Laketran has started to introduce passenger vans into its Dial-a-Ride fleet as another way make the service more efficient as it combats the cost of growing ridership.
Dial-a-Ride ridership has been rapidly increasing since 2015 and Laketran first took action by transitioning its Dial-a-Ride buses to propane in 2017 to reduce fuel costs and next reviewed its vehicle types.
“As ridership has increased, the needs have varied between ambulatory customers and those who use wheelchairs, so spent the past year evaluating different vans so we could introduce a smaller vehicle into our fleet,” explained Laketran CEO Ben Capelle.
Laketran added eight of the new Ford Transit passenger vans through the agency’s vehicle replacement program. The vans seat five passengers without wheelchairs.
“We’re always researching smaller vehicle types to make service more efficient,” shared board president Brian Falkowski. “The recent release of the Ford Transit chassis had provided us with more options that didn’t exist a few years ago.”
“The vans are about as small as we can get and still comply with federal regulations,” shared Capelle. “All of our vehicles must be ADA accessible and accommodate two wheelchairs.”
The Transit van is equipped a rear-mounted lift that exits from the rear doors van, which is another first for the agency.
“There are benefits and challenges when diversifying your fleet. The smaller vans cannot accommodate larger wheelchairs and scooters, but are beneficial when you are picking up someone with a narrow driveway and now you have rear lift, instead a deploying a side lift into the grass or snow,” shared Capelle on the decision. “There will be some additional steps in scheduling our 1,100 daily riders to make sure each driver has the right vehicle to best serve each customer.”
Laketran will immediately see the cost savings.
“The gasoline powered transit vans cost about half of a traditional Dial-a-Ride bus. And because there’s very few modification to the vehicle, the maintenance costs of the vans will be cheaper as well,” said Capelle.
When boarding the bus, customers will first realize there is no fare box on-board the new vans, but that was intentional.
Laketran is beginning to transition its Dial-a-Ride service to a pre-pay structure where the passenger fare is paid when scheduling a reservation.
“Fare boxes cost over $10,000 each and require a lot of maintenance. If we can eliminate them, that is another cost saving to the agency,” said Capelle.