Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Urban Studies

First Advisor

Linda McCarthy

Committee Members

Joel Rast, Anne Bonds


Commuter Rail, Milwaukee, Regional Cooperation, Transit Expectations, Transportation, Wisconsin


The Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail (KRM) proposal was one of many passenger rail proposals studied for the greater Milwaukee area over the past few decades. The proposed line would have connected the cities of Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee, as well as communities in northern Illinois, along already existing rail lines. An analysis of archival information, newspaper coverage, and interviews with key stakeholders were conducted to explore the influence of an auto-dominated culture, the role of politics, local and regional expectations, funding issues, and the legacy of earlier local debates to determine why the KRM commuter rail proposal failed. In the beginning, the KRM proposal garnered overwhelming public and political support and was expected to drive economic development and regional transit cooperation. However, soon the tone changed and the KRM proposal was dead before it ever left the station. And while the failure of the KRM proposal can officially be blamed on conservative political leaders, a deeper analysis reveals that the KRM proposal's failure can be also be traced to the personal agendas of political leaders on both side of the aisle. This exploration into why the KRM commuter rail proposal failed will provide lessons learned for future Milwaukee proposals and new rail transit proposals throughout the country.