Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority announces bus system redesign, opportunities for community feedback
by Paige Bennett
(Plain Press, November 2020) The Greater Cleveland RTA presented plans for redesigning its bus system before Cleveland City Council’s transportation committee Sept. 30, and now it’s giving riders the opportunity to give feedback in October and November.
Joel Freilich, director of service management with the Greater Cleveland RTA, said during the transportation committee meeting that the RTA spent 2019 gathering feedback from the community about its key values in regard to public transportation as part of its system redesign study.
The study asked participants how they prioritize factors such as service frequency and the ability to use public transportation to travel to distant parts of Cuyahoga County. Freilich said RTA used a variety of methods to inform the public about the study, such as posting on social media, displaying cards in RTA vehicles, and holding in-person meetings. It intends to implement the redesign in June 2021.
“With existing funding, the community values both the frequent service in the core area and the opportunity to travel to outlying communities where there may be job opportunities,” Freilich said.
Using the information collected from the study, Freilich said the RTA concluded that its redesign needed to prioritize transportation to work, education and health care. He said the system redesign reconfigures the RTA’s existing budget to create networks that meet the needs of the community.
“We want to reallocate and make tradeoffs and discontinue some services that are not very successful and not very well used and create more frequent service,” Freilich said.
Community members can submit comments about the RTA’s proposed redesign at http://www.riderta.com/nextgen. The agency will also host Facebook Live sessions during October and November to answer questions people have about the redesign, according to its website.
“Although we think we have a very good solution here, we intend to gather more input in October and November,” Freilich said. “We are open minded and will make adjustments based on what we hear through public involvement.”
After RTA reaches a final design, it will do educational outreach in the spring to help people understand the new system.
Changes to the system
Changes under the proposed redesign would add 15-minute service frequency to bus routes on Detroit Road, Lorain Road, St. Clair Avenue and Superior Avenue during the weekday morning and evening rushes and at midday on weekdays. It would also increase weekday and weekend service frequency for routes on Mayfield and Cedar roads.
To achieve this, the Greater Cleveland RTA plans to alter bus routes and eliminate stops in some of its low-use areas. Freilich said these changes will provide a greater number of people with direct rides to educational institutions and places with employment opportunities.
Some routes that would be discontinued under this proposal include: Route 2: East 79th; Route 8: Cedar Road – East 116th; Route 16: East 55th; and Route 38: Hough.
In downtown Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland RTA proposed eliminating trolley routes. It also proposed maintaining only one of the three suburban Park-N-Ride routes. These changes, Freilich said, would help provide more frequent service on streets such as St. Clair Avenue, Superior Avenue, Euclid Avenue and across the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
On the northeast side of Cleveland, the RTA proposed modifying Route 10 to provide more people with a direct ride to University Circle. Under the proposal, Route 10 would no longer go north of St. Clair Avenue and would instead travel down East 140th and Lakeshore Boulevard. All rides along Route 1 would end at East 153rd, and a new route, Route 31, would link outer St. Clair to Windermere. These changes would replace Route 30. Route 39 would only operate during rush hours.
Additionally, the Greater Cleveland RTA plans to extend several routes: Payne-Hough route to Mayfield; Quincy Avenue route to Cedar Road; Route 22 (Lorain) to Fairview Hospital, Westgate Transit Center; Route 26 (Detroit) to Westlake; and Route 55 (Clifton) to North Olmsted.
Other changes in the proposed redesign include: provide seven-day service to East 116th Street; have all trips on Route 15 follow one route, none via Walden-Union; reduce service on Storer; add service on Clark & West 65th & Madison; and provide more direct service to Steelyard Commons.
Questions and feedback
Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland asked RTA during the meeting about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the implementation of the redesign.
Floun’say Caver, chief operating officer of the Greater Cleveland RTA, said the agency believes it has budget stability for 2021 and 2022 that will allow it to move forward with its intended implementation of June 2021. In April, the RTA projected a loss of $91 million in sales tax revenue and $22 million in lost fares as a result of pandemic-related economic downturn.
India Birdsong, CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland RTA, said the coronavirus pandemic has proven that the RTA is an essential service to the community. She said the redesign will help enhance its services for riders and provide them with opportunities to travel to places for employment and health care.
“It will not be a perfect plan given the current pandemic situation,” Birdsong said. “As we start to have different reiterations of planning over time, this is our best estimate of what will be needed in order to keep the lifeline of transit moving, so that people have an opportunity to get to work, get to health care and get to the grocery store come summer of 2021.”
Birdsong also said representatives from RTA would be able to attend meetings in different communities in Cleveland to discuss specific changes that will affect them.
Cleveland requested a meeting in the communities she represents and said she had additional questions about the changes to Cedar and Prospect.
Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife asked about the RTA’s plan to eliminate the trolley routes downtown. He expressed concern that eliminating the NineTwelve Trolley would negatively affect downtown workers who use this route to get from parking lots to places of employment. Freilich said all of the RTA’s proposed changes are up for discussion.
Chris Stocking, chair of Clevelanders for Public Transit [CPT], wrote in an email that CPT supports the RTA’s system redesign and previously asked for a redesign after ride fares increased in 2016.
“CPT supports a transit system redesign that connects more riders to jobs, health care and education,” Stocking wrote. “Many of the current routes are still based on streetcar routes from decades ago that no longer get riders where they need to go.”
In addition, Stocking wrote that while funding for the RTA has not been increased since 1975, services have been cut by more than 25% and fares have doubled over the last 15 years. CPT believes it’s necessary to invest in public transit.
Slife also said during the meeting that the amount of funding given to the Greater Cleveland RTA and other transit agencies in Ohio is “truly appalling” compared to agencies in other states.
“There’s certainly an advocacy role we all need to play with state government when it comes to public transportation,” Slife said.
Editor’s Note: Paige Bennett is a journalist and recent Kent State University graduate. She previously served as general assignment editor for The Kent Stater and KentWired and managing editor for A Magazine. This article was produced and provided to the Plain Press by The Land through a reporting partnership with the Collaborative News Lab at Kent State University. The Land is an online Newsletter that reports on Cleveland neighborhoods and inner ring suburbs. To subscribe to The Land visit: thelandcle.org.