Laketran launches new service between Cleveland, Lake County

Laketran launches new transit service to spur workforce development between Cleveland and Lake County

By Chad Felton | The News-Herald

After years of planning, Laketran has officially launched transit service along Lake County’s largest manufacturing corridor, adding to the connectivity its Park-n-Ride service provides between Lake County and downtown Cleveland.

The agency transports 700 commuters between Lake County and their downtown Cleveland jobs daily. More recently, the regional transit system has seen Cleveland residents and those as far as Middleburg Heights, using the Park-n-Ride service to commute eastbound into Lake County.

“Typical commuter Park-n-Ride service is only productive in one direction, but as downtown Cleveland increases in population it becomes more and more important for suburban employers
to have access to that labor pool,” said Laketran CEO Ben Capelle. “I hope that what we’ve done with our Park-n-Ride service opens new opportunities to our local employers and job seekers in

According to a news release, Tyler Boulevard in Mentor is the major arterial connecting 10 industrial boulevards lined with over 300 employers and 7,500 jobs, making it the seventh largest concentration of manufacturing companies in the state.

Last year, working with Mentor and other regional economic development stakeholders, Laketran surveyed local manufacturers and staffing agencies to better understand the transportation needs of current and potential employees.

“The need for public transit service along Tyler Boulevard to help recruit and retain employees is something we’ve heard for a long time from the employers, staffing agencies and even social service organizations trying to help people get back to work,” Capelle said. “Our evaluations confirmed the need for service and we modeled several different options.”

To serve the corridor and reach job seekers in both Lake and Cuyahoga counties, Laketran developed a solution by adding additional bus stops to two Park-n-Ride routes when traveling to and from Cleveland, the release stated.

“The routes will use Tyler Boulevard as they travel to and from Cleveland,” Capelle said. “We were able to change the times outside the main service, so it will not affect our existing customers, but it will allow job seekers in Cleveland to catch a Laketran bus in Cleveland with a direct trip to Tyler Boulevard. Lake County residents will be able to transfer from our route buses along state Route 306 to access the new service. “It is not a perfect solution, but it is one we can implement with very little impact on our budget,”
he added. “The best option is traditional fixed route service, but unfortunately with the significant revenue cuts from the state and the overwhelming growth of our Dial-a-Ride service, we cannot afford to operate a true fixed route with hourly service.”

Currently, there are 11 stops on each side of Tyler. The goal, the system confirmed, is to have stops every quarter of a mile to serve all the businesses along the corridor.

Mentor City Manager Kenneth J. Filipiak said Laketran is a valued partner who recognizes that public resources are best put to use when advancing the economic development goals of the community.

“This is a good step in the right direction as we continue to find ways to resolve one of the primary obstacles facing our business community — the need to recruit qualified employees,” Filipiak said.

The new service began Jan. 28 and provides six morning and afternoon trips that best serve first shift workers.

One of those workers is Cleveland resident Bri’anna Cooper, who works at Mill-Rose Co. and loves the ease of her commute. “On my first day, I put in the address in Google Maps and it told me what I needed to catch to get
here,” she said. “I didn’t even know about this (Tyler) route being new, but it’s great. Everybody’s nice, the drivers are great and the buses are kept clean. There have been no issues.”

Jill Grauel, human resources representative for Mill-Rose, also sees the importance of the new routes and believes they will increase awareness.

“By in large, a lot of the issues people have are that they can’t get to work,” she said. “And, also, if you don’t live right here, you don’t drive down Tyler and you don’t know there are jobs available. There are bus stops all along (Route) 20, where people can go spend their money, but all down Tyler are where the jobs are. If you drive up and down Tyler, there are all kinds of (Help Wanted) signs. People can come in right off the street for most of them.”

Laketran Board President Brian Falkowski emphasized that increasing economic activity is one of the primary roles of the transit agency.

“We have businesses in our county looking for more workers and we want to make sure transportation isn’t as a barrier to get people to work,” he said. “Laketran has always played a significant role in economic development by improving job access to retail businesses and we’re excited to finally be serving this vital manufacturing corridor.”