For almost two years, Lester Williams took the bus from Milwaukee’s Northside to suburban New Berlin, where he worked 12-hour days in quality control at Schoeneck Containers Inc. The trip took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, even though the factory was only about 16 miles from his home.
Williams said it was one of the best jobs he ever had. But when the route was eliminated in 2019, the only bus that got him near his job brought him to Brookfield Square mall, more than 3 miles away.
“A lot of times people just walked, and it’s kind of expensive to spend $5, $6, $10 just to get to that last mile with Uber or Lyft,” Williams said. “I know when I did it, I called Uber maybe twice, and I thought, it would be better for me to just walk.”
Williams eventually lost his job because of transportation issues. But his manager, who he had a good relationship with, helped him find a job closer to home. He said not having a car shouldn’t keep people from work.
“A lot of employers have solid employees that need help with transportation,” Williams said. “It would cost companies nothing to say here’s an Uber pass. If employers covered that last mile, it wouldn’t be an issue.”
The “last mile” challenge is common in the suburbs, where manufacturing, warehouses and retail jobs are far from fixed transit routes, making it difficult for people without cars to get to work.
Sam Rikkers, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said the jobs usually pay between $13 and $18 an hour, which is enough to warrant traveling a long distance, but not enough to buy and maintain a reliable car.
“Talking to employers all over the state — and absolutely all over the greater Milwaukee region, workforce is their greatest concern,” Rikkers said. “There is not a massive pool of folks looking for jobs and employers need to find innovative ways to get people to work.”
WEDC and the United Way of Greater Milwaukee are each contributing about $30,000 to a pilot program run by the Regional Transit Leadership Council that will study how to bring “last mile” service to the Milwaukee suburbs of Brookfield, New Berlin, Franklin and Oak Creek. The study is expected to be completed in Spring 2022.
Roughly half of jobs in southeast Wisconsin lie outside a 90-minute bus commute, and that figure is higher in manufacturing and retail sectors, often located in suburban areas.
Close to 20 percent of Milwaukee residents lack access to cars, a figure far higher in high-poverty parts of the city.
In 2017, the Wisconsin Policy Forum researched the “last mile” and found it was a major impediment to the success of bus routes aiming to connect central city workers to suburban jobs.
“It’s great to see regional leaders renewing their focus on this barrier, and it’s particularly timely given
MORGAN HILL, Calif. (KGO) — Face masks are hard to come by, even for health care workers. So, Morgan Hill-based bike company, Specialized, has been using its worldwide contacts, calling in favors, and spending millions of dollars to get face masks to medical workers.
Specialized CEO Mike Sinyard told me healthcare workers are the heroes of this pandemic.
He knows he is fortunate to have the wherewithal to secure so many masks, but encourages all of us to lend a helping hand to healthcare workers.
“How could you help them?” he asks. “Can you help them by preparing food, can you help them by taking care of their kids, because the kids will be home. Everything helps.”
Mask shipments have begun arriving at the company’s Morgan Hill headquarters, and among the first to get masks are local hospitals, including Watsonville Community Hospital.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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Some are hesitant to use public transportation during the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s what transportation officials are doing to help reduce risk.
DENVER – Sisters Trinity and Kiki Williams looked around the crowded bus stop as the #15 bus rumbled down Colfax Avenue toward them.
The bus looked to be about half full, the driver wearing a bandanna stretched across his nose and mouth to comply with government recommendations intended to help slow the spread of coronavirus. But among the awaiting passengers, only one wore a face covering.
“I’m damn nervous,” said Kiki Williams, 19. “There’s too many of us.”
For protection, the women, who are African American, wore blue rubber gloves but no masks. “We forgot them at home,” said Trinity Williams, 18.
Like millions of Americans, the Williams sisters depend on public transit at a time when health officials have told Americans to stay 6 feet apart and recommended that they wear face masks in public.
“It’s the only transportation we’ve got right now,” said Trinity Williams, whose car broke down and won’t be repaired for weeks.
While transit ridership has dropped dramatically across the country during the coronavirus outbreak, millions of Americans are still riding public buses and trains, putting themselves and anyone they encounter at risk as they commute to work, go to the grocery store, visit the doctor, or, like the Williams sisters, travel to see family.
A passenger loads his bike onto an RTD bus in Denver before boarding during the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY)
Experts say most of the people who have stopped riding are white-collar workers who can work from home and who tend to be white, leaving many of the country’s poorest workers, who are disproportionately people of color, with no other choice but to pack into a small space designed to carry lots of people. In New York City, at least 41 transit workers have died from coronavirus infections, far more than police officers and firefighters.
“As always, higher-income households have more choices,” said Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and an urban planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Luskin School of Public Affairswho studies how urban structures affect low-wage workers. “For low-income workers who have to take transit, they’re in a confined place, in close proximity to other people. Their problems are compounded. They have no other option.”
Statistics collected by the app developer Transit suggest white riders have largely abandoned buses and trains: A survey of 15,000 of the company’s U.S. users revealed that only 22% of people using transit right now are white, compared to 40% normally. Transit is one of the most popular navigation apps for iPhones and Android phones, with millions of active users across the United States and Canada.
Preliminary data from states such as New York, Colorado and Michigan suggests African Americans and other minorities are dying from coronavirus-related complications at a much higher rate than their white counterparts, in