The JobLines bus route into Waukesha County is ending after Saturday. It’s Route 57, which goes from downtown Milwaukee and stops in Menomonee Falls and Germantown. The line gives people access to jobs at places like Walmart, Target, Home Depot and many fast-food restaurants in Waukesha County.
But after Saturday, the 57 will only run within Milwaukee County.
Boo Guyton takes the 57 and transfers at the Red Line to get to his job at Metro Market in Brookfield. But he says he knows a couple of guys who work out in Menomonee Falls and take the 57 all the way there. And he knows the end of the line will be difficult for them.
“That’s going to be real bad because a lot of people don’t drive," says Guyton. "I’m 38 years old, I don’t drive. I’ve been on transit all my life. If it was my job, that’s going to be real bad. A lot of people are going to be out of jobs and ain’t going to be able to get to work."
Soon after, Samuel Kelly also hopped onto the bus, at Burleigh-Roosevelt and 60th Street. He takes the 57 all the way to Menomonee Falls to get to his job as a cashier at Home Depot. Kelly says he’s worked that job for almost three years, and just got a full-time position.
His job in Waukesha County is important to him because it means freedom to him.
"Freedom to do a lot of stuff [that I couldn’t do when I was homeless]," he says, "Because I was homeless. I got me a place now, and the job is doing pretty well. I’ve done an admirable job at the job right now. Since this bus is disappearing, I have to transfer to another store just to keep my job.”
There are plenty of jobs on the route that will become harder to access — including at Walmart, Home Depot, Burger King, Menards, Fleet Farm and CVS.
Although Kelly won’t be impacted as severely as others, that’s not stopping him from getting politically active.
“There’s people that may try to get a petition, and I signed the last petition that they had to try to keep this bus up," Kelly says. "And it looks like it might not be enough because I don’t think they have the funding for it.”
The JobLines were originally funded by using settlement money won by the Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope and the Black Health Coalition. They sued the state of Wisconsin and the U.S. DOT over funding for the I-94 Zoo Interchange Project.
Since then, MCTS, community groups and other officials have reached out to the state of Wisconsin and Waukesha County to see if they’d provide funding or enter into a cost-sharing agreement that would allow the extension to continue.
Those efforts were unsuccessful.
MCTS spokesman Matt Sliker says the segment of Route 57 that operates in Waukesha County currently serves 81 riders per day. He says to compare, a route like the GoldLine serves 2,300 riders per day.
But rider Alisa Knox says every rider should count.
"It’s ironic because a lot of officials, politicians say they want people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work, and they want to assume that people who are on assistance are not willing to work. But here are people that are willing to work,” says Knox.
She's a mother of three young children, and she rides the 57 to her job. "I work at the Home 2 Suites by Hilton in Menomonee Falls," she says. "I’m the public area attendant. I clean the lobbies, bathrooms, make sure it smells good, that everything is spotless."
The 57 is a vital lifeline for her right now because she can’t afford a car.
"I actually was planning on getting a car with my taxes, but my elderly mother who I live with had some heart issues and ended up having to get a pacemaker," says Knox. "So, a lot of my funds were used to try to keep the household up. So it set me back. And I thought, ‘Well, as long as I have a job and I’m saving money by riding the bus.’ ”
But once the line ends, Knox sees few options for filling the transportation void.
"[I] may have to Uber, but I really can’t afford it because I pay rent. I get some child care assistance, but I really don’t have the funds. I would basically be working to Uber and pay rent, and there would be nothing left," she explains.
She says it's possible she could lose her job.
Loraine Moy was also riding the bus out to Menomonee Falls. She works at her family’s business: Harvey Moy’s Chinese & American Restaurant. She knows the line is ending and says she doesn't like it.
"I have no ride home," Moy says. "I have no ride home and ride to work." She says it's a whole bunch of uncertainty.
And the riders affected aren’t just traveling from Milwaukee’s central city out to Waukesha County. Kaylynn Ording lives in West Bend, which is in Washington County. She's a waitress at Mykonos Family Restaurant on 85th and Capitol in Milwaukee County — and she uses the 57 to get there.
Ording says she doesn’t have a clue what she’ll do when the extension stops running.
"I haven’t really figured out what I’m going to do about that option," says Ording. "Because they do have two freeway flyers, one that’s on Watertown Plank Road that leads me nowhere near where I need to go, and one that’s on Wisconsin, and I wouldn’t even know how to get to 85th and Capitol from there."
She hopes God blesses her with a car before then.
Ording — and many others with inter-county commutes — are finding they can’t depend on public transportation to meet their needs.