Graham Kilmer

Bus Line to Foxconn Could Transport Workers

Lipscomb proposal could transport thousands, promote regional transportation.

By - Mar 7th, 2018 01:08 pm
Bus. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

Bus. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

Milwaukee residents need jobs and Foxconn needs workers. So, Milwaukee County Board Chair Theo Lipscomb has introduced a proposal that would link downtown Milwaukee to the Foxconn campus to Downtown Racine through a regional bus route.

Lipscomb presented the proposal to the Committee on Transportation, Public Works and Transit today. The proposal was placed on file with the committee by a unanimous vote. “This is a start of the conversation,” Lipscomb said. “Unfortunately, there’s been very little said about what Milwaukee would do to connect to those jobs.”

Foxconn is set to operate its flat-screen manufacturing plant 24 hours a day on two 12-hour shifts and the transit line would be structured around those shifts. To make that happen all partners need to be involved from the state down through the municipalities and the company, Lipscomb said.

Some local leaders and the local Amalgamated Transit Union have, for years, advocated an expansion of bus routes to a regional level. Now with Foxconn and its creation of more jobs for area municipalities, Lipscomb believes that if there was ever a possibility for regional transit, this is it.

Lipscomb said he doesn’t see the need for establishing a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) for a project like this; rather, he thinks intergovernmental agreements could get the job done. As of right now, Lipscomb said he’s discussed the Foxconn line with the chairman of the Racine County Board.

Lipscomb is proposing using about $4.5 million that’s currently sitting in a bank account, having been deposited there following the sale of a former Midwest Airlines airport hangar. This money needs to be divvied up between Milwaukee County, Racine County and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Rather than entering into negotiations to do this, or in the worst-case scenario – litigation, Lipscomb would like to get together with the partners and use this money for the transit proposal, “instead of thinking parochially,” he said.

“It would be wrong if all we did was fight over how we divvy up the money, and sort of squander the opportunity to work together again, regionally, and connect workers to those opportunities,” he warned.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) produced a report on Lipscomb’s proposal and found that as many as 1,300 riders could use the program, which is about 10 percent of the expected workforce for the Foxconn plant.

In their report they produced three alternatives for how the program can run, each scaling up in riders and cost. SEWRPC notes that Racine runs a line with coach buses today, albeit through a private contractor, that runs from Kenosha to Milwaukee and charges a $4 fare. With that as a starting point, SEWRPC figured in the cost for using MCTS employees and buses as well as the potential cost of contracting for the service.

James Macon, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, supports the expansion, as he has supported expanding transit to a regional level for years. But he said the union would fight any efforts to privatize a regional expansion of the system. “A fight they don’t want,” he added.

If MCTS does operate the lines, then at least three to four buses, at roughly $500,000 each, will need to be purchased to run the least involved alternative in the SEWRPC report. But if operated by a private coach service, the cost to the County would likely be “10 to 40 percent more per revenue hour,” according to the report.

Committee Chair Michael Mayo supported the proposal, emphasizing that this proposal is first and foremost about jobs. He called the $4.5 million “seed money” and emphasized that as the proposal moves forward, dedicated funding sources should be explored.

Lipscomb conceded there are still details to be worked out on his proposal: “Again, this is not the final product, this is a concept,” he said.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

24 thoughts on “Bus Line to Foxconn Could Transport Workers”

  1. dragonkat says:

    Nice Idea…but very pointless

    It’s been made very clear to all that 98% of the jobs at FoxConn would go to Northern Ill Residents, that’s why there’s never been any conversation on how or what Milwaukee or Racine can or would do to connect people to those jobs.

  2. PMD says:

    Where does that 98% figure come from? That sounds highly unlikely.

  3. Troll says:

    Lipscomb suggests Milwaukee county subsidize Foxconn but was against Bucks arena subsidy?

  4. GRANPAKWH says:

    Any expansion of our public transportation system would be welcome. If Foxconn becomes the seed to a RTA then I welcome Foxconn. We must have regional transportation to continue growth and help eliminate the severe unemployment in Milwaukee. On a recent trip to Chicago we stayed in a hotel by Ohare, took the MTA to the CTA and then downtown in under thirty minutes, enjoying the sights while we passed the traffic stopped on the Kennedy. Public transportation does work.
    Yes, right now most employees for Foxconn will come form Illinois, they will have the transportation we do not provide. The MTA is easily expanded and has always shown the willingness to do the expansion when needed.

  5. Dennis Grzezinski says:

    So Foxconn may have a bit over 1,000 jobs in Racine County by the end of the year. There are tens of thousands of jobs in Waukesha County, and funding for the two bus routes that connect Milwaukee workers with jobs in New Berlin, Brookfield and Menomonee Falls runs out by the end of the year — there should be at least as much, and even more urgency for finding funding to continue those bus routes, known as JobLines.

  6. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Just add it onto the $4 billion+ Fox-con subsidy pile

  7. Troll says:

    Coach USA, and Badger Bus can do the same job at private wages and benefits. No need to pad MCTS salaries on the County dime.

  8. GRANPAKWH says:

    Troll- A private transportation company does not provide mass transit. There are times a bus or train needs to run which are not profitable but it remains as a needed service. An employee’s hours and schedule cannot always fall under the guidelines of a for profit company.

  9. Joseph Klein says:

    In the long run wouldn’t it be cheaper and more flexible to add capacity to the Amtrack Hiawatha and coordinate local bus service on both ends?

  10. Troll says:

    Why not have Milwaukeans simply live where the jobs at will we provide transportation for Kenosha employee s to work at the Foxconn Milwaukee Downtown site. Who pays my transportation to both my job s

  11. Troll says:

    Can we coordinate the HOP into the transportation plans?

  12. Tim says:

    The Milwaukee Streetcar, aka the HOP, could be run down to Foxconn. Great idea Troll!

    Portland already runs similiar vehicles as limited stop trains like Chicago’s Metro outside the city & then takes the Streetcar tracks when it gets Downtown. There’s no reason the state of WI can’t step up to fund an expansion like that.

  13. Troll says:

    Tim, any plans with transporting Milwaukee citizens to Racine County should start and end with one loop on the Hop.

  14. Jeremy says:

    Sup. Lipscomb actually CUT bus purchases from the last budget. Why the sudden interest in supporting transit? Oh I know! There’s an election in a month!

  15. Tim says:

    Troll, I agree. Expand it to Racine, moving workers from Milwaukee to Foxconn & Racine County workers to Downtown Milwaukee, the greatest concentration of jobs in the state of Wisconsin.

    It’s a no brainer and win for all involved.

  16. iced tea says:

    Admittedly not looked too closely at the proposed worker experience envisioned at FoxConn, but 12-hour shifts smell a lot like employee dorms will be involved. 12 hour shifts, and dorms would be a very different employment situation with very different transportation needs- think less, a lot less.
    If they can swing something like one month on, one week off -or some such, this facility could be shipping in low-cost labor from the entire Midwest.
    FoxConn employees do 6 days on, 1 off in China, w/ 25% of workforce in dorms.

  17. dragonkat says:

    nearly all employees for Foxconn will come form Illinois, they will have the transportation that we do not provide. The MTA & CTA is easily expanded and has always shown the willingness to do the expansion when needed.

    unlike here which is downright hostile mass transit, that’s why New Berlin, Brookfield and Menomonee Falls has been fighting hard against any more funding for those jobline routes, those routes are due to sunset by this summer.
    and will most likely take another lawsuit to get temp. funding till Dec. 31 2018

    Ill is willing and able expand to MTA to FoxConn, in WI, however the State GOP is already taking steps to block Milwaukee and Racine from offering any mass transit to anywhere near FoxConn Sup. Lipscomb idea is D.O.A

    from day one, it was never envisioned that any WI residents would be working at FoxConn, that why Gov. Walker was so insistent that the new plant be nearest the IL border has possible ( that why Racine-Kenosha and Beloit were the only places in the state that we’re ever looked at has a host site ) that’s all the FoxConn job fares have been in the Chicagoland area, that’s why FoxConn is setting up a training center on Northwestern’s campus

  18. dragonkat says:

    @ Joseph Klein

    Amtrak is currley banned under WI law from adding capacity to the Hiawatha line, so that’s not an option

  19. dragonkat says:

    @ Troll

    Can we coordinate the HOP into the transportation plans?
    NO! state law bans the HOP from being expanded outside of the city of Milwaukee

  20. PMD says:

    Considering the state of the economy in Illinois, of course they are all for Foxconn. That state is a disaster run by fools who make Walker look competent.

  21. dragonkat says:

    Yes, a fool of a Gov. who’s on his way out

  22. PMD says:

    Illinois was a mess before Rauner (who is indeed a terrible governor) took over. Previous ones weren’t much better. A few ended their careers behind bars if memory serves

  23. Troll says:

    Dragnat, it was a joke. The HOP has no true purpose.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us