Early & On Budget: Laketran receives 10 new coach buses

By Chad Felton |The News-Herald 

Laketran announced the arrival of a fleet of Motor Coach Industries buses for its Park-n-Ride service three months ahead of the original anticipated date of July 1 at its March 28 board of trustees meeting.

The 40-foot coach buses, purchased from MCI International in Des Plaines, Ill., replace buses from 1998.

The new buses are 80 percent federally funded with Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grants and 20 percent with local matching funds through Laketran’s 0.25-percent local sales tax revenue. In 2015, Laketran awarded a contract to MCI for a price of $6,119,210 for the 10 buses. The transit agency expects the new buses to be on the road by late spring.

Laketran’s General Manager Ray Jurkowski said the agency is excited to put the finishing touches on its new additions.

“It’s exciting. Now that they have arrived, we must finish multiple internal inspections of the buses and then transfer our fareboxes, rangers and radios to the new buses before we can put them into operation,” he said.

The coach vehicles provide 175,000 annual commuter express trips to and from Cleveland. The weekday service operates 18 daily departures from nine Park-n-Ride locations connecting Lake County and downtown Cleveland.

Julia Schick, Laketran’s director of communications and marketing, said the transit agency has also secured funding to purchase four additional MCI coach buses to replace the remainder of the 1998 fleet.

“Two buses will be funded by CMAQ grants through the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency , with the final two through the Ohio EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant program, which is funded through the Ohio Department of Transportation. Both grants fund air quality improvements projects,” she said.

Laketran’s Operations Manager Ben Capelle said the new buses include features that will make them much more friendly and accessible for riders with disabilities.

“LED signage displays destinations better and annunciator systems digitally announce when the doors open with prerecorded identifying routes, stops and pick-up points. Transfer information for connections to RTA buses will also be available,” he said.

“All buses are equipped with bicycle racks and seatbelts. Though not mandated, the seatbelts were installed now as opposed to an expensive retrofitting,” Capelle added.

Other features include on-board security cameras, automatic vehicle locators with mobile data terminals, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, blood born pathogen kits, a wheelchair lift and space to accommodate two wheelchairs.

Jurkowski said the new buses will also be used in the Bus on Shoulder Program, which authorizes coaches to bypass highway lanes on designated routes at 35 mph when motorists slow to less than 30 mph.

“With new buses come new benefits. We hope people in bumper-to-bumper traffic will see our buses driving by and say to themselves, ‘I should be on that bus.’”

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