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Removing the Transportation Barrier to Workforce Development

A solution designed to bridge mobility gaps, allowing entry level workers to acquire and maintain long-term, sustainable employment

Photo of Steve Hartman
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Despite the growing popularity and accessibility of public transportation and rideshares, substantial gaps exist in the current transportation ecosystem. Gaps in public transportation and paratransit disproportionately impact seniors, persons with disabilities, and those who seek employment not located on public transportation bus routes. 

Wheels to Work is an innovative, fully-accessible and sustainable micro-transit solution that provides an alternative means of transportation for those for whom personal or public transportation is not available. Operating on all three shifts this solution offers an affordable option to the user with a unique cost-share between the employer and the employee. Rider fares are managed through a payroll deduction plan, and employers have liberty to determine the level and length of investment in their employees. All participating employers bear the full cost of the program until the employee receives their first paycheck. Some employers, recognizing the substantial return on investment, choose to pay the full cost of transportation to reduce absenteeism, tardiness and turnover.

Where ridership density exists, employees are aggregated and picked up at community hubs (never more than ½ mile from their home) and taken directly to work. In the absence of density, riders are provided curb-to-curb service. The return ride home operates in the same fashion. Riders with mobility issues are provided door-to-door service.

Hope Network provides the single point of contact for users and provides employee education for participating employers through its website, print media, and on-site information sessions.

Currently providing 9,000 monthly trips to over 30 local participating companies, we believe the program has proven its value and effectiveness and is ready to scale.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Wheels to Work is designed to be used by people of all abilities and all ages who are looking for an opportunity to find and sustain employment. We currently serve over a thousand unduplicated riders. 46% of these riders live in the 49503 and 49507 zip codes and are accessing job opportunities outside of the Rapid’s current service area or times. Twenty-one percent of current riders identify as English as a second language, and 64% of the ridership indicate that they do not own their own vehicle, have no other means of transportation, and could not maintain their current employment without the service. Employers benefit from this service as Wheels to Work creates a pipeline of otherwise inaccessible talent and supports economic development within our community.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Ready to Scale - you have completed and expanded your pilot and are seeing adoption of your solution by your intended user

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Hope Network is a nonprofit organization providing a statewide continuum of services for those with disabilities, behavioral health conditions, neurological injuries, and barriers to employment. A key component of this continuum is Hope Network Transportation Services (HNTS). For nearly six decades, HNTS has provided transportation to persons experiencing barriers to independence, including persons with disabilities, seniors and veterans.

Size of your team or organization

  • 11-50

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

As our program continues to gain strength in the community, we desire to extend the reach and opportunity for our riders and employers by developing two strategies: First, is developing regional connections to employment opportunities. We have received many inquiries from employers in Holland, Zeeland, Muskegon and Barry County, for example, who are interested in accessing the labor market in the Grand Rapids Metro area. Conversely, riders in those same geographies have expressed interest in working for Grand Rapids based companies. We would select an expansion site to bridge those gaps and conduct an experiment and analysis to support the expansion of these regional connections. Secondly, we are interested in exploring opportunities to create connections to existing public transportation assets. We believe we can maximize our impact and use our resources efficiently by developing first mile/last mile connections with our public transit provider where those connections work.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Utilizing our sophisticated scheduling and dispatch systems and CAD/AVL we live in a data rich environment. We are able to create geographic and demographic profiles on our ridership, determine patterns of use and look for efficiencies within the system. We would measure success by the growth in ridership, increased accessibility for our users, employer and rider satisfaction with the service, and the percentage of the ridership able to maintain employment. Forty-five percent of our current ridership intends to utilize Wheels to Work as their primary source of transportation to work for the duration. Others, with the independence provided by steady employment, will purchase an automobile or secure other means of transportation. Finally, we would work with participating companies to try to determine the return on investment and value add to their operations.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Chad Gainor

like SPLT?

Photo of Steve Hartman

No our service is different in that we work directly with employers. Riders do ride-share but they must be employed by one of our participating employers.


Photo of Chad Gainor

No I mean "Like SPLT."

Google SPLT for a good example of how this sort of thing works.

SPLT was just acquired by Bosch.

Photo of Steve Hartman

I'm familiar with SPLT the ridesharing/carpooling service. We operate on different principles and the service is not currently available through an APP. Riders sign up for the service with their employer. An APP is currently under development but will not be ready for at least another 6 months.

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