Transportation project led in part by UWM researchers launches in February

A pilot transportation service funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation and led in part by UWM researchers launches in February, with the goal of helping residents in segregated city neighborhoods reach suburban areas with more jobs.

The service, called FlexRide Milwaukee, will have pickup and drop-off points at three locations serving neighborhoods on the north and northwest side of the city, along with two additional locations at the boundary of Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. The service will connect workers to any employer located within designated service areas in Butler and Menomonee Falls.

The grant awarded to UWM and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission was one of 17 given in September as part of the Civic Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the NSF and the U.S. Departments of Energy and Homeland Security.

Six of the grants, including the one funding the FlexRide service, were awarded to projects that looked at community-based solutions to close gaps in transport equality that might otherwise hinder people from reaching affordable housing, jobs or access to food or childcare.

The Milwaukee-area project will test an on-demand model similar to a ride-share service in which people can use an app or phone to request a pickup. The service is also wheelchair accessible.

Leading the UWM research contingent 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.

Closing transit gaps can expand access to transportation for local workers and help to expand opportunities for economic mobility, organizers said in announcing the launch.

FlexRide Milwaukee is scheduled to run through the fall, and organizers are looking for more funding to keep it running beyond that point.

“Like shelter, clean water and healthy food, access to jobs is an essential human right. It’s a prerequisite for social justice and economic development,” Hu said. “Equal access to jobs and opportunity can help people reach their potential.

“I hope that FlexRide can jump-start concrete plans toward permanent, regional transportation service that is efficient, affordable and equitable.”

For more information on costs, eligibility and other details, please visit the FlexRide Milwaukee website.

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