Study shows importance of bus routes to Waukesha, Milwaukee counties

Waukesha and Milwaukee counties would suffer from ending two bus routes that help city workers get to jobs in the suburbs, a new study from UW-Milwaukee shows.

If the routes are discontinued in December, nearly 700 businesses employing 15,000 in New Berlin, Menomonee Falls and Germantown will no longer have any bus service. And 72 percent of the 1,100 regular JobLines riders rely on those routes to get to work and to shop in Waukesha County.

Routes 6 and 61 are operated by Milwaukee County Transit System with funding from a 2014 multi-million dollar settlement between the state and U.S. Departments of Transportation, the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope.

Route 61 has seen the most growth and is the only bus service for over 300 employers in Menomonee Falls and Germantown. Some of the employers there include Culver’s, Target and WalMart.

Su Graff is administrative assistant at Middle West Manufacturing Corporation in Menomonee Falls. She says many employers in the area count on workers coming in from Milwaukee.

“Many of those workers take the route 61 bus into Menomonee Falls to get to their jobs. If that bus line closes, it will be a hardship on many employers in this area,” Graf said.

In April, MCTS announced the funds from that settlement would run out by the end of the year.

Waukesha County hasn’t had to pitch in any funding so far, and both MCTS and the Waukesha County Transit Board have yet to announce a new plan to keep the buses running. According to a release, MCTS has said it’s willing to work with the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors to keep the routes on track.

According to a release, the only proposed solution so far is creating a shortened bus line along the same route as Route 61 until cutting off at the edge of Milwaukee County.

Joel Rast, the study’s author, says many of the low-income residents on Milwaukee’s West Side rely on the JobLines route 61 to get to their jobs in Waukesha County. Part of the study included interviewing both riders and employers to gauge their feelings about the routes going away.

“Many of the riders we surveyed expressed fear over losing route 61,” said Rast, who works as an assistant professor and director of urban studies at UWM. “A substantial number would have no way to get to work and would have to quit their jobs should the route be discontinued.”