Growing Dial-a-Ride demand for seniors drives need for Laketran levy

Laketran’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution proposing a new one-quarter of one percent local sales tax levy. A resolution will be filed with Lake County Board of Elections for the general election this November.

Laketran has continued to operate prudently on a one-quarter of one percent sales tax levy since 1988 and has consistently earned the support of the community with successful renewals over the past 30 years.

The need for additional funding is prompted by the growing demand for Dial-a-Ride service that provides door-to-door assisted transportation for seniors and people with disabilities in Lake County.

Laketran’s Dial-a-Ride demand has continued to grow alongside Lake County’s aging population.

“We have seen an 18 percent increase in Dial-a-Ride ridership since 2015 and anticipate it will continue to grow as the Baby Boomer generation ages,” explained Laketran CEO Ben Capelle. “The current demand for service exceeds our capacity by over 50,000 annual trips which is nearly 20 percent of our Dial-a-Ride operation.”

According to a 2015 Lake County Senior Citizens study, nearly 25 percent of Lake County’s population is 60 years and older.  By 2030, one of three Lake County residents will be 60 years and older, with most of the growth after 2020 in the cohort 75 years and older.

“The “silver tsunami” has already arrived in Lake County and we’re seeing the impact of it,” shared Capelle. “There are new senior and assisted living homes being built in almost every community across Lake County and that creates more demand to transport seniors to medical appointments.”

Specifically, Dial-a-Ride trips to medical appointments have risen by over 50 percent and work trips by 21 percent over the past five years.

“We are also transporting more and more seniors and people with disabilities to work,” continued Capelle.

To reduce expenses, Laketran transitioned its Dial-a-Ride fleet from diesel to propane resulting in a 35 percent fuel savings and is now replacing buses with accessible vans. In 2017, Laketran joined a healthcare consortium saving over $250,000 annually in healthcare expenses. Laketran has also secured nearly $1.5 million in contract revenue to sustain Dial-a-Ride service.

Laketran’s overall ridership has grown to over 750,000 annual passenger trips and over 60 percent of those trips are taking people to jobs.

The sales tax levy will allow Laketran to meet the growing demand of Dial-a-Ride as well as expand service along some of Lake County’s largest job corridors.

By changing route alignments earlier this year, Laketran was able to begin service along Tyler Boulevard in Mentor to improve job access, at no additional cost to the taxpayers, but the service is limited to six trips a day serving first shift employees which hinders new hires who often start on second or third shifts.

The increase in sales tax amounts to paying 25 cents on a $100 purchase of taxable goods in Lake County.

Laketran is using cash reserves to balance its 2019 budget to maintain services but without additional revenue, Laketran will have to make large cuts in service, including more than 30 percent of its Dial-a-Ride service.

“Sales tax revenue is Laketran’s only sustainable source of revenue and makes up 60 percent of our operating budget,” explained Laketran board president Brian Falkowski. “Coming back to the community for new money was not a decision we took lightly, but we are the only agency I know of in Lake County operating off its original levy and we’ve stretched that revenue for over 30 years.”

“To preserve our Dial-a-Ride service, we need that same support our community has provided over the past 30 years,” continued Falkowski. “We’re expecting the demand for Dial-a-Ride to grow for a few decades and this levy guarantees there will continue to be transportation options for seniors.”