Milwaukee Intermodal Station: The Gateway to the City

December 10, 2014 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville's Robert W. Mann uses Milwaukee's Intermodal Station as an example of how to plan for a transportation center. Will the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) and city leaders pay attention?


John A. Droege's critiques on New York, Bangor, Providence, Kansas City, Memphis, Meridian, Cincinnati and Baltimore rail stations.

"The public wants Magnificent stations which do not earn one cent more revenue their cost is great and they are costly to maintain but if these mighty edifices will please the public (and give signature pride to the city) they must be built. The passenger terminal has been aptly described as the city gate and for some of the newer and larger stations it would indeed be hard to find a term more fitting. The railroad terminal is the city gate...  It has broad portals and through these portals come and go a host of folks in cabs and carriages in trolley cars and elevated trains folk afoot. Within this city gate is a thing of stupendous apartments and monumental dimensions a thing not to be grasped in a moment. In a single great apartment a vaulted room so great as to have its dimensions sink into distant vistas are the steam caravans that come and go It is a busy place a place of an infinite variety of business. Rest? Oh! There is rest at the city gate." PT&T p.p. 5-6

The interior of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

"Next in order but not in importance to a station's accessibility is convenience in the arrangement of the terminal facilities and the proper relation of parts This is a matter which is frequently subordinated to the necessities of architectural design sometimes with reason but more often because of lack of care or because the architects fail to realize that the terminal is not built primarily for a monument but as a decidedly important railroad facility It cannot be urged too emphatically that it is all important in every case to pay particular attention to the good and bad points in older terminals with a view to making the most of all experience that may be available The various railway clubs and associations offer a splendid means among others of obtaining this experience in the safer way In like manner it is nothing less than foolhardy not to secure the suggestions and expressions of opinion of the operating officers who will be given the task of operating the new terminal or who may have operated similar terminals."   PT&T p.p. 20

Milwaukee's intermodal station was designed by railroaders, followed by intercity bus operators with an eye toward impressive function. Is the JRTC monumental or functional? How hard will it be to come in on one mode, transfer downtown for lunch and leave on a different mode... and not get smashed by a car?

"The two important things to be determined are the correct location of each (interior) facility and the amount of space to be allowed it. The latter can be estimated only by a careful study of the amount and kind of travel the proportion of through and suburban business the peculiarities of the station's patrons and in general the needs of the community."  PT&T p.p. 21-22

Milwaukee saw that it was only logical that all modes share the same building, same simple layout, same restaurant, same waiting room, same gift shop and adjacent concourses and platforms all in the name of critical mass and ease of movement. Are the JRTC's sprawled out 3 building facilities, for a city 33% smaller then metro Milwaukee, proportional to our needs?

"In outward design the building should show clearly the main functions of the station and the main waiting room or concourse whichever is the more dominant feature should be evident from the exterior. The proper entrances for patrons should be readily recognized and marked architecturally so that traffic will instinctively enter and depart from the building at the proper places and thus move in quickest and most direct manner." PT&T p.p. 22

Milwaukee features two primary street entrances each marked with a small logo indicating Amtrak or Motor Coach, on passing through the entrances two broad pathways between waiting room segments lead to the main concourse which runs laterally from the bus platform straight down the center of the building. All services are off of this lateral concourse. From the exterior(s) of the multi-building, multi-block JRTC, would one instinctively know how to find their way without signs?

"The carriage way should be outside the street limits so as to avoid congestion. Not infrequently in modern designs sidewalk coverings are provided so that patrons may be protected in stormy weather when arriving at the station in vehicles." PT&T p.p. 22

A simple walk of perhaps 100' feet brings a bus customer into the central lateral concourse, ticketing and all services, at about 200' feet the lateral intersects the railroad gate and concourse. In the JRTC plan, is the intercity bus loading platform a physical part of the railroad station?

"Cab stands should be outside the street limits so as to avoid congestion. An exit to the space for carriages on the street level is provided for incoming passengers who do not wish to go to the waiting room." PT&T p.p.   89

Kiss-n-Ride patrons in Milwaukee have but a single broad driveway that takes modern day 'carriages' and cabs outside of the street to avoid congestion. Will automobiles have a single Kiss-n-Ride lane for departing and arriving passengers? Are all of the facilities at hand when the dashing commuter leaves his ride and enters a building without questioning if he is in the right building, right concourse or right block?

"The arrangement of facilities in the station could have been improved upon. That all persons using the station do not have to go through the waiting room is a good point. p.p. 75-78  It is axiomatic that in the well arranged station the necessity for signs is small for the various facilities are placed as nearly as possible in a natural sequence along the routes from the entrances of the station to the platforms and trains In general the layout should be such that there will be no obstruction to free and easy movements by the shortest possible lines between the streets and trains. The various facilities should be placed along these lines in a natural order so that the patron may be able to reach them without going out of his way." PT&T p.p. 22

Milwaukee has virtually no busy street crossings or large signage, a few logo's as wall art are all that is needed, the bright,safe, open, central concourse makes every service just steps away. Will there be no elevators, stairs, escalators (except understandably our Skyway) or twisting, serpentine paths connecting bus and rail concourses without the need to cross a street at grade as a 'short-cut?' Would you trust that as a safe zone for your 7 year old? In Milwaukee, you can!

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