The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board / Committee of the Whole revisited the discussion it tabled in January about how it will close the $7 million gap it approved in its 2016 budget.
RTA got an earful from customers who attended the meeting, particularly, from some of those who will lose their ride if proposed fare hikes and bus routes are cut. RTA calculates 1.59% of its customers will be impacted by the route cuts.
The regional transit agency serving Cuyahoga County recognized today that initial proposed cuts may not have been as evenly spread across the customer base. For that reason, RTA added a proposed service cut to its rail lines. The little used Waterfront Line (after 7 p.m.) and the GreenLine (after 8 p.m.) east of Shaker Square would end if the board approves changes. The rail curtailment would reduce some of the 4% of bus routes affected in Cleveland and suburbs.
The most push back RTA received today came from residents of Cleveland. Lakeview Terrace residents were upset that RTA might cut the #81 bus which has a stop in front of the public housing estate serving seniors in Detroit-Shoreway. Also, Fairfax residents were upset about the #8 bus on Cedar being on the chopping block.
Some indicated that RTA’s rationale of using the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) metric—which is a 3/4 mile walk to a bus stop—wasn’t sufficient considering how many seniors and disabled are served by RTA.
“It’s a difficult walk,” said Lakeview resident Mike McGee. “In essence, you’re saying handicapped seniors would have to walk another quarter-mile up a 60 degree grade to W. 25th and Detroit.”
Cleveland resident Marques Manus suggested that the RTA board members try riding the bus for a while before making decisions.
“Talk to people,” he said. “That’s your research. What they had to go through to get there. I’m not considered disabled, but my legs will lock up if I have to walk that far.”
Access to jobs and the economic impact of the cuts were questions that new RTA board member, Newburgh Heights Mayor, Trevor Elkins, asked.
Al Porter of Black on Black Crime, Inc. wanted to know where RTA and Northeast Ohio draw the line on cuts to public transit.
“It has to stop at some point,” he said. Porter also wanted to know how much RTA has tightened its belt financially. “Even if it means some executives take pay cuts to show solidarity.”
RTA Chief Executive Joe Calabrese responded that RTA gets the highest productivity rating of transit agencies in the state; twice the productivity of the next largest system, COTA, in Columbus.
Speaking of Columbus, Calabrese travelled there this week to let state elected officials—as he did in 2010 when RTA faced a budget shortfall and had to make service cuts—know that Ohio is lagging behind other states in supporting transit.
“Many states contribute as much as 20% of their transit agencies’ budget,” Calabrese said. “Ohio contributes one tenth of one percent.”
Ohio legislators have let the state’s contribution for transit slip from $43 million in 2000 to $7 million to be split among 11 transit systems. This month, a joint legislative task force considered expanding the state’s gas tax to cover fixing roads. Some states have used gas tax to pay for transit service.
It struck some that the region’s newest communities would remain unscathed in this latest round of cuts.
“I’ve been riding the bus for 47 years,” said Mr. Lamb. “We’re not going out to Solon (to hold a public meeting on the cuts), but you’re sending a bus out there.”
Sprawling, low density land use in Cuyahoga County is a factor, albeit, out of RTA’s control, contributing to RTA’s costs. However, many of the proposed cuts are to outer suburbs including Bay Village, Strongsville and Mayfield Village. That sparked other concerns, from city workers not being able to reach jobs at the newer, suburban shopping centers to RTA not being able to continue chasing after job sprawl and serve people in the urban area.
Calabrese urged those in attendance to speak to state officials about raising their committment to transit in the transportation budget. He noted that the Ohio Public Transit Association will hold a lobby day on April 19 in Columbus where concerned citizens can speak to lawmakers. He also noted that public hearings will be held between March 21 and the first week of April in eleven locations.