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Written by Joe Poirier   
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 20:15

Thanks to more hours, more stops and some new apps and programs, the county’s transit leader expects a 16% usage increase among workers in 2017

Ozaukee County Transit Services is offering more Ozaukee County Express bus rides and shared-ride taxi services than ever in part because it’s tailoring its services to help riders commute to and from work.

Transit Supt. Jason Wittek said he expects to see a 16% increase in Ozaukee County Express bus riders traveling for work in 2017. Last year, the transit department provided 45,000 rides for employment, and it expects that number to grow to 52,000 by December. 

“It’s quite a big jump. Some of the changes we made was in response to the business community’s needs,” Wittek told business professionals at an Ozaukee County Community Snapshot luncheon on May 10.

taxiLast year, the bus service added to its hours of operation by beginning service at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. and extended service to 10 p.m. As a result, there were 2,500 additional rides in 2016, and Wittek expects there to be 3,5000 more rides this year. 

The increase in commuters using public transportation is also a result of the addition of three more stops in Milwaukee County, he said, as well as the availability of Ozaukee County’s shared-ride taxi service.

“Crossing the southern line into Milwaukee County doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is,” he said. “It allows us to plug into the entire Milwaukee County Transit System, reaching a lot more geography and a lot more people who could be potential employees of Ozaukee County’s businesses.”

Wittek’s greatest concern is helping riders overcome what he calls “the last-mile challenge,” which is when a passenger’s bus route ends before he or she reaches their destination. 

To address that problem, Ozaukee Transit Services is using its shared-ride taxi service to bridge that gap.

Half of the riders who use the shared-ride taxi service make use of it three to five times a week – 60% of the people don’t have a driver’s license and 37% of the riders have no vehicle, according to Wittek.

“The number one reason people use the shared ride taxi is for employment,” Wittek said. “The biggest barrier for employment is not having transportation.” 

The transit department is currently working on a mobile app for its shared-ride taxi program to make it easier to schedule rides.

“The service sector may have seasonal and part-time employees or second- and third shift workers who need our services for their diverse schedules,” Wittek said. “We’re trying to embrace a new way of looking at our taxi service by seeing how we can help employers and employees in the county.” 

For Portal, Inc., a Grafton nonprofit agency that provides employment services for more than 200 adults with developmental disabilities, the shared-ride taxi service is vital.

“All the individuals involved in our employment services program utilize the Ozaukee County shared-ride taxi. Our program would be very difficult to grow and continue without the shared-ride taxies,” Linda Stegemeyer, an employment services manager for the company, said. “We’re very happy they are looking at their ridership and the needs of the riders and making those expansions. The fact that they have expanded their hours and also expanded their drop-offs in Milwaukee County has made their services more accessible.”

The majority of the people involved in the employment services program use the shared-ride taxi to get to and from work.

“Because of the transportation we’ve been able to grow our program significantly over the years. One of the things that always come up when other agencies are looking for employment with people who have disabilities is transportation,” Stegmeyer said. “That’s why we are so fortunate to be in Ozaukee County because of the shared-ride taxi. If we didn’t have that as an option for the individuals, I don’t know if we would be able to service as many individuals as we do because otherwise they would be dependent on their family, friends and neighbors to get rides to and from work.”


PHOTO INFORMATION: 

BUS SERVICE in Ozaukee County is on the rise, as is shared-taxi service. Jason Wittek, in the foreground, was joined at the county’s Transit Services Department on Monday, May 15, by employees Andrew Seymour, left, and Jamie Sagan, right. Wittek is the department’s superintendent.  Photo by Sam Arendt

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