For years, elected officials and business leaders have been saying there was a disconnect between getting people who need jobs in Milwaukee to where the available jobs are in areas such as Waukesha County.
The JobLines bus route was supposed to fix that issue. However, by the end of this August, the portion of that line that goes into Waukesha County will end.
Paul Decker is a Waukesha County supervisor and co-chair of the Regional Transit Leadership Council. One of the reasons he believes the line never caught on is because of its transitional nature. He says from the beginning, it was never seen as a permanent solution.
“Both riders as well as the businesses, when the line first came in was, 'OK, let’s give it a chance. Let’s see what it does.' And then as it went on, the stories came out that of course it was just there for a certain period of time and it was going to end. So, that was meant to be transitional, it wasn’t a permanent route,” Decker says.
READ: JobLines Riders Weigh In
He also says the economic situation changed since the creation of the JobLines in 2014. Today, he says unemployment is lower and there are more jobs closer to people living in Milwaukee.
Still, Decker says there's a need for transportation that gets people to and from jobs — and it can’t be up to one entity to move people. He says it’s going to take both taxpayer dollars, the private market (in terms of rideshare companies) and employers all pitching in to solve the regional problem.
Decker says it’s time for businesses to realize that they have to help.
“Some are getting it. Some will get it because all of a sudden if they're dependent on it, and it's no longer there, now what?" he explains. "Understanding that it's not a thing that you have to throw at people. I can tell you in Waukesha County, that happens. Where we're, 'How do I get people here and why aren't you doing something about it? In the meantime, don’t raise my taxes.' It's like, OK, well, it doesn’t work that way. It is a combination of us working together so it works for everybody."
Decker says that we also have to look at who is using the bus line. He says there needs to be a mix of economic levels and skills plus the distance people are being asked to travel for work based upon the amount of pay needs to be reevaluated.
“Most of the people on the bus line seem to be in retail type of jobs or lower skilled jobs. And that, again, is not sustainable. If people are going to use transit, it has to be people with skills or that are getting paid a higher wage. And when you get to that point, it’s where are those jobs? And what are the tasks involved with those jobs? So, I think we need to have much more flexibility.”
Decker says he hasn't heard from any businesses that are unhappy the line is ending.