Laketran continues transition to propane-powered buses

January 26, 2018 By    

A Laketran Dial-a-Ride bus. Photo by Kevin Yanik.

Laketran, a public transportation service in Lake County, Ohio, has solidified plans to purchase 11 propane-powered buses in an effort to transition its fleet from diesel to propane.

According to the company, Laketran is making the transition in order to improve the efficiency of its Dial-a-Ride fleet. Dial-a-Ride is a door-to-door assisted transportation shared-ride service. Its growth in ridership prompted the transition, the company adds.

“There’s some expenses we can’t cut. You can’t cut labor cost without cutting service, so we need to get a little more creative,” says Ben Capelle, general manager of Laketran. “Tightening standards for emissions and shrinking budgets have been driving the transportation industry toward alternative fuels now more than ever before and so propane is one of our solutions.”

Capelle points to the environmental benefits, among other things, as a reason for the change. According to Laketran, propane’s low carbon content allows the company to significantly reduce smog-forming hydrocarbons and greenhouse gas emissions. Making the switch to propane also allows Laketran to save money.

“By operating propane-fueled buses, we’re reducing our fuel expenses by 35 percent and saving on maintenance expenses,” Capelle says.

In 2017, the company added two propane-powered Turtle Top VT3s – an eight-passenger bus – to its fleet, and now plans to purchase 11 new vehicles, which will include six additional VT3 models.

“We’re replacing 8-year-old vehicles with 200,000 to 250,000 miles on them,” Capelle says. “There’s significant maintenance savings when you can operate newer vehicles, so we’re continuously looking for capital funding for replacement vehicles.”

According to the company, federal grants can fund up to 80 percent of the purchasing price. Laketran is relying on the Federal Transportation Administration’s Enhanced Mobility for Senior and Individuals with Disabilities program, which provides capital grants for transit agencies to meet the needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants, which provide federal funding for statewide transportation projects in urban areas of Ohio that need to improve congestion and air quality.

Both of these programs are administered through the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

The company says it will purchase the 11 propane buses from TESCO, an Oregon, Ohio-based company. The buses are expected to be in service by summer 2018.

“By the end of 2018, we should have 35 percent of our Dial-a-Ride fleet transitioned to propane with 30 propane buses on the road,” says Brian Falkowski, Laketran board president. “Our original goal was to transition the fleet in five years, but at this replacement pace we may see the cost savings even sooner. If we can find a way to operate more efficiently and environmentally friendly, we’re going to push to do that as soon as possible.”

Joe McCarthy

About the Author:

Joe McCarthy is an Associate Editor of LP Gas Magazine. You can contact him at jmccarthy@northcoastmedia.net and at 216-363-7930.

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