Laketran’s Board of Trustees recently approved a balanced 2017 operating and capital budget ensuring no fare increase for the upcoming year. The budget will mark the eighth consecutive year fares have remained the same, despite volatility in federal and state funding.
According to a Laketran news release, the projected operating budget is $15.2 million, a 5 percent increase over 2016, with a capital budget of $3.4 million. The major capital expense for 2017 is the replacement of 12 obsolete buses for Laketran’s Dial-a-Ride fleet and two motor coach buses for Park-n-Ride service to Cleveland.
Laketran has been successful in leveraging 20 percent local sales tax funds to obtain 80 percent federal funding from multiple sources to pay for capital projects.
With this budget, the transit agency’s goal was to secure a means to sustain Saturday Dial-a-Ride service for seniors and individuals with disabilities that is currently funded through a competitive federal grant. Laketran restored the service in January 2015 with the grant that provides 50 percent of operating funds for the service, but the grant was due to expire in 2017.
In developing the 2017 operating budget, Laketran worked with Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, which administers the Federal Transit Administration New Freedom grant funds, to extend Laketran’s use of the funds through July 31, 2018, the release stated.
Laketran has seen a sustained growth in Dial-a-Ride ridership. Since 2012, ridership has increased 20 percent from 230,648 riders to 275,790 in 2015.
“We’re very excited to be able to continue Saturday Dial-a-Ride service,” said Board President Brian Falkowski. “We have almost doubled the number of seniors and people with disabilities we are serving just on Saturdays, since restoring the service in 2015. Many of our Saturday Dial-a-Ride riders are using this service to receive dialysis treatment or other critical medical services, and without Dial-a-Ride they may not otherwise be able to access the care they need.”
Laketran General Manager Ray Jurkowski agreed. “We’re also very excited about the potential savings of our new propane Dial-a-Ride fleet that will help reduce operating costs to support some of the demand looking into the future,” he said.
In addition to stabilizing fares and continuing Saturday Dial-a-Ride service, the 2017 operating budget will continue Saturday Local Route service, with some of the remaining funds saved by purchasing fuel through a favorable fixed-rate fuel contract obtained in 2015.
Laketran also will continue its efforts with Ohio Public Transit Association to advocate for increased state funding in the state’s biennium budget beginning July 1 of this year. The state of Ohio invests only 63 cents per capita for public transportation while neighboring Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan invest $85.55, $63.26 and $24.33 per capita, respectively.