Milwaukee County Transit System Managing Director Lloyd Grant says his story starts with his parents.
In the 1940s his parents moved from a farming community in the South to Milwaukee, Wis. They raised nine kids in poverty and with respect for discipline, education, hard work, community and family.
They started a dry-cleaning business in Milwaukee with about $26 and ran it for about 38 years before they retired. Grant says he helped his parents operate the business until he went off to college. “I think that experience gave me an advantage of working with the community, understanding the importance of good customer service … and in the importance of giving back to the community.”
After college Grant applied for a position at MCTS and was hired as an administrative assistant. The opportunity afforded a big-picture perspective working with both internal and external customers and he continued to move around the organization in all areas, getting to know the people, learning the processes, policies and procedures.
He’s been a part of the transit system for just more than 28 years in various capacities, including manager of equipment engineering, director of labor relations, equal employment opportunity officer and disadvantaged enterprise officer.
“What I found out after I became a member of the MCTS family is that people actually come here and grow roots; they stay and they don’t go away,” he says. “There are many employees that have 30, 35 years of service with the organization which I think is something rare to find in our community.
“One of the things that I really enjoy about running the transit system here in Milwaukee is that it’s my hometown. It’s a way to give back to the community.”
Milwaukee Transport Services Inc. is a not-for-profit organization contracted by Milwaukee County to manage the transit system and that partnership has been in place for 38 years now. In 1975 the private company that owned the transit was going out of business and the county purchased the system and set up the organization to continue that service.
“Our responsibility is the direct management of the day-to-day, directing the management and operation of the system and Milwaukee County provides the financial resources to operate the system,” Grant says. Milwaukee County also makes the transportation policy and owns the physical assets. “What we bring as a contractor is a workforce. We bring the expertise to the table.”
The Milwaukee County Board is an elected board of 18 county supervisors and within the board, transit reports to the Transportation Public Works and Transit Committee. “Our role is to operate the system, but the county sets policy,” Grant says.
Funding for the system is comprised of nearly half from state funds, nearly 30 percent farebox, 13 percent from federal funds and 10 percent local funds. MCTS Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Jacqueline Janz says, “Locally, people don’t understand how high our recovery rate is.”
Grant says, “Funding is directly related to the amount of service that we can deliver in a given time.” He states, “The financial health of the system has, in fact, been declining.
“Over the last decade we have cut 20 percent of our service and fares were increased … to the tune of over 50 percent. That was necessary because of funding difficulties the system has been experiencing.
“We’ve become even more cost-effective. We’ve certainly downsized quite a bit so we run very efficient. That’s something we really take a lot of pride in doing.”
MCTS continues to rely on a property tax as a source of funding, as opposed to some form of dedicated funding.
In 2011, the system faced an unexpected challenge of a 10 percent cut in state aid. “We continue to feel the effects of that today,” says Grant. “And will for some years to come, although we are hopeful that funding will be restored whether it be in the state biannual budget or through legislation.