Laketran CEO learns realities of relying on transit

Laketran CEO, Ben Capelle relocated to Lake County when he was promoted to lead the Lake County public transit agency in 2017. While Capelle is a veteran transit rider when traveling around the region, it is usually been by choice.

This summer a construction accident at his home left him with a severely broken leg and unable to drive for over two months, becoming completely reliant on public transportation.

“I am 37 and live alone. When I first heard I would be unable to drive for two months, my first thought was I will have to rely on Dial-a-Ride and was thankful to live in Lake County. If I still lived in Cleveland, there would have been no way for me to get to work and I would have been isolated in my home for over two months,” shared Capelle who had moved from Cuyahoga County to be closer to work.

“All of my friends and family work and could help out with an occasional trip, but there was no one to help me get around every day.”

For the first two month of Capelle’s recovery, he was completely reliant on Dial-a-Ride.

Dial-a-Ride is Laketran’s door-to-door service primarily used by seniors and people with disabilities, but is available to the general public, which is unique to Lake County.  Most transit systems restrict paratransit service eligibility to people with disabilities and in some communities is not even available to seniors.

“I am a perfect example as to why it’s important we provide Dial-a-Ride to everyone. You never know when you’re going to need it, and everyone deserves to be able to get around their community – to get to work, doctors, or wherever they need to go.”

“I’ve always been very proud of the services we provide to Lake County,” shared Capelle. “But truly relying on the service adds a new perspective. In many communities, I would have been unable to continue working during my recovery, because at 37 year old and not being permanently disabled, I would not qualify for Dial-a-Ride services they way services are typically offered by other transit systems. Because Laketran provides Dial-a-Ride access to the general public, I was able to continue working through my recovery.”

Capelle also took this opportunity to see how our service affects customers’ daily lives.

“I immediately told the Laketran employees that I wanted no special treatment and I will book my rides and pay a fare just like every other customer.”

“It wasn’t quite “Undercover Boss” but I definitely learned a lot about our service, when using it first hand,” shared Capelle.

“I’ve worked for many transit systems, both public and private providers, and I can confidently say Laketran has the most professional and caring drivers in Ohio.”

“The interaction I had with customers was time well spent. Almost everyone on board I talked to was completely dependent on Laketran to get around because they do not drive so they use Laketran to do their shopping, get to work or doctors.  Many customers shared how they get tired relying on friends and family to get them around and riding Laketran gave them more options and independence.”

“But there were some challenges too. Laketran prioritizes medical and work trips, so I had to try five times to find a bus available to get my hair cut and it took nearly a month.”

“I know we’re operating beyond our capacity and there were times I had to get picked up an hour before I had to get to work or it took that long to get home, so I learned how to wait and fill some downtime.”

Customers shared similar stories.

“Our Dial-a-Ride ridership has grown 18% over the past four years. With the growth of our aging population here in Lake County, we do not see it slowing down anytime soon. And that’s what our upcoming levy is going to fix.”

“I was able to be part of our test group for our new Request-a-Ride website which is one of the ways we’re trying to get the service to be more efficient. Dial-a-Ride customers can now schedule or cancel Dial-a-Ride reservations online and pay for their trips at the same time. Plus, you can now see your bus on a real-time map when it’s on its way to pick you up.”

“I’ve been in the industry for 18 years and never thought I was going to be someone completely dependent on a bus to get me where I need to go. You just never know. One incident can change your life and it can happen at any time to anyone – and while not everyone uses Laketran every day, I hope people understand that it’s important to be there when you do need it.”