Laketran Budget Restores Final Service Cut

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As promised, Laketran’s Board of Trustees has steadily restored the service cuts of 2009 that occurred in response to the economic recession’s dramatic decrease in Laketran’s local sales tax revenue and the uncertainty of future state and federal funding.

Laketran developed a strategy in early 2009 by implementing a Financial Recovery Plan to offset projected operating deficits. That plan focused on two significant tactics:

  • Reducing and containing operating costs: Laketran froze salaries and wages, reduced the size of the workforce, engaged in creative and innovative ways to purchase fuel and contain insurance and healthcare cost by participating in larger groups to achieve economies of scale, and cut 11% of service.
  • Developing new, non-traditional revenue streams: Since 2009, Laketran has secured 15 new revenues streams by becoming a state Medicaid provider and securing federal grants. Of the new revenue streams, four have been one-time revenue streams while others have been developed on an annual, recurring basis.

Because of the Financial Recovery Plan, Laketran has been able to stabilize fares and restore vital services in the following order:

  • January 2010: Canceled the proposed 2010 fare increase. Fares have remained stable for eight years (2009-2016)
  • November 2010: Restored Local Bus Route and Dial-a-Ride weeknight service from 7 – 8 p.m.
  • November 2011: Restored later weeknight and Saturday Local Bus Route and Dial-a-Ride service for the holiday season to help riders access full and part-time jobs and local shopping for the five consecutive years
  • November 2012: Restored service on Veterans Day for Local Bus Route, Dial-a-Ride, and Park-n-Ride services
  • January 2015: Restored Saturday Dial-a-Ride service for seniors and people with disabilities through mid-2017 with a competitive federal grant.
  • May 2015: Restored Saturday Local Bus Route services through 2017 with fuel savings secured by a fixed price diesel fuel contract

Laketran’s Board of Trustees’ approval of the 2016 operating budget restores the final critical service cut from 2009. With a balanced operating budget of $14.4 million for operations and a $4.3 million capital improves that does not require a fare increase; Laketran will restore service on three federal holidays including Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, and Columbus Day for Local Bus Routes, Dial-a-Ride and Park-n-Ride services.

There are two major groups of riders who will directly benefit from these restored days of service – workers and college students. Over 98 percent of our Park-n-Ride riders are commuting to work in Cleveland and many private offices are open on these federal holidays. Lakeland Community College students, which make up almost 20 percent of Laketran’s Local Bus Route riders, who attend classes when President’s Day is officially observed.

“We are very pleased that our Financial Recovery Plan has allowed Laketran to bring back many vital services for the residents of Lake County that depend on public transit to access to work, shopping, health care, and higher education,” said Laketran General Manager Raymond Jurkowski.

While the strategies that have been employed over the last seven years have been successful in restoring service cut in 2009, they are not a substitute for providing the level of funding needed to meet the increasing demand for additional public transportation. Only a well-funded long term transportation bill passed by Congress and a dedicated source of revenue for state funding will provide Laketran with the necessary financial resources to respond to the increasing needs for additional service.

Gabe Arnold
Author: Gabe Arnold