Laketran receives $4 million federal grant for electric buses

LAKE COUNTY, OHIO – Laketran has been awarded $4.3 million to replace outdated diesel buses with battery-operated electric buses and upgrade the Wickliffe Park-n-Ride with charging infrastructure. The funds were awarded through a competitive grant award from the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Funded from the multi-year surface transportation law, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the grant award, announced last week, will allow the agency to replace several local routes buses that are 12 years old with over 500,000 miles on each, purchase electric chargers and reconstruct the Wickliffe Park-n-Ride to house the charging infrastructure.

“This is very exciting for Laketran, Lake County and Ohio,” said Laketran CEO, Ben Capelle. “Laketran will be the first transit system in the state to operate battery-powered electric bus technology. With this award, Laketran will replace 12 year old diesel buses with zero-emissions transit buses and install charging stations to fully electrify Local Routes 1 and 5 that serve Mentor, Painesville and Fairport Harbor.”

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) has championed federal investment in zero-emissions buses and announced the award last week.

“Lake County riders rely on buses to take them to work, school, or appointments and then to take them back home again,” said Brown’s announcement of the award. “Laketran is a leader in adopting new technology that reduces emissions and lowers the cost of providing transit service. This additional investment will help Laketran improve service for their riders and help Ohio continue its leadership in developing and deploying the next generation of zero-emission buses.”

The award was part of a national “Bus and Bus Facilities” grant program. Through the program, $423 million was made available nationwide and the funds were awarded through a competitive process to assist in the financing of capital projects to replace, rehabilitate, purchase buses and bus-related facilities.

“We work extremely hard to win as many grants as possible and we have been very successful with electric buses,” said Capelle.

Laketran was one of three Ohio transit systems to succeed in the FY19 grant awards that total $136 million and received the highest award statewide. Laketran, the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority and the Western Reserve Transit Authority were selected out of 270 applicants and 318 eligible projects.

“The grant application was very competitive, but the age of our current buses and goal to electrify our fixed route fleet was to our advantage. Not only will new buses improve our customer experience, but also reduce air pollution in the communities we serve. We’re looking forward to see how the new technology will reduce our fuel and maintenance costs, too,” said Capelle.

At the state level, State Rep. John M. Rogers (D-Mentor-On-The-Lake) recently issued a statement announcing $3.7 million in funding for Laketran from the state’s Transportation Budget that passed with bipartisan support earlier this year.

According to Capelle, the ODOT dollars will be used to maintain Laketran’s reduced fare program for seniors and people with disabilities and fund preventative maintenance, vehicle replacements and phase 2 of Laketran’s mobile payment system, EZfare.

“The funds from the state are a welcomed surprise,” shared Capelle. “We will be able to replace outdated buses, which is especially important as we increase service in the immediate future.”

Additionally, along with nine partnering transit systems that use EZfare, Laketran plans to install validators on its fixed route and Cleveland commuter buses allowing passengers to pay their fare with the EZfare mobile app by simply scanning a barcode on their smartphone. The new technology improves the speed of boarding the bus, reduces demands on transit operators and saves cost of cash collection. The validators also provide the first step in offering a smartcard system for those passengers without access to a smartphone or bank account.

“This investment reflects the Legislature’s recognition of the growing infrastructure needs of Ohio’s statewide public transportation systems, which have seen their state support reduced significantly over the years. These much needed funds will help get public transit back on track in Ohio for years to come,” added Rogers.

Laketran board president Brian Falkowski praised the U.S. Senator and Ohio Legislator for recognizing the importance of public transportation and need to invest in new technology, like electric buses and mobile ticketing, that help advance transit access and improve services for thousands of seniors, workers and people with disabilities who rely on Laketran every day.