CONNECTING workers with jobs
Transit survey looks at transfers, wages, lengths


May 6, 2017


A bus enters the Waukesha Metro Transit terminal.
Freeman file photo

PEWAUKEE — Cost, efficiency and time are three important aspects for workers who commute from Milwaukee to the suburban counties for their jobs. With a shortage of workers to fill jobs in Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties, the WOW Department of Workforce Development Board conducted a transit ridership survey to collect data that could help figure out how to connect potential employees with work and these three items were top of the list for many respondents.

Laura Catherman, president of WOW Department of Workforce Development Board, said “it’s not as simple as saying we need to bring people in from Milwaukee.”

To better understand the decision-making process of potential workers, several groups worked together to collect the data via survey: Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board, Milwaukee County Transit System, Metro Go, JobLines, Employ Milwaukee and Regional Transit Leadership Council.

Two-hundred-and-seventy-nine people took the survey, which indicated 51 percent of respondents take the bus to work, while 50 percent take a car. Ten percent walk to work and in single-digit percentages people carpooled, biked, participated in a church ride share program, did a shared ride service taxi or used another mode of transportation.

In each of the categories, 100 percent of the respondents said they would travel anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours for wages that ranged from $18 to $22 per hour, while at $10 to $12 per hour, 48.8 percent would travel 10 to 20 minutes, while 25.48 percent would travel 25 to 30 minutes, 18.8 percent would go 35 to 45 minutes, followed by 15.3 percent for 60 to 90 minutes and 17.95 percent for 90 to 120 minutes.

The highlight, according to the survey results, is that the biggest drop-off was at the 30 to 45 minute mark.

Only 15.1 percent of respondents are willing to take the bus (172 out of 279) are willing to travel 30 to 45 minutes for a $10 to $12 per hour job. Few respondents were willing to travel for more than 45 minutes for less than $18 per hour.

When it comes to transfers, 27 percent said they didn’t want to make any transfers, while 35 percent said one transfer was OK, 26 percent said they’d do two transfers, 7 percent said three or more transfers are OK while 5 percent responded other.

Next steps

Paul Decker, Waukesha County Board chairman, said the survey provides “the data that we have been crying out for.” For instance, it will aid in determining what it would take to get workers from Milwaukee to New Berlin to fill empty jobs in manufacturing.

Next, the group will take the data and consult with experts in the area and present it in open house formats.

Implementing a solution, or more than one, will likely take money.

“We want the data so we can say, this is the best investment for you,” Decker said.

The solution, Decker believes, will lie with a combined private-public approach.

Some of the other related issues being discussed include a lack of bus shelters, dependable day care that is convenient for the worker and technology that would allow riders to see where the bus is on the route.

In addition to just getting the unemployed to jobs, Decker said the focus is also on developing them into better employees by helping them improve their skill set.

“We want to take the barrier away from getting a job, and second, from getting a better job,” he said.