Milwaukee Bus Lines Are Lifeline to Jobs for the City’s Neediest Workers

Funding for two routes is running out soon, but many workers depend on this service to access jobs outside of the city.
October 31, 2018, 7am PDT | Camille Fink
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(vincent desjardins)

Bruce Murphy writes about the latest on two Milwaukee bus lines, known as the “Job Lines," that connect workers in the city to jobs in outlying suburbs and exurbs. The routes were created in 2014 with the $13.5 million settlement of a lawsuit alleging that planning for the Zoo Interchange expressway did not consider the travel needs of residents from Milwaukee’s low-income and minority communities.

“But the money would cover just four years and is running out at the end of December. So those two bus lines, Route 6 and Route 61, are about to be discontinued. And now no one seems to have a solution to the issue,” says Murphy. 

The UW-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development has released a new study showing that the majority of riders on these routes are African American and from the lowest-income parts of the city. Most are also transit-dependent riders traveling to jobs along the routes.

Still, Milwaukee County Transit System officials say that the routes are not cost effective enough to continue and that Route 61 can be replaced with an extension of another line. Murphy also notes that Route 61 extends into two adjacent counties that do not help fund the line, and the three counties have not worked together to try to keep it running.

Murphy also says that companies on along those routes need workers, but they are unlikely to advocate for the bus lines or work to provide private transportation to their employees. “At a time of very low unemployment, the biggest losers may actually be the employers. But long-term the separation between workers and companies in the metro area will continue to retard economic development and stall progress in the Milwaukee region,” says Murphy. 

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Published on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 in Urban Milwaukee
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