RTA Offers Free Rides as it Implements New Route Network

Greater Cleveland RTA kicked off a restructured route network on Sunday by offering a week of free rides.

The NextGen route overhaul is the first the agency has undertaken since being formed in 1975. Work on the new network began in late 2018.

RTA officials said the changes seek to provide more connections and more frequent trips on the busiest routes.

“We changed many of the routes. Instead of running once an hour, or once every half hour, now they run once every 15 minutes. And they do that all day long, not just during a traditional rush hour,” said RTA spokeswoman Linda Krecic.

New signs have been posted and the agency is trying to encourage riders to use a trip planning feature at the agency’s website.

The free rides are good on bus, rail and para-transit through June 19.

Riders who have questions can call an RTA help line at 216-621-9500, which is staffed Monday through Saturday.

RTA Director of Service Management Joel Freilich said the revised route network covers more of Cuyahoga County and thus better serves people not working in downtown Cleveland.

The route changes might have been implemented earlier but were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which seriously eroded RTA ridership for several months.

The new network has not been without complications. WOIO-TV reported on the plight of a 62-year old woman in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland who now has to walk 15 blocks to catch a bus after the route 38 bus stop she used to use was closed.

The TV station’s news department said it had received several complaints from viewers inconvenienced by the route changes.

In a statement to the TV station, RTA acknowledged that some riders will be inconvenienced by the changes and forced to walk a few more blocks to catch a bus.

“NEXT GEN represents a comprehensive redesign,” the RTA statement said.

“The system achieves the goals the community told us they valued: greater connectivity, is more accessible, reduced transfers provides greater frequency (including expanded weekend service on some routes that had not had weekend service in a decade) and over all is an enhancement for our community.”

RTA contended the new network design is better overall for all users.

A story published by The Plain Dealer noted that the network changes have confused some riders.

It cited the example of users of the North Olmsted Park-N-Ride and Transit Center.

RTA initially planned to end the Great Northern Boulevard Park-N-Ride service but decided at the last minute to create an alternative that provided a direct but longer ride.

RTA’s Freilich said the agency’s funding didn’t allow for the North Olmsted and Westlake Park-n-Rides to continue.

So agency officials decided to take the Cleveland State Line bus route and have some of its buses go to Park-n-Ride lots.

However, that means a longer ride because of the CSL’s routing via Lorain Avenue to West 210th Street and Clifton Boulevard.

Still, RTA officials are optimistic that the longer bus ride will appeal to those on the west side who don’t wish to ride the Red Line because they will be able to stay on the same bus all the way to work.

“You’ll still have two viable ways to get to downtown from that area,” Freilich said. “The Red Line will continue to be an option. And at the North Olmsted Park-n-Rides, you’ll be picked up by a No. 55 bus.

“At Westlake, it’s the same thing. There’s a different branch of CSU line. If you choose not to use the red line, you can still park in the Park-n-Ride for free. We’ll pick you up with a branch of No. 55. When you leave downtown — and if you’re going to Westlake — choose No. 55B or No. 55C.”

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