Laketran secured one of the six limited Ohio EPA Diesel Emission Reduction Grants (DERG). Laketran was the only small transit system in the state to be a recipient.
The DERG program aims to replace public transit vehicles that are operating beyond their useful life to improve air quality, while addressing needs identified in the ODOT Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study.
“There is a backlog of 900 urban transit vehicles that are operating past their useful life throughout the state,” shared Laketran general manager Ben Capelle. “We purchased 14 coaches in 2016, but have been looking for grant opportunities to replace the remaining six buses of our 13 year old fleet.” Knowing capital funding is becoming more competitive, Laketran reduced its Park-n-Ride fleet needs from 22 coach buses to 20 by restructuring the commuter routes to Cleveland reducing the number of Park-n-Ride routes from five to four, while maintaining the service hours to customers and achieving an eight percent ridership growth in 2016.
“By creating more efficient routes, we are able to reduce the amount of buses we need to purchase and operate, ultimately lowering the emissions and cost to run the service,” explained Capelle. “Replacing the final six coaches will mean our fleet is operating the cleanest diesel engines on the market.” The DERG grants were allocated by cost effectiveness of the estimated emission reductions. Laketran was awarded $1.9 million for the replacement of four heavy duty, 40 foot diesel-powered coach buses that provide Laketran’s Park-n-Ride service. Park-n-Ride provides 160,000 annual commuter trips to and from Cleveland on four routes from nine Park-n-Ride locations throughout Lake County.
“Federal funding for our capital projects has really become a gradual process, piecing grants together one at a time. There’s no one funding source anymore. Finding new funding partners like Ohio EPA allows us to maintain a reliable and clean fleet we want to put on the streets of Lake County,” said board president Brian Falkowski. “I’m very proud of our management team for aggressively seeking new funding sources.”
The DERG program is supported with federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) dollars awarded by the Federal Highway Administration to ODOT. The new coach buses will be 80 percent federally funded with Laketran providing a 20 percent local match. With the DERG award, Laketran has now secured funding to purchase the remaining six buses to completely replace its 2004 fleet, which are retiring with nearly 300,000 miles each.
In 2015, Laketran awarded a five year procurement contract to Des Plains, Illinois-based, Motor Coach Industries (MCI) for a price of $611,921 per coach. The MCI coach buses feature the latest technology to comply with the most recent emission standards and a new engine and transmission to deliver better fuel efficiency. The coaches seat 49 in high-back, reclining seats with plenty of legroom. With two exterior bike racks, the coaches also are equipped with a wheelchair lift, seat-belts, overhead storage compartments, electronic fare boxes, and on-board security cameras.
To increase efficiencies in operations and enhance the transit experience for customers, Laketran buses operate a transit software that integrates GPS data and route information allowing buses to be tracked in real-time. Dispatchers and drivers use the data feed to maintain on-time performance, while the software integrates with LED destinations signs, on-board bus stop annunciators, and Laketran’s mobile APP to allow customers track their buses in real-time and receive alerts if buses are running delayed.
“You can see across the transportation industry, technology is driving vehicle improvements and the customer experience,” shared Falkowski. “We’ve been focused on how to improve the trip planning and rider experience with technology this past year. Next year, our focus will be making fare c collection simpler for riders with a mobile application option.”
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