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?

"On the whole it is impossible to argue in favor of either one or the other type of structure. The head station (station where the tracks end at the terminal) is little else than an absolute nuisance when it has to be used for through traffic. The Providence station is an especially flexible and convenient through arrangement (station where tracks enter from both ends and pass through the station area). There might however better be but one building instead of a group of five for thus the cost of heating maintaining cleaning etc would be reduced." PT&T p.p. 75-78

Milwaukee is a 'through' station, where trains can pull straight through. The bus zones are designed with a 'saw tooth' platform, they angle park and backup then drive out, this condenses Milwaukee's bus loading zone packing more buses, side by side, into a smaller space and a shorter walk between them or the station. How many 'stations' are really at the JRTC 'Intermodal Center?' Are the facilities for JTA, Intercity buses and Amtrak all condensed into one space? REMEMBER - "There might however better be but one building!"

"It is a detriment however that a person should have to cross the waiting room to get to the ticket office retrace his steps to get to the baggage checking counter and then have to cover the distance still a third time by a walk through the waiting room or the concourse to get to his train. Offices could be more conveniently located with reference to each other. There would be less actual obstruction to streets two cross thoroughfares outside the building probably serving instead of three. One subway perhaps larger than the present ones would have materially simplified the directing of passengers to their trains and reduced the cost of attendants required for that purpose " PT&T p.p.  75-78

Milwaukee's concourses are at grade, there is no subway, there are two street access points, and with everything laid out along the lateral concourse, moving from train to bus or motor coach is virtually a straight line and only a few feet. Is the movement of your baggage (IE: dragging you bags) from train to bus or motor coach at the JRTC going to be just down the hall, or down the block?

"The Bangor, ME station of the Maine Central and the Bangor & Aroostook illustrated in Fig 38 is a typical through station of the first type. The station building proper is 154 ft long and 82 ft wide with a wing 29 ft by 40 ft It is built of buff colored brick with brownstone trimmings and base. The tower on the front 130 ft high gives an imposing effect to the structure The principal entrance is defined by a porte cochere and beyond this entrance which is about 18 ft square there is a vestibule through which one passes to the main waiting room 41 ft by 84 ft. This is connected with the dining room by a wide passageway In the extension are the kitchen and a store room. The women's retiring room with toilet room adjoining is in the main part of the building to the right of the vestibule and the ticket office agent's office news stand smoking room and men's toilet are on the opposite side. The train shed is 500 ft long and 100 ft wide. It covers eight tracks five of which are stub and three are through. The platforms between the tracks and the station building are 25 ft wide. PT&T p.p. 69

In Milwaukee, every single service and facility is along one wall, one lateral concourse and from that vantage point I can see all three public transportation modes on the same level, just outside of the doors and all services.  In recent decades, Jacksonville has had no concept of the one-stop-shop. Will your movements be from ticket counter to waiting room to concourse as in Milwaukee, Fort Worth and Denver? Or from waiting room to elevated concourse, to elevator, to ticket office, to waiting room, to elevated concourse, to elevator to concourse, as in Miami and Jacksonville?

"Too commonly the railroad lunch room strikes the passenger as a necessary evil. In the lunch rooms on many roads the prices are too high the food too stale or tasteless and the service too poor to gain the railroads any friends. There is room in this respect for all kinds of criticism and a great field for improvement. PT&T p.p. 376

By combining the modes into a single central building, Milwaukee has the critical mass to support every service you would expect in a major modern airport. How many successful restaurants and services will the JRTC host when the rail side counts 200 passengers a day, 5 blocks away a greyhound station (with traffic which currently only supports a snack bar) or the JTA Rosa Parks station customers which will be at yet another location? Will this be family or child friendly?


The fact is, baring the use of the old terminal (Prime Osborn Convention Center), there is no reason why a single, centralized station could not be built at the end of, and encompassing the Skyway station, or over Bay Street where it could serve both a transit function and a conventioneer's needs. From the Skyway, the JTA buses would be below on the north side, Intercity buses below on the west side, and rail below on the south side.  Notice how Milwaukee's railroads in 1965, and the city in 1999, created a station that literally followed the book in virtually every way. Compare Milwaukee's modern terminal and the excerpts from Droege's masterwork with the monstrosity local officials have planned to dump on Jacksonville. Indeed! You have now visited Milwaukee, and read excerpts from the Railway Engineering Association with critiques on New York, Bangor, Providence, Kansas City, Memphis, Meridian, Cincinnati and Baltimore, enough at least to understand the stiff opposition to JTA's sprawling, disorganized scheme... As you can see, we've read the book, and now you've seen the cliff notes.

Article by Robert W. Mann. Contact Robert at

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