Business leaders are asked how transit options affect county workforce
Unemployment numbers in Ozaukee County have traditionally been well below state and regional averages, often to the point where employers report having difficulty getting needed workers to their job sites.
That was just one of the issues raised last fall when county business, nonprofit and government leaders met to address local transportation challenges.
It was from that gathering that the Ozaukee County Transportation Initiative was formed.
In order to provide meaningful statistical information to the new group, Ozaukee Economic Development is guiding a countywide survey of business leaders on the transportation needs of the local workforce.
Ozaukee Economic Development Executive Director Kathleen Cady Schilling said that during those preliminary discussions last fall, it became clear the existing public transit options are not fully meeting the needs of the business community.
Cady Schilling said the Shared Ride Taxi, for example, may be adequate to meet the needs of the elderly or poor.
However, she said several business leaders questioned whether it is sufficient to get workers to and from employment on a recurring basis.
“The goal of the survey is to try and determine what is actually going on in the county and what the best options are,” Cady Schilling said.
“It makes no sense to rush in with a solution until we know what the concerns are. We want to know what the business community really wants. I think our business owners will be able to come up with solutions that make sense to them.”
The introduction to the survey explains that the initiative “is a community-based organization comprised of key stakeholders including concerned citizens, local businesses, health-care providers, nonprofit organizations and government leaders.
“Our goal is to enhance current transportation options and to deliver high quality, timely, reliable and seamless transportation solutions that connect people within Ozaukee and neighboring counties.”
The 17 question survey is available at http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07ebyxi1rwii0sc9dn/_tmp/questions, and online responses will be accepted through Friday, Feb. 19.
The survey includes several employer-focused questions intended to gauge the importance of public transportation in the local labor market.
Aside from a variety of identifier questions, most of the survey focuses on current and potential future use of local public transportation services.
The first three questions are an attempt to quantify that issue: How many of your current employees use public transportation to get to work? How many of your open positions do you believe you could fill if public transportation between Milwaukee County and Ozaukee County was enhanced and available? How many more of your open positions do you believe you could fill if public transportation within Ozaukee County was enhanced and available?
An extended section of the survey looks at the current use of the county’s Shared Ride Taxi and the potential impact if that service was expanded.
Another section of the survey delves into current and possible future use of the Ozaukee County Express, the two-way bus service that provides rides between Ozaukee and Milwaukee counties.
The preface to that section of questions explains, “There are five trips into Milwaukee each weekday from the Port Washington and Saukville park-and-ride lots, and 10 trips from the Grafton lots and all other designated stops south of there. Eight evening return trips leave downtown Milwaukee each weekday as well as several morning trips aimed at getting workers to Ozaukee County.”
In addition to asking business leaders about their employees’ use of the bus service, the survey asks what level of financial support — if any — the company would be willing to offer for a pilot expansion of the Ozaukee County Express program.
The initiative has suggested it will require an additional $50,000 in private funding to support an expanded shuttle service to and from businesses and the park-and-ride lots within the I-43 corridor using the shared taxi service.
The final section of the survey asks about business owners’ willingness to become involved in the initiative.
Although similar questionnaires have circulated in the past, organizers hope that all local employers will take part in the current, extended survey to generate the most accurate numbers possible.
“If we get a low response, that in itself will tell us a lot about the level of concern in the business community,” Cady Schilling said.
For more information about the survey or transportation initiative, contact Cady Schilling at 238-7730 or
A more general transportation survey is also available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/ozaukeetransportation.
Photo Credit: THE OZAUKEE EXPRESS bus operated by the Milwaukee County Transit System links the Milwaukee area workforce with employment opportunities in Ozaukee County. The bus is shown waiting for riders in the park-and-ride lot on Port Washington’s north side. Photo by Mark Jaeger