“There are a lot of people who exert a great amount of effort and time to get to a job that by car would take 15 minutes,” said Dave Steele, executive director of Regional Transit Leadership Council (RTLC). “We want to create an environment where you don’t need a car to get to work.”
In 2020, RTLC was one of three local programs that received grants through United Way’s Reducing Barriers initiative.
“The long-term goal of RTLC is to develop a system in which non-traditional mobility options, such as on-demand rideshare and van services, move people across long distances more rapidly and reliably than traditional transit alone,” said Dave.
Transportation has been identified as a major barrier to employment, one that disproportionally impacts African Americans living in Milwaukee. Many well-paying jobs are located outside of Milwaukee County and, without a car, can be difficult - if not impossible - to access.
“Within the city of Milwaukee, the bus system really knocks it out of the park. We actually have one of the highest-performing transit systems in the US,” said Dave. “However, it can be very difficult to use public transportation to access jobs located across county lines.”
Dave uses his bike to get to work but acknowledges that, as a White man, he does not experience some of the stigmas that a Black man in his position may experience. “I’ve never had anyone ask where I got my bike, accuse me of stealing it, or assume I just can’t afford a car or have a DUI.”
Car ownership is also not a realistic option for everyone. AAA estimates that a car costs $7500 per year on average to maintain. The Milwaukee median income is $35,000 per year.
“Through our research, we’ve seen other communities where owning a car is optional,” said Dave. “That’s community development because that means more money in your pocket.”
Collaboration is the cornerstone of RTLC. “We are creating a space where rideshare companies, public transit, funders, and service providers can come together to find innovative solutions to this issue, like developing an on-demand shuttle service you can request via smartphone app,” said Dave. “Collaboration and innovation are our long-term vision.”
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