Three years since the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was named the Best Public Transportation System in North America, its customers are grumbling. Routes have been cut and some have been eliminated altogether. Like most businesses, and transit systems across the country, Cleveland’s RTA is suffering during a down economy.
An Aug.19, 2008, Crain’s Cleveland Business article reported the agency faced a $20 million deficit in 2009 because of higher fuel prices. At that time, Crain’s reported that some RTA board members thought cuts at a time when demand was rising was counterproductive.
RTA fully acknowledges budget woes. A section of RTA’s website is devoted to its budget challenges. Reductions in sales taxes, cuts in funding, and loss in fares due to employment-related loss in ridership make for challenging times for the transit authority. Ironically, the more services are cut, the more fares are lost. It appears that RTA has no choice but to cut service, but it must be hoping that customers will still find the $2.25 bus ride a bargain compared to the cost of driving into downtown.
The loyal customers are those who either cannot or prefer not to drive to work or school or go to the grocery store. They are being forced to walk further to get to the bus or drive to a route, like the folks who waited on Rose Road for an 87F bus in Westlake. Those 87F riders now have to walk over a mile to Lorain Road and catch the local 75 bus or drive to the Westlake Park-N-Ride. The Park-N-Ride routes have been stretched out, which could mean bitter waiting on Superior Avenue downtown this winter. After the 5:29 bus arrives at Tower City, the Route 246 bus arrives at Tower City at half-hour intervals, so RTA buses must be on time to keep their riders from getting frostbite.
In the midst of the cuts, RTA tries to strike a balance. Public transportation has a long history in Cleveland, starting with the 1818 stage coach rides between Painesville and Cleveland. The first rail line along Euclid Avenue ran from 1834-42, and by the end of the 1850s, horse-drawn streetcars were pulled on rails from E. 55th Street to Public Square. RTA was established in 1974 with a countywide sales tax.
A bright spot for Cleveland’s RTA is the free, downtown trolley car service made possible by a contribution from the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland and continued through private sponsorship. Customers can explore downtown Cleveland through rejuvenated Euclid Avenue, which is a beautiful avenue now that The Euclid Corridor improvements have been completed. New street lights, wider brick sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly crosswalks, flowers in the median, and environmentally-friendly Healthline buses are major improvements to public transportation and Cleveland’s most famous street.
RTA needs riders. Existing customers like Maggie Jones, who rides the 76 bus and recently changed her work ending time to 5 p.m., may have to change their work schedules to connect with new routes. In these economic times when every penny counts, riding the bus or rapid transit to work provides a cost savings and quiet time with a good book. New riders can find their way around the Cleveland area by clicking onwww.rideRTA.com or have a ride on the E-line trolley at lunch time.
Read Claudia Taller’s articles about Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5446338/21stcentury_homes_on_clevelands_millionares.html?cat=7, and Cleveland’s Bicycling Soul at http://aclnk.com/article/5561736/clevelands_bicycling_soul.html?cat=7.