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  • 17 Feb 2022 3:30 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Shown are members of the CUSH Transportation Task Force and community leaders, from left: Marty Hutchings, Dick Christiansen, Rich Mich, Alderman Anthony Kennedy, Ray Cameron, Mobility Manager Lauren Coffman, Judy Malek, Director of Transportation and Parking Nelson Ogbuagu and Kris Delfrate.


    February is Public Transportation Awareness Month in Kenosha.

    This designation was made official by a recent resolution sponsored by Kenosha Transit Commission Chairperson and Alderman Anthony Kennedy with a proclamation by Mayor John Antaramian.

    The initiative is particularly significant for Congregations United to Serve Humanity, which is concerned with the welfare of Kenosha’s residents who rely on public transportation.

    To highlight its concern, CUSH is sponsoring a month-long “Public Transit Ride Along” initiative. During the month of February CUSH is encouraging community members to invite their elected officials, including Kenosha alderpersons and County Board supervisors, to ride the bus with them for part of their day.

    “The CUSH Transportation Task Force is largely made up of community members who depend upon public transit, and they feel it important for elected officials to experience Kenosha’s transit system first-hand to better understand the limitations and length of time needed for someone who uses the bus as a primary mode of transportation,” according to Lori Hawkins, CUSH community organizer.

    This is not the first time that CUSH has organized events to raise awareness about transportation concerns, Hawkins said.

    “The CUSH Transportation Task Force has sponsored successful ridership events in the past and has helped to prompt the expansion of some routes, thanks to willing collaboration by local government,” she said.

    Among the current issues identified by CUSH is the possibility of moving the bus transfer center from Downtown to a more central location to save time and the number of transfers needed to get to various destinations.

    Community members wanting to find the names of their elected officials to invite on a “Ride-Along” can visit under “My Voter Info” and “My Elected Officials.”
  • 17 Feb 2022 3:22 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    City buses converge at the Downtown Transit Center before starting their routes.

    By Miles Maguire

    At least 40% of the Oshkosh population consists of people who do not drive, according to new estimates from the state Department of Transportation, a situation that creates challenges for individuals as well as the community as a whole.

    Among the 10 largest cities in Wisconsin, only Milwaukee and Racine have such a large percentage of residents who do not drive. No other part of Winnebago County has so many nondrivers. In fact in some nearby areas, like the the Town of Oshkosh, the portion of nondrivers is calculated at 0 to 10%.

    These figures are contained in an online mapping tool that DOT released late last month. The app is intended to help elected officials, planners and policymakers identify places where there are concentrations of residents who do not drive and then to look for ways to improve public transportation options.

    The presence in Oshkosh of a large university campus and the largest prison in the state may make the local situation look more alarming than it actually is, DOT officials acknowledge. But they and public transportation advocates also say the reality is that more than a million Wisconsin residents do not drive.

    Comparing large Wisconsin cities

    Milwaukee, 40% or more nondrivers
    Madison, 30-40% nondrivers
    Green Bay, 30-40% nondrivers
    Kenosha, 30-40% nondrivers
    Racine, 40% or more nondrivers
    Appleton, 30-40% nondrivers
    Waukesha, 30-40% nondrivers
    Eau Claire, 30-40% nondrivers
    Oshkosh, 40% or more nondrivers
    Janesville, 20-30% nondrivers
    Source: Wisconsin DOT

    In Oshkosh the DOT analysis indicates that almost 27,000 residents do not drive, including 17,000 who are 15 years of age or older. Even subtracting the 2,000 inmates at Oshkosh Correctional Institution, the city still has about 15,000 residents who are old enough to drive but do not.

    Ridership on city buses fluctuates from quarter to quarter and was hit hard by the pandemic. But in the first quarter of 2020, before the full effects of COVID were felt, the total number of riders was 168,178, or about 1,800 per day.

    “We know that people who are transportation-dependent have poor health and economic outcomes,” says Denise Jess, executive director for the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. “That has implications for a community, but it’s also an economic development issue, especially in the age when we need work forces so badly.”

    Jess has been legally blind since birth and says she knows “the world of being a nondriver quite intimately.” She served as co-chair of the Wisconsin Non-Driver Advisory Committee (WinDAC), a panel that was set up to make recommendations to DOT and that was responsible for making the new online app available. 

    Every aspect of her life, she says, has been affected by her inability to drive, including where she went to school, what kind of job she could take, where she lives and how much time it takes for her to accomplish routine chores that drivers would never have to think twice about. 

    But she believes that the problem is bigger than most people realize and is misunderstood because too many think that “[public] transportation is a charity case” that only affects people with disabilities or low incomes.

    Comparing nearby communities

    Algoma, 20-30% nondrivers
    Appleton, 30-40% nondrivers
    Black Wolf, 10-20% nondrivers
    Fond du Lac, 30-40% nondrivers
    Fox Crossing, 20-30% nondrivers
    Menasha, 20-30% nondrivers
    Neenah, 20-30% nondrivers
    Omro (city), 20-30% nondrivers
    Omro (town), 10-20% nondrivers
    Oshkosh, 40% or more nondrivers
    Oshkosh (town), 0-10%
    Winneconne (village), 20-30% nondrivers
    Source: Wisconsin DOT

    A large part of the nondriver population includes children who are not old enough to drive, “But even if you factor out the 15 and under crowd, we’re still at 22%” of the population not driving, Jess says. 

    Young people “have transportation needs, too, pretty demanding ones that parents and caregivers have to get them to.”

    “Because our transportation system has historically been designed around private automobiles, not having access to a car can make it very challenging to get to work and school, to get medical care and meet the other needs of daily life,” says Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson.

    “To better meet the needs of nondrivers, we have to understand where they live and what mobility resources they can access, and that’s what this tool will help policy makers do,” he says. 

    Thompson hopes that local planners will use the mapping tool and “really factor in” options like bus routes and pedestrian pathways as they make land use decisions.

    Brooke Berrens works at UW Oshkosh’s Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations and considers herself a nondriver. She is a new member of the city’s Transit Advisory Board. 

    She uses the local bus system, GO Transit, a few times a month and says she is personally satisfied with the service it provides. But in speaking with other riders, she has learned how the lack of access to a car can set off a chain reaction of negative experiences.

    She described one woman who had hoped to attend a free meal event but “could not get there in time through waiting for the bus and transferring because of the limited time window.”

    “The city has a robust transit system,” says Transportation Director Jim Collins. “GO Transit provides safe, reliable, accessible, affordable bus service throughout the city.”

    About 86% of the city’s housing units are within a quarter mile of a bus route. That’s a “pretty decent number,” says Jess. But it’s also a figure that hasn’t changed since 2018. 

    One of the features of the new mapping tool is that it allows other kinds of indicators, such as poverty levels, to be loaded in to test whether public transportation is serving low income populations. In Oshkosh there does not appear to be any disparity by income. 

    “We always have work to do to make sure that the transportation options we have in the city, whether it’s GO Transit, paratransit, rideshare, or the accessibility of bike and pedestrian options, are actually meeting the needs and circumstances of people in our community,” says Lynnsey Erickson, a member of the Common Council who serves as its liaison with the transit board.

    “There are gaps for people who work second and third shifts, have language or cultural barriers, and those who do not have the means for bus passes,”  she says.

    “We have also seen how reducing barriers shows the demand for various transportation options, like the 87,000 free rides GO Transit provided to students in Oshkosh in 2021 through funding from the city, school district and private funders.”

    Citizens who have ideas for improving public transportation will get a chance in the relatively near future to make suggestions. “We will be updating our Transit Development Plan within the next couple of years, and I’m hopeful we can hear from even more people in the city to make sure we’re meeting the needs we have,” Erickson says. 

    One issue in the Fox Valley is that public transportation systems don’t reflect the way that individual communities are economically connected. Oshkosh has a link to Neenah and from there to the Valley Transit system that is based in Appleton. But some transportation leaders think that the region needs to do a better job of coordinating service across jurisdictional boundaries.

    Thanks to last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, there will soon be money available to improve the alternatives for nondrivers. For transit, “we’re looking at about a 30% increase,” Thompson says.

  • 16 Feb 2022 12:29 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    An Eau Claire bus seat "reserved" for Rosa Parks in honor of Transit Equity Day. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

    Wisconsin transit agencies commemorate the civil rights icon on Transit Equity Day.

    Bus riders in some cities across Wisconsin on Friday might notice something new on their trip: a seat adorned with a rose and reserved for Rosa Parks, the civil rights legend known for her role in desegregating buses.

    Officials in Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Appleton, Eau Claire, Madison, La Crosse, and Racine are commemorating Parks’ birthday for Transit Equity Day, and Gov. Tony Evers has made a statewide declaration for the occasion. At a Friday morning press conference, transit advocates and local officials said the day will help draw attention to the importance of improving public transportation to ensure all people, especially disadvantaged individuals, are able to fully participate in their communities. 

    “There’s a lot of red roses riding around our community this morning with below-zero temperatures, but, by God, I think it’s a good deal and a good way to recognize Rosa Parks and to recognize equity in our community,” said Paul Swanhorst, president emeritus of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1310 in Eau Claire.

    Parks, a Black woman, was best known for refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus at a time when people of color were forced to sit in the back of buses. She was arrested for her resistance, but her story set off a chain of events that led to federal courts ruling that racially segregating public buses was unconstitutional. 

    ‘More and More Important’

    While buses are no longer segregated, decreased funding, overlong routes, and poor planning have made public transportation unworkable for many people, said Cathy Van Maren, a transit advocate in La Crosse, which has been celebrating transit equity all week.

    “We have areas including parks, polling places, elders housing, and workplaces where there is no bus service,” Van Maren said. “This is not the fault of the transit providers. It results in part from not prioritizing transportation and transit equity in planning, zoning, policies, and budgeting. But the good news is that that all can change.”

    While Park’s refusal on Dec. 1, 1955, to vacate her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama so a white person could sit there provided a vital spark to the Civil Rights movement, today her action lives on as a symbol of the importance of public transit in highlighting socioeconomic and other societal inequities, people gathered to celebrate Transit Equity Day in Eau Claire said. 

    Today, Park’s action “recognizes seniors, people who rely upon mobility devices, and others who are visually, physically, or hearing impaired,” Eau Claire Community Services Director Renee Tyler said. “We are committed to supporting the independent movement and accessibility for all.” 

    Racine Mayor Cory Mason also paid respects to Corrine Reid-Owens, a Black woman and local civil rights leader dubbed “Racine’s Rosa Parks.” The city’s transit center is named after her.

    “Corinne Reid-Owens, who is memorialized by the name of our historic Transit Center, was a leading figure in the civil rights movement, championing issues like fair housing and education locally,” Mason said in a statement. “Racine is a stronger community today because of leaders like Parks and Reid-Owens who had the bravery and determination to create change.”

    Those commemorating Transit Equity Day also said improving public transportation is a major factor in fighting the climate crisis because mass transit produces less pollution than a fleet of cars transporting the same number of people.

    “It’s becoming more and more important as we address climate change, and we are once again turning our attention to how public transit is going to be the movement of the future,” said Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), who introduced a Transit Equity Day resolution in the Legislature.

    Gregg May, transit policy director with 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, said improved public transit is needed now more than ever—and not just in urban areas. He pointed to recent findings from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that rural areas are just as much impacted by poor public transit and that a third of Wisconsin’s population is considered “non-drivers.”

    Jackie Pavelski, a former Eau Claire City Council member and a transit advocate, said rural areas around Eau Claire would benefit economically from a regional transit system. Those areas often struggle to attract jobs and people because of transportation challenges, she said.

    “Providing transit access is not only important in places like Eau Claire, but in some of our smaller and rural communities as well,” Pavelski said. “Hopefully we can move in that direction going forward.”

  • 14 Feb 2022 1:00 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    FTA Provides Almost $5 Billion of Public Transit Formula Funds

    Today, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided almost $5 billion to public transit agencies, states, and Tribal governments to support public transportation across the country. These funds represent partial public transit formula funding apportionments for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. FTA will issue final FY 2022 formula apportionments after Congress completes action on the annual Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill.

    To view FTA’s formula funding apportionment tables, please click here.

    APTA Launches Smart Guide to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

    The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) (P.L. 117-58), commonly referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provides more than $108 billion for public transit and $102 billion for commuter rail, Amtrak, other high-performance passenger rail, and freight rail over the next five years. These bold investments in public transportation will help our communities and nation tackle climate change, advance equity, meet growing and evolving mobility demands, and create jobs. With enactment of the IIJA, the public transportation industry is uniquely positioned to address these challenges head on.

    APTA’s Smart Guide to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides information and resources to aid members in navigating the many aspects of this new law. It includes APTA’s summaries, funding and formula apportionment tables, and detailed section-by-section analyses of the public transit, passenger rail, Buy America, and other important titles of the IIJA. It also includes U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) formula apportionments, guidance, memoranda, regulations, and competitive grant opportunities.

    The Smart Guide includes more than 50 documents and related links, and we continuously update it as more information about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and DOT grant opportunities becomes available.

    To view APTA’s Smart Guide to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, please click here.

  • 11 Feb 2022 12:01 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Milwaukee County Transit System Logo

    Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) announced today that it has chosen the Umo Mobility Platform by Cubic Transportation Systems as its new fare collection system following a competitive process that began last May. Umo (pronounced YOU-mo) is a national fare collection system that will connect MCTS riders to not only its bus services but to other forms of transit across the region as well. The new fare collection system is expected to launch in fall of 2022.

    The communities MCTS serves will benefit from improved transportation equity. The new fare collection system is made to fit the needs of all transit riders, including those without smartphones or who don’t have a bank account. Riders can choose to pay for their transit trips whichever way they prefer, including via contactless credit cards, mobile phones using the new app, a new smart card reloadable online or at retail outlets, or cash on board the buses. More plentiful retail locations based in a larger number of neighborhoods, multi-lingual capabilities, and options for the visually impaired further boost access to transit. With fare capping, riders will pay the lowest price, no matter how many times they ride.

    “Making public transit more accessible is key to achieving racial equity in Milwaukee County. To create more connected communities, we must reduce the barriers that keep our neighborhoods, and their residents, separated today,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “MCTS is working to reduce barriers to accessing public transit by introducing flexibility in transit fare collection to accommodate the needs of all potential riders.”

    MCTS Managing Director Dan Boehm said, “The ability to fare cap means riders can purchase as much or as little as they can afford, and still get the discount of a weekly or monthly pass. The new system recognizes when riders reach the equivalent of a pass, and automatically rewards them with free rides for the remainder of the period. Now, everyone can access a faster, more convenient way to pay and travel to jobs, education, entertainment and other destinations.”

    New System Connects Riders to Other Modes of Transportation Across the Region
    The fare collection system has the potential to support seamless regional connectivity for commuters traveling to and from Milwaukee County and eventually throughout the southeastern Wisconsin region.

    “We are excited to partner with Milwaukee Country Transit System,” said Bonnie Crawford, VP and General Manager, Umo. “MCTS sees the future of transit and the potential to connect its community to all mobility options using one app, whether they are riding the bus, grabbing a scooter or booking a ride-share, just like other major cities.”

    Because the platform is cloud-based, it works faster than the current fare collection system, offering immediate on-board payment validation via mobile app or smart card. The mobile app will also provide real-time bus tracking and trip planning. To use Umo, passengers create an account via the app and then add funds to their account using their credit or debit card or with cash at more than 200 retail locations.

    Community Education to Begin in Spring
    In the coming months, MCTS will begin educating its rider base how the account-based system works and introduce them to the comprehensive features and benefits found on the Umo mobile app and fare card. On-bus validators are expected to be installed later this fall. This new system will eventually replace the current M-Card and mobile app. The education campaign will include a timeline of when the old system will be phased out and the new one begins. There will be an introductory period allowing riders time to transition to the new system.

    For more information about the Milwaukee County Transit System, visit

  • 3 Feb 2022 3:27 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Public transportation is a staple for a functioning, healthy society. Access to affordable public transit options are a lifeline for everyone in the community.

    Owning a car is estimated to cost over $10,000 annually, per AAA. Many people simply can't afford it. In addition, driving is a task that people of differing ability levels can struggle to complete easily, if at all. We are all a serious injury or illness away from losing our ability to drive. Comprehensive public transit systems are needed to ensure that everyone has equitable access to our community.

    Not only is public transport essential in lifting up community members; it offers a great return on investment. A dollar invested in public transportation brings $4 of economic development back. Robust public transportation systems provide workers with the ability to get to employment, stimulating the local economy and connecting businesses to the labor supply that makes their businesses succeed.

    We need stronger investment and support from the federal, state, and local levels. Public transportation is funded across multiple levels of government, and citizens across the country need to push for strong federal and state support along with robust local planning. That planning needs to center the voices of those most in need, along with those that have been systematically ignored and left out of the process.

    Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that public transit reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Public transportation is essential to stop and reverse the devastating effects of climate change.

  • 3 Feb 2022 2:56 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Darrin Wasniewski is associate state director of community outreach for AARP Wisconsin.

    With the price of used cars soaring and Transit Equity Day coming up this Friday, Feb. 4, this is the perfect time for communities across Wisconsin and the entire country to re-examine their public transportation offerings to make sure all their residents have access to safe, efficient, clean, and affordable transportation options.

    Transit Equity Day is a collaboration of several organizations to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change.

    One of our top priorities at AARP is working closely with local communities to help them become as livable and age-friendly as possible. Creating more transportation options for residents of all ages to feel comfortable traveling within their own communities is a huge component of that collaboration.

    Many people take transportation for granted. But stop to consider that approximately one-third of Americans do not drive, including 1 in 5 people age 65-plus, many people with disabilities, others who cannot afford the purchase and upkeep of a vehicle, children too young to drive, and others by choice. This statistic alone should make us stop, think, and take another look at what our community has to offer.

    Couple that with a recent Associated Press article pointing out that the average price of a used vehicle in the United States in November (according to was $29,011 – a dizzying 39% more than just 12 months earlier. And for the first time that anyone can recall, more than half of America’s households have less income than is considered necessary to buy the average-priced used vehicle.

    “The days when just about anyone with a steady income could wander onto an auto lot and snag a reliable late-model car or buy their kid’s first vehicle for a few thousand dollars have essentially vanished,” the article said.

    Yet we still largely design our transportation system around drivers. To achieve greater transportation equity, we need to pay more attention to the needs of these nondrivers.

    Community leaders and residents owe it themselves to examine their current transportation options and consider possible solutions, such as dial-a-ride services, particularly in rural and suburban areas not well-served by regular public transportation. The main objective of dial-a-ride is to provide streamlined transportation solutions that match supply with demand efficiently.

    We can also invest more in safe streets initiatives. Crossing the street shouldn’t have to mean crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. While unsafe streets disproportionately affect older people, safe streets are for everyone. It is critically important to adopt policies that ensure our streets are designed for all who use them – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation users of all ages. All of us need safe and efficient streets. That won’t happen without change.

    Another area to examine is called “mobility management,” which is a concept that aims to to improve specialized transportation, particularly for veterans, older adults, people with disabilities, and individuals with lower incomes through a range of activities.

    It begins with a community vision in which the entire transportation network – public transit, private operators, cycling and walking, volunteer drivers, and others – works together with customers, planners, and stakeholders to deliver transportation options that best meet the community’s needs.

    Autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars) are often considered a panacea for an aging America, but much more attention is needed to design these for the hardest-to-serve groups.

    In short, no options should be off the table for consideration when it comes to improving, expanding and creating community transportation options. We hope all your readers will join us in recognizing Transit Equity Day and seeing the importance of this issue for all of us as we age.

  • 27 Jan 2022 3:10 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    City of Milwaukee residents have a new way to get to jobs in the northwest suburbs, and employers have a new way to attract and retain workers, with FlexRide Milwaukee.

    FlexRide Milwaukee launches in early February, with riders picked up from one of five stops served by the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) in and around Milwaukee’s north and northwest sides and dropped off at any employer within the Menomonee Falls and Butler service areas.

    Riders, who must be at least 18 years old, City of Milwaukee residents, and working or willing to work within the service areas, can request pickups using a smartphone app or by phone. Riders must register to use the FlexRide service. To do so, they can fill out this form to determine eligibility.

    While registration is not required for employers, businesses and organizations with more than 10 employees in Menomonee Falls and Butler that employ or intend to employ City of Milwaukee residents are also encouraged to sign up for FlexRide. Those interested in participating in the pilot should contact Eric Lynde at

    “We are excited to be collaborating with our partners on a technology-driven solution to a longstanding problem for our region – access to jobs,” Kevin Muhs, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, said. “Lack of transportation is too often a barrier for workers wanting to get to jobs and employers wanting to attract new employees, made worse during the pandemic. This is one step toward closing that gap and making us stronger as a region.”

    FlexRide’s goal is to use technology to close Milwaukee’s first-mile and last-mile transit gaps, the distance between an existing bus stop and one’s ultimate destination. Closing transit gaps can expand access to transportation for local workers, ultimately fostering opportunities for economic mobility.

    The service is a pilot funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, received in the fall of 2021. Via, the global leader in TransitTech and a provider of on-demand mobility solutions, will power the service using its highly efficient technology platform. Via’s intelligent algorithms create quick and efficient shared trips that provide more flexibility for riders than traditional transport options, which have fixed routes and schedules.

    The service will operate through the fall of 2022. The project team aims to leverage the pilot to identify funding to continue the service beyond this time. Employ Milwaukee is leading efforts to sign up riders.

    “We encourage anyone who currently works in one of the service areas – or is hoping to – to consider signing up for FlexRide,” said Chytania Brown, president and CEO of Employ Milwaukee. “As Milwaukee County’s workforce development board, we work every day to develop workforce solutions that promote regional economic growth and employment opportunity for all job seekers. FlexRide Milwaukee does just that.”

    The Waukesha County Business Alliance is partnering with the Waukesha County Center for Growth and Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board, MobiliSE and the FlexRide team to recruit employers.

    “We are inviting all eligible employers to take part in this service,” said Amanda Payne, senior vice president of public policy for the Alliance. “We regularly hear from our members about the challenges they are facing in attracting and retaining workers – and the barrier a lack of transportation can be. FlexRide Milwaukee will help solve that problem.”

    Employee and employer participants will be asked to take part in surveys throughout the pilot to evaluate the program and to help shape potential long-term transportation investments. Leading the UWM research team are Lingqian (Ivy) Hu and Robert Schneider, urban planning faculty members at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Yaidi Cancel Martinez, associate scientist at the Center for Economic Development.

    ““The NSF award recognizes the potential impact that our teamwork can have in connecting research with real-world solutions.” said Hu. “Successful implementation of the pilot will address transit and other obstacles that deter marginalized population groups from accessing jobs in the Milwaukee region.”

    MobiliSE Executive Director Dave Steele said FlexRide was a welcome addition to a suite of services planned to address concerns with worker mobility and shortages. They include Milwaukee County’s East-West Bus Rapid Transit between downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center coming in late 2022 and last-mile service being studied for Oak Creek/Franklin and Brookfield/New Berlin. Milwaukee County and SEWRPC are also studying a North-South BRT route along 27th Street. These transit initiatives are well-aligned with Milwaukee County and MCTS goals to advance racial equity.

    “There is historic energy behind multimodal transit in Southeastern Wisconsin, and we are proud to be a part of it,” Steele said. “MobiliSE is the region’s voice and platform for projects like this – connecting workers with jobs and companies with employees through stronger transportation options. All of these initiatives go right to our mission of building a stronger Southeastern Wisconsin through better connectivity.”

    The FlexRide Milwaukee pilot is funded by one of 17 Civic Innovation Challenge grants sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Departments of Energy and Homeland Security. Six of the grants were awarded to projects that sought to deliver community-based solutions to close gaps in transportation equity.

    UWM and SEWRPC also received a $50,000 Stage 1 grant in 2021 to design the pilot with communities and potential users of the pilot service. The Stage 2 grant is meant to fund implementation of this pilot.

    The service will operate weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., with highly flexible scheduling based on demand. Fixed stops will be at the several locations, from which riders can connect directly to jobs or job interviews in Menomonee Falls and Butler. These points include Sherman Phoenix, 3536 W. Fond du Lac Avenue; Midtown Center, 5700 W. Capitol Drive; Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, 5460 N. 64th Street; Silver Spring Drive/Lovers Lane; and Woodman’s/Sam’s Club, Highway 145 in Menomonee Falls;

    Rides from and to the Woodman’s/Sam’s Club and Silver Spring/Lovers Lane stops will be free. Riders from and to the other stops pay $1.50 for a one-way ride, increasing to $3 later in the pilot. After applying for the service, eligible riders will be able to download the FlexRide Milwaukee app and create an account. To book a ride, the rider will simply enter the pickup and dropoff locations and then check the app to find out where to meet the vehicle and when it will arrive.

    The service will be accessible to all riders, including residents with disabilities, those without a smartphone, and those without a credit or debit card.

    Recently, MCTS temporarily suspended Freeway Flyer Routes 40, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49, 79, and 143 through March 6, 2022, due to a shortage of bus drivers. Additionally, under the Federal mandate, masks are still required on board all buses, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
  • 27 Jan 2022 3:08 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    ​GIS mapping tool assists in aligning mobility options with underserved populations​

    Release date: January 20, 2022​

    A new GIS mapping tool launched today by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will help policy makers, transportation planners and mobility providers align transportation resources with underserved populations throughout the state.

    More than one million people in Wisconsin are non-drivers—many of whom are seniors, individuals with disabilities, young people and low-income individuals. The Non-Driver ArcGIS Online Application, available on the WisDOT website, enables state and local decision makers to locate non-driver populations in their area and begin to plan or expand public transportation options.

    “Because our transportation system has historically been designed around private automobiles, not having access to a car can make it very challenging to get to work and school, to get medical care and meet the other needs of daily life,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said. “To better meet the needs of non-drivers, we have to understand where they live and what mobility resources they can access, and that’s what this tool will help policy makers do.”

    The Non-Driver ArcGIS Online Application allows users to access census data and WisDMV data on a state map. Users can view estimates of how many non-drivers live in a given county, municipality, or census area. By comparing non-driver location data with transportation service mapping, users can identify ‘hotspots’ of underserved and unserved Wisconsin non-drivers.

    “Making sure the large and growing population of non-drivers can get where they need to go on their schedule is a national challenge, and we are proud of WisDOT’s strong leadership on this critical issue,” Legislative Liaison for the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities and Wisconsin Non-Driver Advisory Committee (WiNDAC) Co-Chair Tami Jackson said. “Today’s launch of the ArcGIS tool is an important step towards better understanding Wisconsin’s non-drivers and making sure where people live can be connected to what they need to do. WisDOT’s can-do spirit and problem-solving has created a tool that has real value for planners, local governments, transit systems, and others concerned about workforce mobility, economic development, and people being able to thrive in the places they live.”

    “As a WiNDAC co-chair, I am very grateful for WisDOT's recognition of the need for a tool that allows us to better address the needs of Wisconsin's non-driver population,” Denise Jess, Executive Director for the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, said. “The ArcGIS tool has great potential for building a more comprehensive and connected transportation system to better guide our budgeting, policy and planning decisions to meet the needs of Wisconsin's diverse non-driver population.”

    The Non-Driver ArcGIS Online Application can be accessed from the Non-Driver page on the WisDOT website.

    For more information, contact:

    WisDOT Office of Public Affairs
    (608) 266-3581,

  • 19 Jan 2022 12:21 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    By Michael Gold, Ana Ley and James Thomas

    Photographs and Video by Benjamin Norman

    Jan. 17, 2022

    The sun rises on a weekday in New York City, and at a Queens subway station the daily grind resembles its old self: Thousands of people pile onto an open-air platform above a bustling neighborhood, waiting in the cold to crowd onto rush-hour trains toward work, school and other essential appointments.

    Hours later, as darkness falls, another rush hour begins. But this one, at a formerly hectic subway station in Lower Manhattan, feels jarringly different. In a neighborhood lined with office buildings, a once-reliable stream of white-collar commuters has thinned to a trickle. As trains arrive, finding a seat is not hard.

    Nearly two years after the coronavirus engulfed New York, causing a virtual abandonment of the country’s largest transportation network, riders have slowly returned to the subway in an uneven pattern that underscores the economic divide at the heart of the city’s fitful recovery.

    Stations in lower-income areas in Brooklyn, Queens and Upper Manhattan, where residents are less likely to be able to work from home and typically depend more on public transit, have rebounded far faster than stations in office-heavy sections of Manhattan, including some that were once the busiest in the system, where many workers are still able to work remotely.

    The problems hobbling the subway have gotten worse since the arrival of the fast-spreading Omicron variant, which has reversed a recovery that had been progressing for months. The system is also contending with fears about crime and public safety that were amplified after a woman was shoved to her death in front of a train on Saturday by a man at the Times Square station.

    After cratering by 90 percent in the spring of 2020, weekday subway ridership in November had reached about 56 percent of prepandemic levels, with 3.1 million riders on an average day, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the system.

    But with the Omicron variant sickening so many workers, transit officials suspended service on some lines and reduced it on others. As virus cases surged, passengers who could avoid public transit did so, and ridership levels fell at the start of this year to about 40 percent.

    The dip in ridership reflects a central challenge facing the subway, a vital lifeline linked to New York’s economy. Without the wholesale return of daily commuters — whose money is the lifeblood of public transit and of a vast network of businesses inside and outside stations — the city’s subway system finds itself suspended in an unsettling limbo.

    In a financial plan released last month, the authority projected that even by 2025, the subway would have 223 million fewer riders than it did in 2019, a drop of about 13 percent, as many workers shift to hybrid work schedules. A significant drop in ridership will reduce fares the system is dependent on and could lead to fare hikes and service cuts.

    The agency’s acting chair and chief executive, Janno Lieber, said he remained hopeful that the subway’s recovery would resume after concern around the Omicron variant subsided, though how quickly is unclear.

    “The trajectory of that return has been impacted, and we don’t know exactly where it’s headed,” he said. “But for us, the key is that when people have somewhere to go, they take transit.”

    At the same time, Mr. Lieber acknowledged that most riders who had not yet returned were unlikely to do so until they had a compelling need — which for many, he said, would require “work in an office.”

    Still, despite the steep decline in ridership, millions of people have gone back to the subway, in most cases out of necessity. But how the subway feels and functions can vary wildly from station to station, and the experiences of those currently riding hint at the barriers to drawing back those who are not.

    Through the pandemic’s throes, work never stopped

    Junction Boulevard Station, Queens

    The daily commute never stopped for many blue-collar workers who rely on the No. 7 train in central Queens — an epicenter of the coronavirus where in the spring of 2020 thousands fell ill and hundreds died.

    Luis Rocano, a construction worker from the Corona neighborhood, waited at the Junction Boulevard station just before dawn to head to a job in Manhattan.

    As Corona, a predominantly Latino neighborhood served by the station, filled with the wail of ambulances, Mr. Rocano’s fears grew. Yet even as the number of people he knew killed by Covid-19 ticked up, Mr. Rocano, 33, had to work.

    “It was total chaos,” he said in Spanish. “We saw so much death in such a short amount of time.”

    At its lowest point, in April 2020, ridership at the Junction Boulevard station fell to about 10 percent of prepandemic levels. But eventually people in this nexus of working-class immigrant neighborhoods piled back on the trains. By November 2020, ridership rose to 55.3 percent of prepandemic levels; one year later, it had climbed to 74.2 percent.

    On this frigid December morning, Junction Boulevard’s open-air platform was nearly shoulder to shoulder. Commuters rushed onto Manhattan-bound trains, some wearing paint-stained jeans and hoisting construction tools as the sun pierced the horizon.

    Mr. Rocano tried to take precautions. Still, he ended up contracting the virus.

    “After I got sick, I was less afraid that I would get it again,” Mr. Rocano said. “I just got used to wearing a mask everywhere.”

    Virus-related health concerns remain top of mind. According to a customer survey the transportation authority conducted last fall, 79 percent of subway customers who had not returned to the trains said that social-distancing concerns were among the top factors keeping them off trains.

    But in neighborhoods like Corona, home to a high concentration of undocumented immigrants who have largely been ineligible for federal pandemic aid, the overriding worry is the need to make ends meet. About 47 percent of Queens residents were born outside the United States — 10 percentage points higher than the city as a whole — according to Census Bureau figures.

    “The street workers have to go out in the heat and the cold,’’ said Raquel Chasi, an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador who sells fruit juice from a stand below the elevated station. “We have to keep fighting to bring bread to our homes.”

    Although foot traffic is up, Ms. Chasi, 36, said many people were spending less. Some struggle with higher costs triggered by the pandemic-rattled supply chain. She complained about having to pay twice as much for the plastic cups she serves to clients.

    “It has hit us very hard,” she shouted in Spanish over the roar of trains. Before 2020, Ms. Chasi could make up to $600 on a good day at the stand she has run seven days a week for the last seven years. Now, she is lucky to reach $200.

    Riders reflect on a changed system

    59th Street Station, Brooklyn

    Ten miles southwest and below ground, the crowds at the 59th Street station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood had been about half that of higher-traffic hubs like Junction Blvd. But the rise in passengers here has been accelerating: On November weekdays, ridership averaged about 74 percent of prepandemic levels.

    Blocks away from 8th Avenue, the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinatown, the N and R trains stop at the 59th Street station and serve a multicultural population that includes one of the largest enclaves of Chinese immigrants in New York. About 40 percent of people in the surrounding area identify as Hispanic and roughly the same as Asian, according to the most recent U.S. census.

    On a recent Tuesday morning, a mix of people traveled to jobs across the economic spectrum, trudging down the stairs in coveralls, scrubs, collars and hoodies, headed for auto shops, medical laboratories, patients’ homes and office cubicles.

    “We have to be in the office,” said Demetri Perry, 29, a 311 phone operator returning home to Flatbush. Hired in the spring of 2020, he recalled 59th Street’s then strangely empty platforms: “It was like the zombie apocalypse.”

    Cristian Cruz, a 44-year-old cancer research technician, has used this station for 25 years, including during the pandemic’s early days. While waiting for an N train to his lab on the Upper East Side, he said fears of Covid transmission and a desire for space changed what had once been among the most fraught of subway interactions: negotiating a sliver of seating between two riders.

    “Before, people would fight, jump in and try to get in that space,” Mr. Cruz said. “People now, they don’t go as hard to get into every seat. They’ll stay standing.”

    The loss of riders has ripple effects for the neighborhood businesses. Annie Li, the manager of the Koong Wing Chinese restaurant, can see riders entering and leaving the subway through her storefront window.

    Before the pandemic, Ms. Li said in Mandarin, the rumble of the train below would signal an immediate crush of business. “All of a sudden, the subway comes and then you’re swarmed.”

    “Now, I don’t see that phenomenon anymore,” she said. “Only until it gets to the point that we can be without masks, maybe, will we go back to normal.”

    Money still flows but riders don’t

    Wall Street Station, Manhattan

    For decades, people used to pour through the marble-and-tile atrium at 60 Wall Street, which houses an entrance to the Wall Street subway station. In early 2020, four businesses greeted them: a convenience store, a cafe, a restaurant and a shoe-repair shop.

    But on a recent Tuesday, the atrium was hushed, and most of the stores were shuttered.

    Only the shoe-repair store, Cobbler Express, had reopened, and the owner, Eduard Shimonov, said it had passed for a busy day. Instead of the one or two shoe shines that marked business these days, the store had done three.

    “You just don’t have the same foot traffic,” Mr. Shimonov, 41, said, sitting on a shoe shine booth.

    The picture is much the same inside the subway station that used to provide all four businesses with a steady parade of white-collar workers.

    On an average weekday before the pandemic, more than 24,000 riders passed through the turnstiles of the Wall Street station. In November, the number was down to about 9,000 riders, about 37.5 percent of its 2019 level and far below the system as a whole.

    Instead of a massive nightly exodus from high-rise office buildings to a narrow underground platform, the ritual is smaller. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the Wall Street station was muted.

    “There’s still some movement,” said Claude LaRoche, a lawyer heading to Pennsylvania Station, where he’d take the Long Island Rail Road to his home in Lake Grove, N.Y. “But it’s eerie. And nowhere near as crowded.”

    Transit officials blame much of the drop on the seismic shift to remote work, an upheaval to the rhythms of the city with no clear end.

    Before the pandemic, about 80 percent of Manhattan office workers were in their offices on a given weekday, said Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, an influential business advocacy organization.

    Even before the Omicron variant, the Partnership had projected that only 49 percent of workers would be in offices by the end of this month, with just 13 percent returning full time.

    Ms. Wylde said the recent surge appears to have pushed that projection out of reach. Many employers again delayed when they expect workers to come back to the office, and some now acknowledge that remote work has moved from a temporary disruption to a longer-term norm.

    “I don’t think most employers believe that there will be a moment where everyone goes back,” Ms. Wylde said.

    Mr. LaRoche exemplifies the shift: He works from the office three times a week, choosing days when he feels trains are emptier.

    Even those who have embraced returning to daily commuting said they were anxious. Risa Kantor, who never fully stopped traveling from the Upper West Side to her office, said that she would feel more at ease if other riders strictly adhered to the subway’s mask requirement.

    Ms. Kantor, who works for a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities, also said that she would not ride the train alone outside commuting hours out of concern over crime and violence.

    Subway crime last year was at its lowest total in decades, according to the police and the M.T.A., but though the total number of major felonies on the subway is down from 2019, so is ridership, and the rate of crimes per million weekday passengers has actually increased. Many crimes were high-profile attacks that generated significant news coverage and fed a perception that the system was perilous.

    In the authority’s customer survey, fear over crime and harassment was the top factor cited by former riders who have left the subways; 90 percent of them said it was important to their decision whether to return.

    The mayor and Police Department recently announced more frequent and visible patrols on platforms and trains. The transit authority has also been on a marketing blitz, promoting the benefits of the subway — ease, climate, cost — in a bid to bring riders back.

    But the immediate future remains dreary, for the system and for business owners like Mr. Shimonov. Many of his former customers do not live in the city and no longer travel to their offices. The stragglers he used to get from the subway station have also disappeared.

    “I just hope this gets better soon. Otherwise, I’ll have to do something serious,” Mr. Shimonov said. “If this keeps up, people are going to lose a good cobbler, and that’s a pity for the city.”

    Jeffrey E. Singer contributed reporting.

    Michael Gold is a general assignment reporter on the Metro desk covering news in the New York City region. @migold

    James Thomas is a software engineer on the Interactive News team. He often works on media-rich projects that involve reader-generated content. @nerdishtendency

    A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 19, 2022, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Riders Flowing To the Subway, Or Trickling In.

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