Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland’

Cleveland RTA Ridership Fell by 4M in 2017

April 20, 2018

Total ridership of Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority buses and trains reached a record low 39.6 million last year, a decline of more than 4 million riders from 2016 when it carried 43.8 million.

The 9.5 percent drop in ridership was the largest single-year falloff since 2010.

RTA officials said the falling ridership was a result in part of a fare increase and route cuts imposed last August.

It was the second consecutive year that RTA saw record low ridership and the third straight year of ridership declines.

RTA’s record ridership was 125.9 million in 1979. In 2016, some 43.8 million riders took RTA trains and buses.

Fear of further falling ridership was behind an RTA decision earlier this year to delay a planned fare increase for late summer.

Officials said that transit ridership is affected by various factors, including the service offered, the concentration of jobs downtown at the core of the system, increasing numbers of people working at home, traffic delays, gasoline prices, parking rates, employment and public funding.

Last month RTA cut service frequencies on 15 bus and rail routes.

Stephen Bitto, executive director of marketing and communications for RTA, said the agency is seeking to boost ridership by working with employers and college students.

About 50,000 college students receive fare cards as part of their fees at Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, Cuyhoaga Community College and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Cleveland RTA is Ohio’s largest transit agency, carrying more than double the number of riders than the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus area. COTA ridership was 18.7 million last year.


Cleveland to Chicago in 28 Minutes?

February 21, 2018

A California company has proposed building a hyperloop between Cleveland and Chicago that would cover the distance in 28 minutes.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the Northeast Ohio Regional Coordinating Agency, and the Illinois Department of Transportation plan to study potential hyperloop routes between Chicago and Cleveland.

“We came here because places like Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh have the manufacturing, the raw materials and the talented, hard working people in order to make it happen,” said Andrea La Mendola, chief global operations officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

Funding for the Chicago-Cleveland study has not yet been funded but was touted in an agreement between between the developer and the government agencies.

If undertaken, the study could take up to a year and will include a look at right-of-ways along northern Ohio interstates and rail lines. The study will also examine costs and potential ridership.

Another company, Virgin Hyperloop One, has proposed routes linking Columbus with Chicago and Pittsburgh.

That plan is being organized in part by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and is one of 10 finalists in the Hyperloop One Global Challenge.

The Columbus-Chicago route would cover the distance in 29 minutes while the Columbus-Pittsburgh route would do it in 18 minutes.

A hyperloop uses a vacuum-sealed tunnel and magnets to propel passenger cars. In theory, people could travel inside a hyperloop at 700 miles an hour.

The Ohio Senate passed a non-binding resolution last September supporting the Columbus hyperloop efforts, but did not agree to fund it.

1 If by Rail, 2 If by Boat

November 10, 2017

The Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern was quiet. That was not good news given that I was standing in Wendy Park alongside fellow Akron Railroad Club member Marty Surdyk hoping to get a photograph of a train crossing the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland.

But we did catch an NS track car crossing the bridge at the same time that a boat with a small profile was cruising beneath the bridge. Most pleasure craft are now small enough to fit through here when the bridge is down.

One of those boats can be seen on the other side waiting for the bridge to be lifted.

Making a Mad Dash For the Bridge

November 8, 2017

I’m told that federal regulations give commercial traffic priority on the Cuyahoga River at the Drawbridge carrying the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern over the waterway in Cleveland.

But during warm weather months, most boats on the river are pleasure craft and the bridge tender does not have to lift the bridge to accommodate them until rail traffic is out of the way.

Sept. 24 saw temperatures soar into lower 90s, breaking a record for the date of 88 degrees set in 2007.

Needless to say, the onset of summer weather in the early days of what is officially autumn has boaters out in droves.

But NS had trains to run and all the boaters could do was idle in place or run around in circles as four trains went by.  But once rail traffic cleared and the bridge began going up, the boaters didn’t wait for it to reach its peak position.

As soon as clearances allowed, the boaters began making a mad dash toward the lake or from the lake as seen here.

Boats, Trains and a Jet

October 12, 2017

A Norfolk Southern stack train crosses the Cuyahoga River on Lift Bridge No. 1

Last January my fellow Akron Railroad Club officer Marty Surdyk published a feature article in the ARRC Bulletin describing a New Year’s Day outing that he and his brother Robert had made in Cleveland on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

They spent most of their time photographing near the lift bridge over the Cuyahoga River and in the Battery Park neighborhood.

I’ve been to Battery Park, but I’ve never photographed trains on the lift bridge, which spans the Cuyahoga River just south of its mouth with Lake Erie.

Marty and I talked about replicating that January outing but it didn’t come about until late September.

Who would have thought that the temperature that day would soar into the 90s? But it did as part of a string of six consecutive days during which Cleveland set records for high temperatures.

My outing with Marty would not exactly replicate what he and Robert had done eight months earlier.

For starters, they had gone out on a holiday when the bars were closed. On a Sunday in September there would be more people out and about in the Flats and all of the restaurants and bars would be open.

Our outing began with driving around the Flats looking for a parking spot.

The lot in which Robert and Marty had parked was largely vacant, but it’s a pay lot and although no one was manning the entrance gate, that could change at any time.

Complicating matters was the fact that the parking meters on the streets had covers saying “no parking, police order.”

I noticed, though, that temporary signs on utility poles referenced no parking on Friday and Saturday. This was Sunday and maybe no one had come yet to remove the covers.

Some cars were parked in those spots and after driving around for awhile we decided to chance it.

We found a space on Front Avenue near the Margaritaville Cleveland Restaurant and bar and walked the short distance to the east bank of the Cuyahoga.

There is a nice wide sidewalk along the river that leads right up to the lift bridge.

During our driving around we had not missed any trains, but had missed a lake freighter headed out to Lake Erie.

We didn’t have a long wait before bagging a pair of intermodal trains, the 21G and an eastbound stack train whose symbol we missed.

We also found out that since January that either the owner of the lot in which Marty and Robert had hung out or the railroad have erected a tall fence along the tracks.

That prevented us from making images of trains coming through the bridge and of RTA Waterfront Line trains crossing over the NS tracks as Marty and Robert had done earlier.

Not wanting to chance getting a ticket, we didn’t stay long on the east bank of the Cuyahoga.

We drove to the west side where we found a parking spot without a meter on Main Avenue beneath the Shoreway bridge over the Flats.

Back in January, Marty and Robert had parked in the lot for Shooters restaurant and bar and hung out on its deck along the river.

But it had been closed that day and no one was around. That was not the case on this September Sunday.

We had noticed while standing on the east bank a viewing platform next to an inlet of the Cuyahoga adjacent to Shooters.

It belonged to an establishment that was closed so we spent some time there.

The advantage it had was a straight-on view of the NS bridge. Another advantage was that the lighting was ideal for that photo angle.

The 17N (manifest freight) was approaching the bridge as we arrived, but we then had a long wait to get the next train. The BF10 was in the area, but the Cleveland Terminal Dispatcher had told the crew to be patient because the bridge was open.

It would remain open for quite a while and we speculated that the bridge tender was holding it open because the Goodtime III and Nautica Queen were scheduled to depart their respective docks at 1 p.m.

The Goodtime would go up the Cuyahoga while the Queen was headed out to Lake Erie. They passed each other just north of the bridge.

It is our understanding that commercial boat traffic has the right of way at the bridge, but the railroad is not obligated to open it for pleasure craft if it has a train coming.

Having not seen the written regulations, I’m not sure how it is supposed to work.

Based on what we observed on this day, though, the bridge remained up most of the time. But when rail traffic was imminent, it came down.

As it turned out, it was the approach of the 24M, a hot intermodal train with UPS trailers, that sent the bridge down.

BF10 was the first train to cross followed by the 24M. But much to the displeasure of the armada of pleasure boats waiting on both sides of the bridge, NS had more traffic to run.

Also approaching the bridge were the 412 (coke train) and the 18N (auto racks).

The latter cleared the bridge about 2:15 p.m., which made the wait for the boats nearly 45 minutes. Some boaters floated in place while others drove around in circles.

After the passage of the 18N, we went to get lunch at a Subway outlet near Battery Park.

We would eat our sandwiches at Battery Park and catch four trains, the 375 (empty coal hoppers), the 20E (intermodal), a light power move that earlier had taken the BF10 to Rockport Yard and the 11K (manifest freight).

The latter was of particular interest because it had the Nickel Plate Road heritage unit in the motive power consist, albeit trailing.

It also was, of course, the last train of the four to pass our position.

After that we meandered over to Wendy Park where we had more luck catching boats than trains. One lake freighter had already passed the bridge by the time we arrived, but I was able to get going away photos of it navigating up the Cuyahoga amid a flotilla of pleasure craft.

We also caught another freighter coming off the lake. As it made its way toward the NS bridge, a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 passed overhead landing at nearby Burke Lakefront Airport with a load of Minneosta Twins coming to town from Detroit for a series with the Indians.

After all of that activity, we got one last train of the day crossing the bridge, intermodal train 21Q.

We also heard the dispatcher tell a track maintainer that the computer system in the dispatching officer was going to have an outage at 6 p.m. That might have had something to do with the paucity of train traffic.

Daylight was fading so we headed to nearby Edgewater Park for some sunset photographs before calling it day and heading for home.

The westbound 21G was the first train that we photographed on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River.

Westbound train 17N crosses the bridge.

BF10 crosses the bridge after a wait. There aren’t many boats on either side of the bridge — yet.

Box cars and boats.

The EOT of the 24M was welcome sight, but there were still two more trains to go.

Still waiting. A westbound coke train crosses the bridge.

18N was the last of four trains to cross the bridge in mid afternoon after about a 45-minute wait for the boats.

Between the condos of Battery Park is an NS train and Lake Erie.

Spanning 73rd Street in Battery Park

A Delta Air Lines 757 lands at Burke Lakefront Airport with the Minnesota Twins as lake freighter Saint Mary’s Cement III pulls into the Cuyahoga River from Lake Erie. The massive boat is being pulled backward by a tug boat.

Containers of NS train 21Q rumble through downtown Cleveland.

Sunset at Edgewater Park was a good way to end a most productive day in Cleveland.

A Nickel Plate Kind of Day

October 9, 2017

I made it a point on the last day that the Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 ran on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad to get down to Brecksville to photograph it leading the ferry move to Akron.

But my plans for the rest of the day was to railfan Norfolk Southern in Cleveland.

As the afternoon was winding down, we got wind that the NKP heritage locomotive of NS was in the motive power consist of westbound manifest freight 11K. We decided to get as it passed the Battery Park neighborhood of Cleveland.

The 11K had to wait on the east side of the drawbridge for three eastbounds to go past, the third of which was crossing over at CP Drawbridge.

At last the traffic cleared and the 11K resumed its westward trek. You’ve probably noticed by now that NS 8100 is trailing. Ah well, not everything can be perfect.

There is a Lake Out There

October 5, 2017

Norfolk Southern train 375 had a stop signal at CP Drawbridge on the Chicago Line. It would wait for the 20E to go around it and then a light power move of the locomotives that earlier that day had powered the BF10 from Motor Yard to Rockport.

Then the empty coal train would continue eastward, crossing from Track 1 to 2 at Drawbridge before entering the Cleveland Line on the other side where the track numbering scheme reverses from New York Central practice to Pennsylvania Railroad practice.

In the top photograph, Lake Erie is visible on the other side of the couplers and air hoses of two cars.

The bottom photo was made after the train stopped. The sailboats are off the shore of Cleveland’s Edgewater Park.

Both images were made in the Battery Park neighborhood.

What We Don’t Want to Hear

September 28, 2017

Depending on what they are carrying, if these tank cars derail, they might make a sound that mirrors the name of the boat waiting for them to clear the Norfolk Southern bridge over the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland.

The tankers were part of the consist of BF10, which makes a daily trip from Motor Yard in Macedonia to Rockport Yard on  Cleveland’s southwest side.

The boater, though, still had a long wait after the BF10 cleared. Trains 24M, 17N and 18N all had to clear before the bridge tender raised the bridge to allow the armada of waiting boats to head for Lake Erie or up the Cuyahoga.

Trump Budget Would Hit Ohio Public Transit

March 20, 2017

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget submitted to Congress by the Trump administration would put funding-starved public transportation in Ohio in even more dire straits.

“We’re barely hanging on. It’s just going to make the existing problems even worse,” said Kirt Conrad, president of the Ohio Public Transit Association and CEO of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority.

President Donald J. Trump wants to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion, which is 13 percent.

Much of the adverse effect on public transportation could come from cuts to grant programs that benefit public transit systems.

The New Starts program, which was authorized to fund $2.3 billion in new rail or bus-rapid transit lines or to expand existing lines through 2020, was used by Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s HealthLine on Euclid Avenue.

“It [budget cuts] really potentially cuts future transit expansions in the country in general. It’s not just Ohio; in the whole country, public transit is at risk,” Conrad said. “In Ohio, without the federal support, I do not see those expansions.”

Also slated to be cut is the TIGER grant proram, which has also been used to fund transit in Ohio.

TIGER grants have funded rehabilitation of RTA stations, including the Little Italy-University Circle station and the University-Cedar station.

Two TIGER grants awarded in 2016 funded bicycle infrastructure in Cleveland and Akron.

Ohio transportation officials say the state’s transit systems rely on federal funding because Ohio limits the use of gas tax revenue to road projects.

Further squeezing public transit systems is a coming loss of revenue from a Medicaid MCO sale tax, which had been used for transit funding.

Starting in 2019, public transit systems in Ohio will lose $34 annually from that revenue source.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed increasing state funding for public transportation by $10 million to make up part of the slack being left by the loss of the Medicaid MCO sales tax.

“Access to public transit is just getting worse, not better, in Ohio,” Conrad said.

Although the impact of the proposed Trump budget on highway construction and maintenance funding has yet to come into clear focus, transportation officials say that the loss of TIGER grants will have an adverse effect by removing another source of federal funding.

A $125 million TIGER grant helped pay, for example, for the new eastbound span of the George V. Voinovich (Innerbelt Bridge).

The Trump budget would also shift responsibility for air traffic control from the Federal Aviation administration to an independent, non-governmental organization.

Getting 2017 Off to a Good Start

January 26, 2017

Call me in the morning if it looks good,” was the last thing my brother Robert said to me as he departed my house on New Year’s Eve. We had been up to the nursing home to visit our mother and he was optimistic about the weather forecast for New Year’s Day.

He had a right to be; the weather gurus were calling for partly to mostly sunny and highs in the mid to upper 30s.

I knew it would be a good day because as Sunday mass progressed the sun shining through the stain glass windows gave more than the usual heavenly glow. There was something special in the air today. Maybe it was just the optimism that a new year brings.

I was on the phone to the bro’ as soon as I got home from church and we were headed toward downtown Cleveland a few minutes later.

I wanted to check out a new photo vantage point at the east side of CP Drawbridge, the NS lift bridge over the mouth of the Cuyahoga River.

A new parking lot abuts the tracks and the lighting this morning was perfect. As we pulled into the lot, we heard on the scanner, “34N Clear, Drawbridge.” Our first train of 2017 was already upon us.

We shot and got back into the Jeep; it was still a bit chilly this morning. But looking around we noticed that the lot we were in at times could be off limits to railfans unless you wanted to pay a parking fee.

On this Sunday morning there were no bars or restaurants open in the Flats so we had the lot to ourselves.

As the morning progressed we did have a few other cars park in the lot. They looked like workers arriving early to help clean up from the previous night’s revelries.

After 34N passed, 35N, its counterpart, was next about five minutes later.

Following it were two more westbounds, one being an oil train. Our vantage point, between the drawbridge and the RTA Waterfront Line overpass of the Chicago Line, meant that between trains we could watch and photograph RTA cars on the Waterfront Line. We narrowly missed an over/under with oil train 67W.

Traffic was steady for the morning as NS was business as usual. All the normal morning trains were running.

By noon, we were in need of some food. Everything here was closed, so we headed for the near West Side. A Subway on Detroit Road not too far from Battery Park was our choice of eateries.

It didn’t have any seating inside the sandwich shop, so we headed to Battery Park to park and eat lunch.

After lunch and two trains, one each way, we went to explore the West Bank of the Cuyahoga River.

We parked at the Aquarium in the Powerhouse and walked along the docks where the Nautica Queen was docked. From here, you can get some nice across-the-river views of the Waterfront Line, using the newly renovated warehouse buildings as backgrounds.

The old warehouses are now apartments. They start at $1,050 a month. Yikes!

We strolled north along the river to the docks next to Shooters. From here you can get some nice views of the NS lift bridge at CP Drawbridge.

I would later find out that Shooters is usually open on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. So on a normal day these views may not be possible or only available to restaurant patrons. I’m not sure, but for today, we were the only humans enjoying the views. Some Lake Erie gulls and some Canada geese were also taking in the view.

Traffic on NS had slowed a bit, but we were able to capture 24M on film as it made its way across the bridge. We moved on, not wanting to overstay our welcome.

Our next stop was at the Superior Viaduct. This is a remnant of the stone arch bridge that once crossed the Cuyahoga.

We were hoping for an across-the-river view of the Waterfront Line. Parking on the viaduct is perpendicular to the roadway and the roadway is narrow.

I parked next to a full size pick-up truck, only to find that seeing around it trying to back out was next to impossible. Fortunately, the owner showed up and drove off while I sat there trying to back out.

The viaduct has trolley tracks imbedded in the stone pavement, the only thing we found of interest up there. The view across the river is blocked by the roof of an open air pavilion called, “Jacob’s Pavilion.”

From here we were off to an area known as Settler’s Landing. This is where Moses Cleaveland supposedly landed and began the settlement that became Cleveland. Near the log cabin that marks the spot, you can shoot RTA cars on the Waterfront Line across a bend in the river.

The light was nice here, but the local lake gull population was causing problems. They were flying around trying to get some popcorn from a lady who was throwing it to them.

One bird almost flew in the way of one of my photos. I’ll find out when I get it back if it is in or out of the photo.

From here we moved closer to the Waterfront Line tracks in the grassy area between the tracks and the river at the Settler’s Landing station; no one was feeding the birds there, at least when we first arrived.

We shot several RTA cars here. They were running about every 15 minutes. When the southbound car would go past, the northbound none would be coming very soon.

Then you had a short break before the cycle repeated itself.

When we tired of this area, we were again off to Battery Park for the remainder of the day.

NS ran two eastbounds and one westbound before we left. The sun disappears behind a new condo building at about 4:30 p.m. in January.

The condos here start at $345,280 and there is a monthly grounds maintenance fee added on.

Wow! I’m glad I live in Parma Heights.

I exposed 30 frames this day, which is not a bad way to kick off 2017. Let’s hope there’s plenty more where this came from.

Article by Marty Surdyk