Posts Tagged ‘Greater Cleveland RTA’

Cleveland RTA Upgrading 116th Street Station

June 2, 2018

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has begun construction of a renovated East 116th-St. Luke’s station on its joint Blue and Green lines in Cleveland.

The $7.2 million project will provide enhanced security features, emergency call buttons and better lighting, and ramps that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Construction.

The project is expected to be completed in May 2019. The station was last renovated in 1981.

Shirmir Construction has installed a temporary access way so riders can use the station during construction. Panzica Construction Co. is the general contractor, while City Architecture is providing the design.

The East 116th Station opened in 1920, when service began from Shaker Square to East 34th Street and downtown Cleveland.

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Cleveland Offered Terminal Tower for Amazon Headquarters, Wanted to Expand RTA Rail Lines

May 12, 2018

Had Cleveland managed to land the second headquarters for Amazon, it might have been a much-needed boost for Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s rail lines.

Cleveland leaders proposed placing the headquarters in Terminal Tower and the adjacent Post Office Plaza and undertaking a major expansion of RTA’s rail lines.

The proposal even offered to give Amazon employees a 25 percent discount on RTA passes.

The revelation came this week after the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency grudgingly released documents sought by a journalist detailing information about the city’s failed Amazon headquarters bid.

NOACA is a transportation planning agency that prepared information used to support Cleveland’s bid for the Amazon headquarters.

The documents show that Cleveland officials had promised to “accelerate” plans to triple RTA’s capacity, including increasing rail lines from 37 miles to 111 miles by 2029.

The RTA pass discounts would have been worth $121 million over 15 years, the documents say, based on the assumption that 50,000 Amazon employees used RTA.

Access to public transportation is one of many factors that Amazon said it would value in reviewing bids for its second headquarters.

NOACA had sought to shield public access to the Amazon bid documents, arguing that they constituted trade secrets which under Ohio’s open records laws are exempt from disclosure.

But Mark Naymik, a columnist for Cleveland.com, which like The Plain Dealer newspaper is a unit of Advance Ohio, disputed that and took the agency to court.

A special master appointed by the court reviewed the documents and ruled that the location of the proposed Amazon headquarters site is not secret and should be released.

NOACA said in a statement that it disagreed with the special master’s ruling, but decided not to appeal it because it didn’t want to spend more public money trying to keep the records secret.

The documents that NOACA released did not show all of the Amazon headquarters bid including any public tax incentives that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish offered.

The bid was also prepared in cooperation with private, nonprofit economic-development groups Team NEO and the Greater Cleveland Partnership, both of which also have refused to release documents pertaining to the Amazon bid even though Cleveland failed to make the first cut that Amazon announced last January.

Among those still standing in the quest for HQ2 are Pittsburgh, Columbus and Indianapolis.

Amazon received bids from 238 applicants hungry for the 50,000 well-paying Amazon jobs, $5 billion in construction and 250,000 indirect jobs that a successful bid promises to bring.

Terminal Tower and the Post Office Plaza are both owned by K&D Group of Cleveland.

It purchased the 52-story Terminal Tower in 2016 for a reported $38.5 million.

The iconic building, which opened in 1929, was once Cleveland’s primary intercity rail passenger station, but has not seen a passenger train since Conrail discontinued the Cleveland-Youngstown commuter trains in early January 1977.

However, it is the hub of RTA rail lines, serving as the terminus of the Green, Blue and Waterfront lines, and an intermediate stop on the Red Line. Some Red and Blue line trains operate through to and from the Waterfront line.

At one point during its storied life, Terminal Tower was the headquarters of various railroads owned by the Van Sweringen brothers of Cleveland.

Terminal Tower now hosts a shopping center that includes restaurants and a theater that is known as Tower City Center. It was developed by Forest City Enterprises and opened in 1990 as The Avenue.

Upon buying the structure, K&D Enterprises had spoken about developing some of Terminal Tower into residential space.

Oh What Might Have Been

May 12, 2018

Were they serious? If so, imagine the possibilities. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the governor of Ohio and a host of elected officials standing in front of Terminal Tower to announce it would be the second Amazon headquarters.

The announcement would feature grand pronouncements about what a great thing it was for public transportation in Greater Cleveland.

But it’s all a moot point because Amazon did not consider Cleveland’s bid for the second headquarters worth pursuing.

As described in the post above, Cleveland proposed that Amazon locate the headquarters in Terminal Tower, the hub of the four rail lines of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

The bid offered Amazon employees a 25 percent discount on RTA fares and promised to “accelerate” plans to expand RTA rail line mileage from 37 to 111 miles by 2029.

Cleveland officials must have thought that would entice Amazon because access to public transportation was among the criteria that Amazon valued.

It wasn’t the only requirement and maybe Cleveland came up short on other things. But Amazon might have examined the RTA rail expansion closely and asked the same question I did.

It is unclear how the RTA rail line expansions would have been paid for, but probably through a mix of federal, state and local funding.

It would have been money falling from heaven out of wallets that have long been closed or barely open to public transportation in Ohio.

Cleveland RTA faces a tough future. Ohio minimally funds public transportation and the state’s public transit agencies are coping with the loss of a tax they once counted on for revenue.

RTA has a long deferred maintenance backlog that will cost millions to work down with funding to tackle all of it nowhere in sight.

This includes replacing the worn out Breda cars used on the Blue, Green and Waterfront lines. Some believe those lines are in jeopardy of closing in a few years because of the lack of operable equipment.

RTA also relies on a sales tax in Cuyahoga County that has not increased since it was implemented.

It is difficult to imagine RTA undertaking an expansion of its existing rail lines when preserving the status quo is already a challenge.

The information released thus far about the RTA rail expansion in the failed Amazon bid has been sketchy.

It is not clear whether it involved extending existing RTA rail routes or using railroad right of ways such as the former Erie Railroad line that is still in place to Aurora to create new routes.

There once was a proposal to launch commuter rail service on the former Erie, which until January 1977 hosted Cleveland-Youngstown commuter trains.

But that met strong opposition in far suburbs from people who fear all sorts of things ranging from diminished property values to criminals riding trains to their town to commit crimes.

Had Cleveland officials announced their plan to expand RTA rail lines it would have been met with a chorus from the suburbs of “let’s rebuild the roads instead of laying rails. If Amazon employees don’t want to drive like we do, they can take a bus or they can carpool.”

Maybe the sheer size of the Amazon proposal would have been enough to overcome such opposition, given that Amazon was dangling the prospect of 50,000 well-paying high tech jobs, $5 billion in construction and 250,000 indirect jobs. Economic development on that scale doesn’t come along often.

Even so, the forces that have kept public transportation in check in Northeast Ohio will not be defeated easily. There is too much at stake in maintaining the existing power structure.

I recently learned that when Randall Park Mall was being developed in the early 1970s that developer Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. offered to help pay to extend the Blue Line along Warrensville Road to the site. But the proposal went nowhere.

A similar idea to extend the Blue Line about 10 years ago also has languished.

It might have been one of the RTA rail expansions cited in the Cleveland bid for Amazon.

Randall Park Mall has since been razed and the site is now being developed as an Amazon distribution center.

Oh the possibilities of what might have been: Amazon to Amazon by rail in 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 RTA Won Raise Fares, Cut Service in 2018; May Eye Tax Increase to Boost Revenue

March 30, 2018

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has decided against increasing bus and rail fares this year and instead may seek a tax increase to generate additional revenue.

The transit agency had proposed earlier this year increasing fares by 25 cents in August to compensate for declining revenue, but that was met with a public outcry.

RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese also said RTA will not reduce its level of service further for the remainder of the year.

Earlier this month, RTA reduced frequency of service on 15 bus and train routes.

RTA also has launched a study of its fares, services and funding with at least one board of directors member already favoring seeking a tax increase.

“There’s no other entity in the county that has operated for 40 years on the same levy,” said board member Trevor Elkins, who also serves as the mayor of Newburgh Heights. “We have to step up and lead on this issue.”

Calabrese did not favor or disfavor a tax increase effort, but said RTA needs to increase its revenue streams.

“We need you to help us to convince others to fund public transit at a level to provide great service to our customers,” he said to the audience attending an RTA board meeting this week.

RTA benefits from a 1 percent sales tax in Cuyahoga County, but revenue from that tax has been falling.

Further aggravating the revenue picture was a deal last year between the state and Medicaid that eliminated a local sales tax on Medicaid payments for managed care, which had been worth about $20.2 million per year to RTA.

State funding of public transit has fallen from about $45 million in 2001 to less than $7 million.

RTA board member Georgine Welo, the mayor of South Euclid, said the public needs to question state officials and candidates about their support for public transit.

“You can’t trust Columbus. We have to bring back to Ohio that they’re there for us,” she said.

Calabrese described federal aid as a mixed picture.

The recently adopted federal budget for 2018 increased some categories of aid but lowered others. The federal government continues to fund capital improvements, but not operations.

RTA last increased fares in 2016 when they rose by 25 cents. That led to ridership falling by 6 percent, which was double the projected loss.

In the meantime, the RTA board approved a revised 2018 budget of $286.3 million, a decrease from the proposed $300.1 million. The budget defers $5 million in capital improvements in the hopes of more future funding.

The board also announced that its president. George F. Dixon III, has resigned at its request.

The board is investigating reports that Dixon has skipped paying healthcare premiums for insurance provided by RTA for several years. An internal investigation is being undertaken board members said.

Dixon joined the RTA board in 1992 and was appointed president in 1994.

RTA said Dixon signed up for health care through a program offered to all RTA board members, but that no other current board members are enrolled in the healthcare plan. RTA is self-insured.

Dashing Through Some Snow

March 15, 2018

The first day of spring is March 20 when the spring equinox occurs in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:15 p.m. EDT, but this week has felt more like January than the cusp of spring.

At least where I live there is still considerable snow on the ground and snow showers were frequent throughout Northeast Ohio on Tuesday.

Light snow was falling as a Greater Cleveland RTA Green Line car made its way toward downtown Cleveland after making stop at the station on Warrensville Road in Shaker Heights.

It will run parallel to Shaker Boulevard all the way to Shaker Square in Cleveland.

RTA May Delay Fare Hike Until 2019

February 22, 2018

A fare increase set to go into effect on March 27 might be delayed until next year, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority said this week.

Greater Cleveland RTA said it is considering conducting a comprehensive fare study and while that is being done it would continue fares at their current level.

The fare hike delay was recommended by RTA’s operational planning and infrastructure committee.

The RTA board of directors is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation on March 27 when it approves a revised 2018 operating budget.

“We need to take a look at the possibility of modifying our fare structure to best assure fairness and equity to our customers,” said Joe Calabrese, GCRTA’s chief executive officer and general manager in a news release. “It’s critical that we study if there is a way to join with community partners to offer lower fares for our customers with lower incomes.”

Calabrese said that past fare increases have resulted in ridership declines because many riders could not afford the higher fare.

In 2016, ridership fell by 6 percent after RTA increased fares by 25 cents, which was double the projected ridership loss.

RTA Shortens Red Line Trains for Wheel Work

February 19, 2018

Some Greater Cleveland Red Line trains are operating with one car rather than the customary two because several cars have been removed from service for wheel work.

RTA said it has sidelined 17 of the 40 cars normally assigned to the line because the wheels had worn too thin to meet safety standards.

That has meant crowded trains, particularly during busy travel times. The cars were removed in the latter part of last year but some are now starting to go back into service with new wheels.

Although RTA ordered new wheels for the cars last June, its order was delayed when the company processing the order gave priority to another customer with a larger order.

By last December, RTA lacked enough serviceable cars to assign two cars per train as is the normal practice.

New wheels finally began reaching the RTA shop last week and the first car to receive new wheels entered revenue service shortly thereafter.

RTA officials say it will take nearly two months for every train to again be assigned two cars and nearly 16 weeks to retrofit the entire fleet, including spare cars.

Although the shop located near East 55th Street can repair a wheel through a process known as truing, after two inches have been removed from a wheel it must be discarded.

Applying the brakes and the effects of snow and ice can cause wear and tear on wheels.

Each new wheel consists of 550 pounds of steel and is 28 inches in diameter.

GCRTA To Reduce Rail Service in March

January 18, 2018

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will reduce off-peak frequencies on all of its rail lines on March 11 as part of a $4 million cost cutting move.

RTA is increasing the headways or how many minutes there are between trains during the hours before and after the morning and evening rush hours.

Currently the Red Line operates every 10 minutes during non-rush hours. The Blue, Green and Waterfront lines have headways of eight to 15 minutes, depending on location.

Starting March 11, the Red Line headways before and after rush hours will go to 15 minutes while the headways on the Blue, Green and Waterfront lines will change to 10 to 25 minutes depending on location

Weekend Waterfront Line service is now every 15 minutes, but will change to every 30 minutes.

Some bus routes will also see increased headways. RTA said no bus routes are being eliminated. Likewise, no overall hours of service will be changed.

RTA CEO Joseph Calabrese said that no layoffs are expected in March, but he plans to submit a revised budget this spring that will call for staff cuts through layoffs, demotions, transfers, reduced shifts and reduced overtime.

Calabrese said the austerity measures are being undertaken due to reduced funding from the State of Ohio for public transportation.

He said by increasing headways RTA is scaling back use of its most underused vehicles.

Although acknowledging that some riders will be inconvenienced by the increased headways, Calabrese hopes that the buses and trains that continue operating will have a higher load factor, with some trains and buses running at 90 percent occupancy.

In 2017, RTA ended the year with a $36 million surplus, which Calabrese said has helped forestall further service cuts, but will not prevent long-term cuts.

GCTRA Completes Building Green Line Station

October 19, 2017

Renovation of the Lee-Shaker station on the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Green Line has been completed.

The $11.7 million upgrade involved removing and replacing the original platform and waiting shelters.

Workers also installed new lighting, signs, railings and a safety security system with cameras and emergency call boxes.

The work began in October 2016 and the station remained open during the construction work.

In a news release, RTA said the renovations make the station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This station, as well as other recent renovations on both our light- and heavy-rail lines, are examples of RTA’s significant investment in our robust rail infrastructure,” said GCRTA CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese.