trolley stops at or near the top hotels and attractions, across its 30-stop route. The buses used resemble an old-time trolley and are wheelchair accessible via a lift at the back of the bus. Securement straps are used onboard to ensure that your wheelchair stays put on the journey.
Rides on the Downtown Trolley cost a dollar, payable with cash. In 2016, the trolley ran from June 2 through September 3. For more information, visit the trolley website at www.milwaukeedowntown.com. To access a complete route map, click here (PDF).
I traveled to and from Milwaukee using Amtrak’s Hiawatha service, originating in Chicago, Illinois. The trip is about 90 minutes, and the Amtrak trains used on the route are wheelchair accessible.
Tickets can be booked on the Amtrak train to/from Chicago for $20-$25 each way. This is a great deal, and using Amtrak to get to/from Chicago is much more efficient than flying by air. For those traveling beyond Chicago, the Hiawatha train will serve as a feeder to connect you with other lines headed East, West or South from Chicago.
For more information on the Hiawatha service, visit www.amtrak.com.
The Amtrak train stops at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, which is at the city’s center and offers connections with the city bus, Downtown Trolley (in the summer), and coach service with companies like Greyhound and Megabus.
Wheelchair users board the train with the aid of a lift, operated by station personnel. The station has a beautiful interior with air conditioning and a convenience shop (to load up on snacks for the journey).
Travelers should also be aware that the Amtrak Hiawatha train stops at the Milwaukee Airport, about 10 minutes travel time on the way towards Chicago. If you’d rather not deal with the city bus on the way to/from the airport, check to see if the Amtrak schedules align with your arrival or departure.