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Ohio's fig leaf to transit; petitioners want to stop Opportunity Corridor; look what's popping up in Warehouse District

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/11/13 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Transportation choices

The Ohio Department of Transportation, in a historic turnabout, said it will study the need for more and better transit. The agency wants to know how the state should invest to improve service for 29 urban and 33 rural transit systems.

Rapid recovery<br />Ohio Department of Transportation will study how it can improve transit. Image: GCBL of Cleveland's Waterfront Line.Where the road ends<br />Is extending the I-490 highway more important than fixing ALL of Cleveland's roads? Sign of the times<br />The importance of the Warehouse District is captured in Corrie Slawson's public art pieces.

For more than a decade, Ohio has lagged behind 47 states like car crazy Michigan in funding transit (1% of its transportation budget for 9% of a population that rides).

For an agency that just doubled down on new roads with its $3 billion Turnpike bonds, the most obvious need is to raise funds for starving transit agencies (a good start might be to include transit in the Turnpike boon).

“There is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Our transit agencies are struggling to fund this existing service, let alone meet the increased demand,” ODOT writes for its Transit Needs Study.

Indeed, Greater Cleveland RTA reported a 4.3% increase in ridership during the last year, growing faster than the national average. RTA has a relatively large area it tries to serve, and must continually weigh demands to improve existing service or expand out into newly built communities.

Tell ODOT your feelings about transit service in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Even if you never take transit, the survey has a space for feedback on what would make you ride.

(Here’s what I wrote in the feedback area:

Ohio needs to invest more than 1% of its transportation budget in transit if it expects to make it part of an economic attractiveness strategy. Transit is the preferred mode for a rising demographic of Millennials and retiring Baby Boomers moving into urban and suburban areas. ODOT can invest more in Transportation Improvement Districts and in keeping the current Federal Aid routes in good repair by not adding a single new lane. ODOT can support the development of a robust network of regional centers connected by multimodal corridors by investing directly in transit agencies' ability to plan new service to areas that promote density and walkability.

ODOT can tie its transit funding increases to MPOs and governments and developments that have transit-oriented development principles and district-level plans that specify transit use and density targets in critical regional nodes (this idea has already been vetted by the Northeast Ohio Sustainability Communities Consortium).

ODOT can include transit, walkability and multi-modal accommodation in its TRAC scoring criteria as an economic development metric. ODOT can adopt a goal to reduce VMT through TRAC so that Ohio invests in cleaner, more vibrant, economically competitive population centers).

* * * *

Citizens for Transportation Equity has been doing a yeomen’s job critiquing the Opportunity Corridor. It weighed in on Steven Litt’s probe if it is or isn't a critical piece of infrastructure. After Mayor Jackson mentioned during his re-election acceptance speech that all of the city’s roads could be repaired for $300 million, the citizen group questioned why the city didn’t see the irony in spending that amount on one road that would serve suburban commuters. Now CTE has produced a petition on Change.org. Aimed at elected officials, it lays out an airtight case for a return to equity in how we remake this impoverished city.

* * * *

Has the Warehouse District’s rise as an entertainment mecca after the demise of The Flats been a boon to efforts to establish it as a neighborhood? Defining neighborhood as a place to live, socialize, play, and shop for wants and needs, The Warehouse District has something—just not for everyone. Meaning, if you live here with a small child is there a place to play? Or if you want to shop for something other than art or high-end furnishings, is there a store for you?

All of this is to say, two unusual things are about to happen this week for the Warehouse District. It looks like an effort to convert shipping crates into a micro shopping center will be coming soon to W. 3rd and St. Clair. This is a low cost, fast dispatch way to reimagine the giant parking lot that sucks the vibrancy out of the Warehouse District. The effort to fill the sea of asphalt with activity pulled into first place—with some last minute heavy hitters like the Cavs GM Len Komorowski and developer/parking lot operators The Ferchill Group donating $1,000 each—raising its total to $19,388 in Enterprise Community Partners Nurture an Idea competition. Enterprise will announce this Tuesday if the creative venture to convert actual shipping containers into small retail will win its $10,000 top prize. If it does happen, it should be interesting to watch how (and for who) the small stores will be programmed.

When I gaze around the Warehouse District, it only provides a vague notion of its backstory as the city’s first neighborhood. Inside ornate old buildings, garment makers and hardware stores reigned until neglect nearly decimated them. What we see today is a remnant, but still an amazing story of preservation and adaptation. That story will be told in a visual way in the Warehouse District Anthology. This Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The Warehouse District will unveil the first two large-scale works from artist Corrie Slawson (full disclosure: my spouse) that tell the tale of this place as a working neighborhood. Though its reputation is for high rents, glitzy restaurants and new condos, the Warehouse District was where Cleveland started honing craft and plying trade and the artwork is a beautiful tribute to that.

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Skeptic
4 years ago

Good to hear that ODOT finally considers public transit as being under its bailiwick. But after reading the text on the survey's website, I remain skeptical. A new day will truly arrive when ODOT starts talking about reallocating more transportation funds to public transit instead of just attempting to "stretch" the meager sum of funds that it currently allocates to public tranist. (BTW, wasn't it pathetic to see Sustainable Cleveland 2019 sign off on and share ODOT's picture of the new downtown bridge as a form of sustainability).

Marc
4 years ago

You're welcome, Tom. Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together. Thanks for pointing out the error on the donors; I made the correction.

Thomas Starinsky, Associate Director, HWDDC
4 years ago

Marc, Thank you for the post. Please note that Lou Frangos did NOT give to the Small Box campaign. The Warehouse District community is working very hard to sustain the neighborhood place with great home life, work life and social life. We are very proud of our recent successes.

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