After the third quarter of its fiscal year, LeeTran is on pace to make this a record-setting year in several key metrics.
In the last fiscal year, LeeTran's ridership increased 6.38 percent, which was a very strong performance compared to other transit agencies. However, for the current fiscal year to date, ridership increased an astounding 17.5 percent, earning LeeTran national attention when USA Today reported that the use of public transit is soaring nationwide.
LeeTran staff attributes some of the gains to a recovering economy and higher fuel prices, but some of the credit goes to route changes that shifted resources to areas of need. A Comprehensive Operations Analysis completed in late 2010 gave planning staff the data needed to revamp about one-third of the system. These improvements were implemented in October 2011 and January 2012, and immediately showed positive results.
Along with the COA, LeeTran completed a major update of its Transit Development Plan. The plan is an FDOT requirement, documenting existing needs and providing a 10-year plan for moderate growth and improvements to the transit system. But LeeTran took it a step farther, also developing a 25-year Vision Plan that maps out a more robust transit system to serve a growing county.
A record-setting grant of $13.9 million received last year will bring LeeTran's fleet into its best state of repair in many years. Starting in October, the agency will receive 22 hybrid buses and two hybrid trolleys to replace existing vehicles which have exceeded their useful life. This grant award from the Federal Transit Administration was the single largest award under the State of Good Repair program in Florida, and the largest that LeeTran has ever received.
In early July, LeeTran hosted FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and FTA Region IV Administrator Yvette Taylor, who visited Lee County to announce the award of a $1.4 million Livability Initiatives Grant to assist veterans. LeeTran will use the grant to provide information kiosks, automatic vehicle locators and bus arrival signs at the new VA Healthcare Center in Cape Coral.
Looking forward, LeeTran continues to partner with FDOT and the MPO to address the long-term funding needs of transit. The County manager has seated a Transit Task Force with representatives from private sector employers, chambers of commerce and economic development groups to look at transit issues. The group meets monthly through November 2012, after which it will present recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners.