Posts Tagged ‘Joe Calabrese’

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.

Advertisements

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.

Cleveland RTA Official Gets National Honor

March 20, 2017

A Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority official has been named the winner of the 2017 Women Who Move the Nation Award.

Loretta Kirk

Loretta Kirk received the honor from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

Kirk is a 37-year COMTO member who was a member of its national board of directors for 16 years and was chair between 2006-2010. She has held numerous COMTO posts at the national and local levels.

“RTA is proud to congratulate Loretta for her dedication to managing the financial resources of our organization,” said CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese in a statement. “She also works diligently to advance the concerns for Small Businesses and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and oversees critical functions of our organization that help move us forward. She is a worthy recipient of this award.”

 

Cleveland RTA Track Repair Project Means New Tower City Entrance for Westbound Trains

August 2, 2016

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority passengers planning to travel west from Tower City on the Red or Waterfront lines are using a new entrance and track.

Cleveland RTAThe move was necessitated when RTA closed Track 8 for a repair project and is routing westbound trains over Track 7.

The project is the first track rebuilding in the Tower City station since 1990. The project is expected to be completed by late November.

RTA CEO Joe Calabrese said trains using Track 8 had been subject to a slow order.

The new entrance for westbound trains was needed because Track 7 is hidden behind a concrete wall separating it from Track 8.

To reach Track 7, passengers need to use a separate entrance on the Public Square level of Tower City between Darrio Fashion Group and Victoria’s Secret.

RTA has put up signs to mark the entrance and direct passengers to the entrance, which has platforms and ticket machines. Track 7 can also be reached by elevator.

Passengers disembarking from Green and Blue line trains bound for the Waterfront line will also need to use this entrance.

RTA is still working to land funding to repair Tracks 10 and 13. No time frame has been set for that project.

Cleveland RTA Official Wins Leadership Award

November 14, 2015

The executive officer and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has been named one of nine public officials of the year by Governing magazine.

Joe Calabrese was the only transit leader to receive the honor this year.

“Joe Calabrese has become one of the most credible voices in the public transportation industry,” wrote U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in nominating Calabrese for the award. “That’s why his expertise has been called upon at every level, including congressional hearings, as he encourages national energy security, promotes environmental initiatives, and advocates for increases in transit funding.”

The magazine’s program to honor state and local government leaders is now in its 24th year.

Snow, Ice Hindered Cleveland RTA Trains

March 18, 2015

It was not a particularly easy winter for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, which suffered a rash of weather-related service disruptions due to frozen switches and tracks flooded with water that turned into ice.

RTA rapid trains suffered repeated delays, which frustrated riders and RTA staff alike. The transit agency acknowledged that it didn’t notify customers of service delays and disruptions as promptly as it should have.

“We know our service has been less than satisfactory and less than at the level we want,” RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese said.

On one day frozen switches at RTA’s hub at Tower City in downtown Cleveland froze and trains were running up to 50 minutes late.

In normal circumstances, the switches are remote controlled, but the crews had to crank the switches by and trains moved at restricted speed. Calabrese said RTA will look into increasing the temperature on heaters connected to the switches.

Service logs show 130 delays on RTA’s rapid system from Dec. 1, 2014, through March 2, 2015, most of which were between five and 15 minutes. The delays were attributed to slippery rails, assisting passengers and slow orders.

Ice coating overhead wires reduced or cut off the flow of power to some trains via the pantographs. RTA uses a cutter train that scraps the ice off the wires, running it during hours after service ends.

But at times, the cutter couldn’t keep up with the ice accumulation.

Another problem was snow piling up on tracks. On one day an RTA employee mistakenly dumped a pile of snow on the tracks at the Green Road station. A train rode up on the packed snow and ice, leaving half of an articulated car off the tracks.

Another delay occurred when an RTA vehicle clearing snow fell off a rail platform and onto the tracks. Trains were delayed while the vehicle was removed and the tracks inspected.

In yet another instance, a water main break left a pool of slush on the tracks at Tower City. The slush was sucked into the trucks of the transit cars.

Calabrese said that RTA plans to revamp its messaging system so that those responsible for restoring service during disruptions are not also responsible for sending customer service alerts. Those will now be handled by a separate staff.

RTA officials also pledged to get more information to RTA’s telephone operators so they are better able to respond to questions from riders.

It will also increase from six to 10 the number of backup shuttle buses that are deployed around the city, ready to move into action if needed.

Richard Newell, RTA director of service quality, sent an email to riders to apologize for “deficiencies in performance that has been exasperated by the extreme temperatures of late.  Please be assured that we are working diligently to address the failure of our service providers to communicate to the riders about service delays and the expected time associated with each situation.”

RTA is also dealing with aging equipment that will need to be replaced in the medium-term future. Its rail cars date from 1982 or 1983, making the average age of the cars at 32 to 33 years the oldest average age of any rail fleet in the country.

The RTA fleet is expected to last another eight to 10 years before needing to be replaced at an estimated cost of $250 million to $300 million.