Posts Tagged ‘Greater Cleveland RTA’

Waterfront Line Suspension Extended Indefinitely

September 9, 2021

A Waterfront line car climbs the incline to cross the Norfolk Southern Tracks in downtown Cleveland in September 2017.

Service on the Cleveland RTA Waterfront line has been suspended indefinitely due to the closing of a bridge that spans the Norfolk Southern tracks just east of the Cuyahoga River.

It is the latest setback for the 2.2-mile line, which saw service suspended for several months last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then shut down again last October due to a track rehabilitation project at Tower City.

RTA said in a statement that a consulting firm found that the bridge needs four interim support towers to stabilize the structure.

These would be considered a temporary fix until a permanent solution to the problem is found and implemented.

The consulting firm had found in a 2018 inspection that the bridge has stress fractures. At the time, RTA responded by limiting traffic on the bridge to one train at a time.

Hardesty & Hanover, which conducted the inspection, recommended that RTA not use the bridge until it is permanently fixed, a process expected to take two years.

RTA has awarded an emergency contract for the support towers with that work expected to be finished in late October.

The most recent inspection of the bridge was conducted this past summer ahead of what RTA expected to a resumption of service on the Waterfront Line.

Hardesty & Hanover has begun design work on a permanent solution fix for the bridge, which RTA expects to pay for with $6 million in federal funding granted by the Federal Transit Administration.

The service suspension means RTA will not be able to provide service directly to FirstEnergy Stadium this year for Cleveland Browns games.

Cleveland RTA Awards Rail Grinding Contract

September 4, 2021

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has awarded a rail grinding contract to Advanced Rail Management.

The contractor will provide rail grinding project management designed to improve wheel/rail interaction on 38 track-miles on the Red Line and 10 track-miles on the Blue and Green lines.

In a news release, ARM said it will provide project management and be responsible for the quality, technical accuracy and coordination of all required services through 2023.

The work undertaken by ARM will include optical rail measurement to capture rail profile, and to measure rail wear prior to the grinding and post-grind optical rail measurement, to assess the effectiveness of the grinding work.

Annual measurement will enable ARM to monitor wear rates over the course of the program.

Cleveland RTA Restarts Rail Car Acquisition

June 14, 2021

Much of North America’s rail passenger growth is occurring in urban rail systems. Two Greater Cleveland RTA Blue Line trains pass in June 2013.

It is back to square one for Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in its quest to buy new rail cars.

The transit agency said Friday afternoon it has canceled its plans to find a manufacturer for the cars because the sole proposal it received provided to be inadequate.

RTA said in a news release that it would start the search over but “remains committed” to replacing its rail car fleet.

The news release said the new search will begin at an unspecified point during the next few months.

The request for proposals was sent to rail car manufacturers in February. At the time, RTA specified it was seeking a car type that could operate on all three of if rail lines.

At the time, RTA acknowledged that would involve a specialized product but that it would make maintenance easier and less costly.

Two vendors showed interest in the request for proposals but only one submitted a formal proposal by the May deadline.

After reviewing that proposal, RTA staff concluded the proposal “was not responsive to the technical requirements of the solicitation.”

A rail passenger advocacy group, All Aboard Ohio, had warned earlier that RTA’s timeline on its rail car acquisition program was too tight and would drive up costs.

AAO filed a complaint with the inspector general of the Federal Transportation Administration after RTA twice denied deadline extensions by one or more manufacturers.

The costs of the new rail cars has been put at approximately $240 million. The transit agency is seeking new cars after a consultant said in 2019 that cars used on the Red Line are in poor condition and had a useful life of at most five years.

Cars used on the Blue and Green lines were said by the consultant to have a useful life of 10 years or less.

RTA Offers Free Rides as it Implements New Route Network

June 14, 2021

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.”

AAO Wants Probe of RTA Railcar Procurement

May 15, 2021

An Ohio rail advocacy group wants an investigation into the procurement process being used by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to buy new railcars.

All Aboard Ohio said it contacted the Federal Transit Administration’s inspector general after it learned from unnamed GCRTA sources and a railcar manufacturer that RTA twice denied deadline extensions sought by one or more manufacturers.

The builders said they needed more time to respond to RTA’s pending request for proposals.

AAO said it fears the denials could suppress competition among bidders, which could increase the costs for what is expected to be a $240 million program to replace the cars.

The car replacement project is expected to be RTA’s most expensive capital project in its history.

In a statement, RTA said it continues to pursue acquisition of new rail cars but declined to provide further details on the process.

The statement said RTA is following FTA’s best practices and is in compliance with state and federal regulations.

RTA issued a request for proposals on Feb. 22 that gave interested parties 12 weeks to prepare and submit proposals by May 19.

The transit agency plans to buy 18 railcars and seek options to buy dozens more later. RTA wants to use federal funding to finance some of the purchase.

The agency plans to use one model on all of its rail lines. Currently, it has two types of cars with one dedicated to use on the Red Line and another on the Green and Blue lines.

AAO contend that at least one rail car manufacturer was unable to visit the RTA railcar maintenance shop until April.

The advocacy group said deadline extensions for such projects are considered a “best practice” by the FTA, and had been done on projects in in California, New York, and Illinois in an effort to enhance competition among bidders.

“We hope that FTA’s [inspector general] will be able to determine why FTA’s best practices are not being followed here,” AAO said in its letter to the FTA, saying the deadline should be extended by a month.

Cleveland RTA Names New Police Chief

April 9, 2021

Deirde Jones has been named chief of police and director of security for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Jones has served with the Cleveland Division of Police for 32 years most recently as acting deputy chief of administrative operations.

She will assume her new position at Cleveland RTA on May 3.

During her time with Cleveland police, Jones held a range of positions, including sergeant in the domestic violence, homicide, integrity and basic patrol units. In December 2016, she was promoted to commander of the Bureau of Support Services.  

She was appointed the department of safety’s first-ever LGBTQ liaison for police, fire and EMS. In that post her responsibilities included promoting equity and inclusion throughout the department while cultivating a relationship of trust between the LGBTQ community and city’s safety forces.

Cleveland RTA Board Elects New Officers

March 27, 2021

The board of trustees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has elected new officers.

Board members elected the Rev. Charles Lucas as president and attorney Karen Gabriel Moss as vice president. Each will serve a one-year term.

An appointee of the city of Cleveland, Lucas succeeds former President Dennis Clough, the mayor of Westlake, who announced in October 2020 that he would not seek reelection once his term expired March 3, 2021.

An appointee of Cuyahoga County, Moss joined the board in March 2011. She is a practicing partner at Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper.

The three-year term of board member Justin Bibb has expired. He joined the board in October 2018.

Cleveland RTA Appoints New Deputy General Manager

February 25, 2021

Natoya Walker Minor has been appointed deputy general manager of administration and external affairs of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

She has 30 years of experience in external affairs and public administration, most recently as the chief of public affairs for the city of Cleveland.

Minor will begin her job at RTA on March 8.

Her duties will include providing strategic leadership, policy and operational direction for multiple city departments since 2006, GCRTA officials said in a news release.

Few Memorials for Transportation Pipe Dreams

February 1, 2021

I spend a fair amount of time writing stories for this blog about pipe dreams. Many of these are proposals for new or additional rail passenger service, but some involve restoring to operating condition a piece of historic railroad equipment, often a steam locomotive.

By one definition, a pipe dream is an unattainable or fanciful hope or plan. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a pipe dream as an illusory or fantastic plan, hope or story.

By fantastic it doesn’t mean great or extraordinary but imaginative or fanciful yet remote from reality.

In short, a pipe dream is something unlikely to happen as described if it happens at all.

Some of these pipe dreams are flights of fancy even if on the surface they appear to be plausible ideas.

Most of the pipe dreams I’ve written about have been the subject of a formal study and/or pushed by an organized group with the ability to amplify its dream beyond a handful of its members.

For example, a downtown Cleveland advocacy group recently proposed reviving the idea of connecting the end of the Waterfront rail line on the Lake Erie shore with the Red Line to the south thus creating a rail loop around downtown Cleveland.

Somewhere in a filing cabinet in the offices of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is a blueprint for doing just that.

It was proposed in 2000 but never advanced beyond being a plan on paper.

When asked about the idea recently, a Cleveland RTA official didn’t reject it outright but said the transit agency is more focused on replacing its aging rail car fleet, a task that will require millions of dollars that RTA has had to scrap and claw to find.

Lack of money and political support usually are the reasons why so many bold proposals fail to get very far.

A lot has to go right for any proposal to become reality and that involves forces beyond the control of the originator of the idea.

It is not difficult to find the money for a feasibility study. But virtually every one of those studies I’ve read had one thing in common. They lacked a viable funding source.

Sometimes pipe dreams do come true. There was a time when it seemed like a pipe dream that the moribund East Broad Top narrow gauge railroad and its fleet of steam locomotives would operate again.

Then seemingly out of nowhere funding materialized and the historic Pennsylvania-based railroad is coming back to life.

Similar stories have surrounded Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611, a Union Pacific Big Boy steam locomotive and Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309.

At one time the idea that any of those locomotives would operate again under steam seemed like a pipe dream. And yet all of them have.

There are some success stories about intercity rail service restoration and development in Virginia, Maine, California and North Carolina.

But for every one of these stories there are many more pipe dreams that haven’t made it out of the talking and planning stages.

Reviving intercity rail passenger service between Cleveland and Cincinnati has been talked about and studied for five decades with little to no progress to show for it.

Various proposals to create a Midwest network of rail passenger corridors has met the same fate.

Even some projects on which substantial sums of money have been spent have yet to evolve as envisioned.

Amtrak and the State of Michigan have sunk millions of dollars into buying and rebuilding track between Chicago and Detroit.

Yet service between the two cities has yet to increase beyond the three daily roundtrips that became the norm in the mid 1970s because the State of Michigan has yet to fund that service expansion.

Likewise, some historical restoration efforts continue to lag for lack of money and it is far from clear when or if that funding will materialize.

While many pipe dreams eventually fade away others continue to persist even in the face of repeated failures and disappointments.

Pipe dreams are the glue that hold some organizations together, particularly rail passenger advocacy groups.

Keeping the dream going becomes as important as getting anything done about it because it keeps the organization in business.

For some people, pipe dreams are a form of identity, a way of showing the world this is what I believe in and I’ll fight for my dreams so long as I’m able.

There is a sport-oriented bromide that you will miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.

Success doesn’t come without trying and having the persistence to work to overcome failures.

True enough. Yet what do we say about those who miss 100 percent of the shots they take and/or make less than 10 percent of them?

There is some admiration for that type of persistence but few memorials to it. These efforts might have been more successful had they sought to achieve objectives that had a more realistic chance to be attained with the resources the pipe dreamers actually had.

Dashing Through the Snow

January 17, 2021

It is the day after a winter storm in February 2011 that dumped heavy snow and left trees coated with ice in Cleveland.

The sun is out and I’ve grabbed my camera and gone out to get some photographs.

I drove over to the Warrensville Road Rapid station at the intersection of Warrrensville Road and Shaker Boulevard. The situation is ideal for photographing Cleveland RTA cars.

Shown is an eastbound car bound for the end of the line at Green Road. Years later I’m glad I make the effort to get out and make some photographs on this day. I also wish I had done it more often than I did.

Photograph by Craig Sanders