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FlexRide commuter program for Milwaukee residents is growing, but has room for more passengers

two people sitting at a table
Chuck Quirmbach
Milwaukee resident Dex Johnson (back to camera) speaks with Arandell HR assistant Gabriella Hanson, after Johnson signed up for the FlexRide program.

FlexRide is a pilot program that offers adult job holders low-cost rides in a car from the north or northwest side of Milwaukee to Butler and Menomonee Falls, and back home. It's meant to help people who don't have a vehicle or have other transportation barriers that make it hard to hold a job in those suburbs.

About 400 people have applied and been approved for the program, according to Eric Lynde of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

He said FlexRide is growing and still has plenty of room to grow. "Our goal has been about 150 participants in this pilot study. Right now, we're getting about 80-100 rides a week. But it has grown on a week-to-week basis, slowly but steadily."

Chuck Quirmbach
A slide at Wednesday's open house provides some details of the Flex Ride program.

Wednesday, FlexRide held an open house at the offices of Employ Milwaukee, near 27th and North.

There, northwest side resident Dex Johnson signed up for the commuter program. Johnson does delivery work in Milwaukee, but hopes to get hired for a better paying manufacturing job in Menomonee Falls. He doesn't own a car, and said not having one means hurdles.

"You're not able to get to the companies that offer good pay and good jobs. You pretty much have to stay local, and there's not too much here locally, just miscellaneous work, seems like. Temp services. So, I think getting transportation out to these surrounding communities — Menomonee Falls, Butler will give people another opportunity to advance in the workforce," Johnson told WUWM.

Chuck Quirmbach
Gabriella Hanson and Carolynn Schmidt of Arandell Corp., which uses the Flex Ride program.

A Menomonee Falls firm, the catalog publisher Arandell, said a couple of its employees from Milwaukee already use FlexRide. Human Resources Manager Carolynn Schmidt said the workers benefit and so does the company.

"What's in it for us is getting dedicated employees. This tells us they want to work. It also helps us for attendance because those employees really want to work and they're doing their best to get to work every day," she said.

Schmidt said having a reliable workforce allows the company to make money.

A $1 million National Science Foundation grant for on-demand micro-transit is paying for FlexRide. The money runs out at the end of the year, but the various partners of the program, including UW-Milwaukee, are looking for ways to fund the program next year.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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