FlexRide proves microtransit can connect unemployed with jobs

  • Date: 03/22/2023

Suburban employers have job vacancies they can’t fill. There are plenty of job seekers in Milwaukee County, but many don’t own a vehicle and the Milwaukee County Transit System can provide service only to the county line.

To try to solve this mismatch, UWM urban planners partnered with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) and other agencies last year to build and test a microtransit system called FlexRide. That’s an on-demand option that is more flexible than the fixed bus routes.  Now, after a year of operating the FlexRide pilot program, the number of returning riders continues to grow steadily. The number of riders in November topped 2,300. Currently, ridership hovers around 200 per day.

UWM Professor Robert Schneider and his students are analyzing the data from surveys collected March 1 to Nov. 30, 2022, to see whether FlexRide allowed city residents to be employed in the suburbs where more jobs are available. Though they haven’t completed the assessment yet, Schneider said, they have promising indicators.

“What we can say is, we see that the most frequent riders of the service had slightly higher incomes than some of the people who didn’t ride as often,” he said. “And our guess, without knowing more, is that those riders were able to either keep a job or get a job, leading to a more stable income than people who didn’t continue to use the service.”

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