Mobile application for on-demand job-based micro-transit in Milwaukee, WI

The Idea

This project tested a pilot of on-demand microtransit service that aims to connect workers living in segregated, majority-Black neighborhoods in Milwaukee with jobs in suburban employment centers. The pilot adopts a user-centered approach by which potential users design and evaluate this new mobility service. Implementation and evaluation of the pilot can inform whether user-centered service design and delivery can overcome institutional, multi-jurisdictional coordination barriers and solve persistent spatial mismatches which deter marginalized population groups from accessing jobs.

The Challenge

Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. It does not have a regional transit authority, and as a result many community members in underserved neighborhoods have difficulty commuting to jobs across county lines. Bus lines end miles away from employers, and in many cases those last miles are without sidewalks. Employment opportunities for residents are limited by these constraints, and local businesses struggle to hire and retain employees who lack car access. As Milwaukee strives to reverse a long period of population decline and grow to surpass one million, the community needs reliable access to jobs.

The Team

This project built two types of critical relationships to launch and sustain the FlexRide Milwaukee service. Both types were managed by the civic partner, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC).


Project Lead:

Bob Schneider,

Service Info:
(414) 667-7433

First, the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee team developed a Civic Mobility Coalition to maintain key partnerships and sustain relationships throughout the pilot project. SEWRPC helped invite partners to join this group and led monthly meetings to keep these groups informed about the service and key performance metrics. Key members of the FlexRide Milwaukee Civic Mobility Coalition included:

  • Employ Milwaukee (Workforce Development Board of Milwaukee County)
  • Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board
  • Waukesha County Business Alliance
  • Waukesha County Center for Growth
  • Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board
  • Milwaukee County Transit System
  • MobiliSE

Other Milwaukee neighborhood community organizations were also crucial for sharing information about FLexRide Milwaukee with labor force participants. These included:

  • Silver Spring Neighborhood Center
  • (More to come)

Second, SEWPC hired Via, a micro-transit operating company, to develop and run the FlexRide Milwaukee service. SEWRPC worked with Via to establish and refine the service model (i.e. schedule of operation, cost per trip, service zone areas, where pick-up and drop-off would be allowed at the beginning and ends of trips, etc.). Throughout the pilot study, SEWRPC provdied critical oversight of Via. This oversight monitored:

  • Ride requests that were not fulfilled (requests receiving a “Seat Unavailable” message)
  • Via vehicle supply relative to rider demand
  • Via driver reliability
  • Rider feedback
  • Raw data about ride origins and destinations, ride time of day, ride duration, ride cost
  • Via invoices and payments

The Approach

How it works:

You can travel between Zone 1 or Zone 2 and the Employment Zone. Depending on where you’re traveling to or from, rides are free or $1.50 each:

  • Ride between Zone 1 (green) and the Employment Zone for free.

  • Ride between Zone 2 (yellow) and the Employment Zone for just $1.50 per trip.

Payment Methods

You can pay by adding a credit or debit card to your account, or by purchasing vouchers with cash at these locations.

Service Hours

Weekdays 4:30 am-11:30 pm


Wheelchair accessible vehicle available upon request

Questions on how to use the service?

Check out the answers to most frequently asked questions here.

The Impact

To date, FlexRide has served over 50 business and over 100 unique riders. Based on consistent growth in ridership and a drastic reduction in cost per ride, FlexRide received $4.2 million from the Governor as part of the Wisconsin Workforce Innovation grant program. The partners on this project, through their collaboration, have paved the way for future joint efforts, and a tone of mobility innovation has been set in Milwaukee.

When asked about the biggest impacts of this project, the FlexRide partners listed the following:

  • [# of riders] are able to get to work
  • [y # of employers] got their employees to work
  • People were unemployed who now have access to jobs
  • Area covered by public transportation options increased
  • New mode of transportation now viable in this region
  • Outside cities can look at this as an example
  • Both sides of the aisle can come together on something (community aligned toward common goal)
  • Necessary partnerships coming together to think about partners
  • Social impact, addressing Milwaukee’s racial divide: 80-90% of riders are people of color. This sends a message that this community is receiving investment
  • Ideas out of the box (what was an otherwise risky investment. The grant allowed for innovation
  • 4.2 million grant
  • [x # of media messages] which were mostly positive
  • Collected data from 150 participants

FlexRide has seen continuous improvement in ridership numbers throughout their pilot period.

Wisconsin Governor announced $4.2 million to support expansion of FlexRide Milwaukee