Lake County, Ohio – Officials from Laketran, the regional public transportation system in Lake County, Ohio, elected officials, and community representatives gathered on May 9 to commemorate a new 30,000 gallon propane fueling station and public transit bus fleet making its debut on Laketran’s Dial-a-Ride service that provides door-to-door demand response service for seniors and people with disabilities.
Laketran will be saving green and going green—the $1.6 million infrastructure investment will bring long term environmental and economic benefit to both Laketran and Lake County.
Propane is a clean burning fuel due to its lower carbon content and significantly reduces smog forming hydrocarbons and greenhouse emissions, over gasoline and diesel fuels. Additionally, propane is American-made reducing independence on foreign oil.
“Tightening standards for emissions and shrinking budgets have been driving the transportation industry toward alternative fuels now more than ever before,” explained Ben Capelle, Laketran’s deputy general manager. “Laketran is always looking for more efficient ways to operate and reduce cost. Right now it costs about $64 a day per vehicle to fuel a Dial-a-Ride bus on diesel. We will reduce the cost to about $40 a day per vehicle running on propane.”
The three-phase capital project included engineering, construction of the fueling station, and installation of indoor propane detectors for safety inside Laketran’s 122,000 square foot vehicle storage and maintenance area.
Mentor-based CT Consultants led the engineering effort and the construction of the fueling station was completed by Superior Energy Systems based in Columbia Station, OH.
“Superior Energy Systems is pleased to play an integral role in Laketran’s transition to propane autogas, which has a lower total cost of ownership than other alternative fuels,” said Mike Walters, vice president of safety and training. “Superior Energy Systems is the industry leader in state-of-the-art propane autogas dispensers, which incorporate mass flow meter technology that delivers more accurate long-term fuel measurement than mechanical meters.”
Another benefit of purchasing alternative fuel vehicles, Laketran was able to capitalize on federal funding opportunities used to incent transit systems that use alternative fuels to help the community attain air quality standards. In Northeast Ohio, NOACA administers Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) grant funds and tracks air quality to build sustainable transportation infrastructure throughout the region that enhances air quality.
Laketran would not be able to make this transition or maintain its Dial-a-Ride fleet without the support of federal funding. A $416,000 federal investment from the FTA’s Bus and Bus Facilities grant and a $754,000 Congestion Mitigation Air Quality federal grant funds paid for 80 percent of the cost of the fueling station and vehicles. Laketran provided a local 20 percent match funded by the agency’s 0.25 percent local sales tax revenue.
While the agency expects to reduce air pollutants, the low cost and stability of propane fuel helps manage costs during a time when the demand of service continues to grow.
Laketran’s Dial-a-Ride ridership has increased 14 percent over the last three years and has no sign of slowing down. To date, the 2017 Dial-a-Ride ridership is up 3 percent over 2016 ridership.
“We are seeing more diverse needs among seniors and people with disabilities riding our Dial-a-Ride service,” explained Capelle. “The new propane fleet will allow us to dispatch a bus that is most efficient and meets the needs of our customers.”
The new fleet is made up of VT3 and Terra Transit buses that seat either 8 or 10 passengers and can accommodate up to three wheelchairs. The entire fleet is ADA accessible and each bus is equipped with a wheelchair lift, fold-up seats to accommodate wheelchairs, slip-resistant flooring, an electronic transit door, and a central heating and cooling unit in response to customer concerns about vehicles being too hot or too cold. To assist with operations each bus as an automatic vehicle locator systems and electronic fareboxes installed along with additional safety amenities include retractable seat belts, clearance lights, and safety cameras.
In addition to the fuel savings, a propane bus cost about $6,000 less than current diesel and maintenance is less expensive compared to other alternatives.
“We are proud that Laketran trusted Turtle Top and TESCO as their transportation partner as they move forward with propane powered buses,” shared Blair Taseff, Regional Sales Manager for TESCO Bus. “Our hope is the communities being served by Laketran are proud of these buses and we’re glad to play our part in bring you the services you need.”
At the celebration at Laketran headquarters in Painesville Township, Ohio, Laketran discussed the need to increase its demand response fleet size from 80 buses operated a year ago to possibly 85 buses by the end of 2018 to meet the demand.
“We’re really proud of this investment. Not only does the fuel savings allow us to recover the initial infrastructure costs in just 4 and a half years, but we are putting a clean and healthier product on the streets for the residents of Lake County,” shared Brian Falkowski, board president of Laketran.
The new Laketran buses are expected to serve nearly 300,000 annual Dial-a-Ride riders guaranteeing access to work, medical appointment, local shopping, education, and recreation throughout Lake County.