By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Bus lines 6 and 61, better known as the JobLines, were created in 2014 specifically to transport people to their places of employment. The lines drop people off in places like New Berlin’s industrial area and Menomonee Fall’s business district, with a reported 1,000 people using the bus daily.
But soon, bus lines 6 and 61 won’t be waiting for anyone, because if enough donations aren’t raised both lines will cease to exist.
These routes came about as the result of a settlement between the Wisconsin and U.S. Departments of Transportation, the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW) and Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH), according to JobLines. Nearly four years later, it’s up to BHCW and MICAH to rally the community and save the JobLines.
Currently, there is enough funding for the routes to ensure they’ll remain until the end of this year, but Reverend Marilyn Miller, president of MICAH, and Jim Addison, president and CEO of BHCW, are working hard to ensure the routes stay beyond that.
Both MICAh and BHCW have been in existence for 30 years. Miller first became involved with MICAH through her parish and is in her third year as president.
“It’s just something I have to do,” she said.
Addison, on the other hand, worked as program coordinator at BHCW for 19 years before succeeding the role of president upon Patricia McManus’s transition to Milwaukee Health Commissioner. Together, MICAH and BHCW have combined their energies to not only create the JobLines but now to save them.
So far, their efforts include a petition, which can be signed here, http://bit.ly/SaveOurJobLines and a rally known as “The Jobs Are On The Line,” scheduled for May 19 at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society.
According to Addison, the petition allows for residents to, “give voice in an official capacity.” It currently has 573 signatures and counting. The rally will feature keynote speaker, Chris Gardner in addition to several others, the opportunity to sign the petition, as well as engage with other community members.
While the main goal of each is to bring awareness that the lines are ending, Miller stressed the importance of the second goal. She hopes that the rally allows the community to gather and celebrate what’s been achieved so far. Furthermore, she said, rallies encourage residents to organize instead of complaining and to take affirmative action on issues that matter to them.
Although an alternative solution hasn’t been found yet, Miller and Addison are hoping the rally can help with that.
“[We] need to have viable alternatives,” Miller said. “How do we transform the transportation system?”
This bus route, Miller stated gives residents the freedom and liberty to do not only what they need to do but what they want to do. The bus transports people to their jobs, appointments, relatives, school and more.
Addison noted progress could be made if employers whose workers utilize the bus lines and elected officials offered verbal support.
“This is an important conversation,” he said. “It’s important to our state and the growth of our state.”
Miller expressed her hope that the rally starts helping people to connect the dots, that it’s about more than maintaining the bus lines, it’s about community, health, employment and equity.
“We got to go bigger, not smaller,” she said. “We can’t afford to keep doing this.”
With the rally scheduled for next month, Miller and Addison ask residents to get involved and prepare their next move in terms of finding a job or an alternative solution.