Many people in our community need to commute for their job. We get in our cars and can transport ourselves to our places of employment for dollars a day. In today’s landscape, cars are not something you always want to have, but they’re something you need to have. But if you were one of the 20-30% of households in our community without access to a reliable vehicle, you would find that this seemingly easy, inexpensive commute to work is more difficult, and more expensive, than you could imagine.
We continue to build factories and warehouses further from the city where employees call home. For individuals without a reliable vehicle who are looking for – or to keep – employment at these facilities, their commute can seem like an impossible task, even if the commute itself is only ten miles. Without access to a reliable mode of transportation, this may as well be 100 miles. And for those who rely on rideshare programs, it can cost them $20-$40 for a round trip ride. If they’re working five days a week, that’s close to $100-$200 of a weekly paycheck, which takes away from life’s other expenses like housing, healthcare, childcare, and food.
While the world often talks about housing insecurity and food insecurity, the very real insecurity of transportation is disproportionately affecting people of color throughout the nation. Employment opportunities with a livable wage are moving from the cities where workers live into the suburbs and beyond. In the Greater Milwaukee area, there is an emerging solution to this obstacle that’s gaining speed, aimed to help everyone facing transportation insecurity.
FlexRide Milwaukee, operated by MobiliSE, is an on-demand program similar to a rideshare that helps individuals commute to and from work for just dollars a day, much like any other commuter with access to a car. It goes back to 2015 when a group of civic, community, and business leaders from southeastern Wisconsin gathered to find a solution for households without access to vehicles needed for their work commute. “FlexRiders” who live in the City of Milwaukee but work in Menomonee Falls or Franklin, which are in FlexRide’s current employment zones, are able to easily get to work for a fraction of the time and cost that they’d have otherwise.
The program is growing, too, serving about 350 people and providing 200 rides a day. It’s helped individuals living in Milwaukee but working in the suburbs redirect limited budgets away from transportation or maintaining an unreliable vehicle. Flexriders have told their drivers that they can afford to support their families without the added stresses of finding a reliable vehicle or losing their job due to transportation constraints. All of this, in turn, goes back to creating a safe and healthy environment at home, and in the community.
When you support United Way’s Reducing Barriers to Employment & Advancement initiative, you support programs like FlexRide Milwaukee, which helps to lessen the gap in transportation security. They allow our community members the opportunity to go to family-supportive jobs with livable wages. They also allow those same households to access healthcare, childcare, grocery stores, and more.
When you give to United Way, you're not just making a donation. You're changing a life. Organizations like MobiliSE remind us that to live better, we must Live United.