If you’ve been following the news on RTA’s budget crisis, and its deliberations this Tuesday by its Board Finance Committee to raise fares 11% then you’re probably wondering what could forestall the increase (and related 3% cut of bus routes).
Last week, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese pointed the finger at the Ohio Department of Transportation which has cut its contribution to statewide transit from $43 million (in 2000) to $7 million today.
He noted that the state recognized in 2014 that its support was heading in the wrong direction, when it hired national transportation expert, Nelson/Nygaard to work out how it could improve the situation. The 2014 Statewide Transit Needs Study identified a need for a 10% increase in funding for transit.
When the Transit Needs Study was released in Cleveland, GCBL reported, 2,000 transit users were surveyed across the state and said they want greater frequency, expanded hours, and more places that are linked by transit.
“Unfortunately,” Calabrese said, “the state budget didn’t move.”
“I don’t know how to help those most affected at the fare box,” he added.
Long term, the answer could be for employers to locate where transit and workforce co-exist, he said, and for companies to also subsidize transit (such as the new, federal tax incentive for transit or to offer a direct reimbursement).
“It’s important that employers locate where we can best serve them,” Calabrese said. “If you’re an employer who subsidizes parking, then subsidize transit. Don’t treat transit like a second class citizen.”
When asked about expanding transit, Calabrese talked about the ability of the 2008 Euclid Corridor and the 2015 Cleveland State University line, a $20 million investment in a new streetscape and bigger buses on Clifton Boulevard.
“The HealthLine provides better service with 16 buses," Calabrese says. “Before, I was running 28 buses on the #6 line.”
Short term, Calabrese hopes that concerned citizens call or write their state legislators about the need to improve transit funding. Back in 2013, it looked like Northeast Ohio leaders and ODOT agreed, but it didn’t translate into action at the important transportation and infrastructure committees at the Statehouse around budget negotiations.
At the time, GCBL's David Beach wrote: "The bottom line is that public transit is not a charity or a frill. It’s a necessity for making great cities and a resilient society. It will be an increasingly essential part of our future. And it already is an issue that affects most people in Ohio, as the service areas of Ohio’s 10 largest transit systems encompass 52% of the state’s population."