Graham Kilmer

City-To-Suburbs Transit Service Expanding With $4.2 Million State Grant

FlexRide, a last-mile transportation service also working with childcare centers to make transportation easier for working parents.

By - Jul 7th, 2022 10:50 am
FlexRide Milwaukee is making changes to make the program more accessible for riders in Milwaukee. Photo provided by FlexRide Milwaukee/NNS.

FlexRide Milwaukee vehicle. Photo from FlexRide.

FlexRide, a new micro-transit service designed to connect city residents to suburban jobs, has been awarded a $4.2 million grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The service launched earlier this year with limited funding.

FlexRide was developed by MobiliSE (formerly the Regional Transit Leadership Council) and other local partners to be a low-cost, on-demand service that connected workers in Milwaukee’s central city to employers in Waukesha County, specifically Menomonee Falls and Butler. The service is operated by Via, and when the service first launched, it had five pickup locations. Then after operating for a few months, it switched to pickup zones, to give riders greater flexibility and access.

The funding from WEDC, which is a quasi-public state agency, comes in the form of a Workforce Innovation Grant. This program is a partnership between WEDC and the state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) that provides grants of up to $10 million for collaborative plans and organizations attempting to solve workforce challenges

“These funds will expand and replicate FlexRide Milwaukee outside of its current Menomonee Falls and Butler service areas, provide rideshare vouchers for employees who experience transit service gaps, and provide unique transportation benefits for working parents with kids in daycare, positioning high-quality childcare centers as ‘workforce mobility hubs,” said MobiliSE Executive Director Dave Steele in a statement

Steele added that the expansion will allow FlexRide to “address the mid- to long-distance mobility needs of residents.” In a statement announcing the grant, Gov. Tony Evers‘ office noted that the expansion of FlexRide will include emergency rides home and community liasons to help working parents with childcare and job searches. The state funding is coming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

FlexRide is intended to be what is often called a “last mile solution,” which traditionally connects riders to jobs or destinations beyond the service area of their local transit system. The Milwaukee County Transit System used to operate “JobLine” bus service into Waukesha County business parks to connect workers with jobs, but it was discontinued in 2019 due to low ridership and its funding running out.

The pick-up zones served by FlexRide in Milwaukee are also accessible by MCTS bus routes, allowing riders to bus into a pick up zone and then catch a FlexRide to a job in another county beyond MCTS’ reach.

There are numerous public and private partners and financial backers that collaborated on FlexRide.

Partners in the project, according to MobiliSE, include the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Employ Milwaukee, Workforce Development Board of Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Counties, Franklin Business Park Consortium, Waukesha County Business Alliance and MCTS. Financial backers include Bader Philanthropies, Mandel Group, GRAEF, HNTB, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, and the City of Franklin. UW-Milwaukee worked on the system’s design.

The pilot effort was originally expected to only last through fall 2022. It was funded with a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

NOTE: Urban Milwaukee President Jeramey Jannene is on the board of MobiliSE. He is not directly involved with any component of MobiliSE.

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Categories: Transportation

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