One hundred members of Clevelanders for Public Transit (CPT) marched from Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority headquarters to Public Square on July 23rd to rally for transit funding. The next morning, the group presented the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Board of Trustees with over 700 letters calling on the RTA Board to place a transit funding levy on the November ballot. Clevelanders for Public Transit members also testified at the meeting.
On July 24th, RTA Board voted to draft tax proposals and call a special meeting in time to place a levy on the November ballot in Cuyahoga County. The deadline for ballot measures is August 8th.
The RTA Board asked its staff to draft two proposals for consideration at the meeting –a sales tax increase from 1 to 1.5 percent and a 2-mill property tax.
In addition to seeking additional funding for RTA, Clevelanders for Public Transit is calling for new leadership for the organization. The RTA Board also responded to that request, voting to speed up the search for a new director and ask RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese to retire earlier than he originally planned. The RTA Board of Trustees also voted to speed up the transition to a new general manager. In explaining the call for new leadership, CPT issued a statement saying, “RTA’s Board of Trustees has supported the longest-serving transit administration in the country while those who depend on transit to provide for their family, to access medical care and to better themselves through education, have endured rising fares and reduced service. In 2006, a single trip on RTA cost only $1.25. Since that time, fares have doubled while service has declined by over 25 percent. The result is record-low ridership of just 39.5 million rides last year – a decrease of over 30 percent in the past decade.”
In explaining the urgency of action to raise additional funds, Clevelanders for Public Transit released leased a statement saying “RTA is losing $20 million in annual funding due to a change in state sales tax collection policy which will result in significant service cuts to an already inadequate and shrinking system. Funding is urgently needed in order to reverse the current death spiral by providing immediate fare relief and service restoration. In order to reestablish public trust and reform the organization, CPT is calling for the levy to be renewable after five years.”
Clevelanders for Public Transit also made a proposal calling for appointment of a RTA Board of Trustees that is equipped to critically examine RTA staff recommendations rather than just approve them “without careful consideration.” In order to create a stronger Board of Trustees, the group suggests that Mayor Frank Jackson, County Executive Budish, and the Mayors and Managers Association when appointing board members appoint “daily RTA riders as well as experts in rail and bus operation, finance and budget, land use, real-estate law and environmental sustainability.