Posts Tagged ‘Ohio public transit’

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.

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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.

NOACA OKs $15.8B Transportation Plan for Greater Cleveland

July 22, 2017

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has approved a $15.8 billion, 20-year transportation plan for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties that has been named AIM Forward 2040.

More than 90 percent of the funds identified in the plan will be used to maintain existing infrastructure and support new transit and livability projects.

“We heard over and over again that adding more lanes and widening roads was not necessarily a priority,” said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci. “What we did hear was a strong desire for more options for getting around and fixing what we already have.

NOACA plans to invest $45 million to renew rail infrastructure of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Red Line from Tower City to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The line sees nearly 30,000 weekday riders and in recent years deteriorated tracks and poor drainage have slowed trains.

Also on the docket is spending nearly $68 million for replacing 260 transit buses in Cuyahoga and Lake counties.

This does not yet include the replacement of RTA’s rail fleet, some of which dates back to the middle 1970s. RTA wants to replace its two models of light and heavy rail cars with a single type of equipment during the next four-year cycle of urban formula grants.

The price of replacing the rail car fleet with nearly 70 light-rail cars may be as much as $300 million.

Also in the works is planning of transit-oriented development around RTA rail stations. This will include a pilot program focused at the West Boulevard/Cudell station on the Red Line and the East 116th Street station on the Blue and Green Lines.

Additional transit-supportive land-use planning is occurring near RTA’s two East 79th Street rail stations that are in need of major rehabilitation.

Some development has been built, is under construction or is planned within walking distance of dozens of rail and bus rapid transit stations.

In the longer term future, NOACA wants to expand the number of rail stations from 50 to 162, and expand rail service to improve job access in places such as Euclid, Lorain, Westlake, Lakewood, Solon, Strongsville and Medina, as well as promote walkable communities around rail stations.

NOACA officials say that under existing flexible transportation funding provisions, the financial resources already exist to expand the existing transit system.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has awarded to NOACA $200,000 to begin planning a multi-county transit system as an overlay to connect and enhance existing county-based transit networks to improve access to job hubs.

Only 10 percent of available jobs are within a 60-minute one-way transit ride in Greater Cleveland.

AAO Wants Senate Vote on Veto Override

July 18, 2017

All Aboard Ohio is urging its members to prod the Ohio Senate into scheduling a vote on overriding a veto by Gov. John Kasich of legislation that would provide funding for public transit agencies.

The House voted 87-10 to override the line-item veto in the budget bill of a provision in the budget known as the Dolan amendment that would provide funding to transit agencies that will be lost when a sales tax on Medicaid managed care organizations ends.

The Dolan amendment would authorize a franchise fee be paid to transit agencies through 2024.

At this point, Senate President Larry Obhoff has yet to schedule a vote on a veto override and AAO members are being asked to contact Obhoff, who represents a district in Medina County, and ask that a vote be scheduled.

The tax on services provided by Medicaid managed care organizations was struck down by a court, which AAO said could result in a yearly $40 million loss to transit agencies starting in 2019.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority would lose $20 million of that. RTA has said that loss of that funding would result in a 10 percent service cut and layoffs.

FTA Urges States to Enact Safety Programs

June 21, 2017

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan are among 30 states that have been reminded by the Federal Transit Administration that they must establish a state safety oversight program by April 15, 2019.

The rule was promulgated in 2016 and sets a three-year time frame for states to obtain certification for their SSO programs.

Failure to do so will mean the  FTA will not obligate funds to transportation agencies in that state until certification is achieved.

The FTA said it is encouraging states to act quickly to enact necessary legislation required to meet certification requirements.

Nine states have yet to enact legislation prior to FTA certification. FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes said that by law the 2019 deadline cannot be waived.

“The affected states should act to establish an FTA-certified SSO program that is compliant with federal law and provides the highest level of safety for their rail-transit riders and workers,” he said in a statement.

Cincinnati Metro May Seek 1% Sales Tax

June 12, 2017

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is considering seeking a sales tax to help fund its operations, known as Cincinnati Metro.

The transit system is currently funded in part by a 0.3 percent earning tax on jobs in Cincinnati. But as many jobs in the city have vanished or moved to the surrounding region, the level of funding provided by the jobs tax has fallen to the point where SORTA is unable to replace aging buses and maintain its existing network.

Cincinnati Metro serves area beyond the city limits, but receives no tax support from those areas.

Cincinnati Metro also would like to expand service to areas where there is job growth, noting that one out of five adults in Cincinnati doesn’t have a car. Just 4 percent of the region’s jobs are accessible within a 1-hour transit commute.

SORTA plans at its June 20 meeting to consider placing on the November ballot a 1 percent sales tax proposal in Hamilton County.

The agency said revenue earned from the tax would be used to buy more efficient buses that use cleaner  fuels or even electricity and expand its network with dozens of new countywide routes.

Rail service is not expected to part of the expanded plan in the short or medium term, but could be discussed once the agency has stabilized its financial situation.

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.

Transit Agencies Gird for Loss of Tax Revenue

August 11, 2016

Eight Ohio public transportation agencies are looking at losing as much as 10 percent of their sales tax revenue in 2017, including agencies in Cleveland, Akron and Canton.

OhioThe cuts are being prompted by the ending of a practice of taxing twice purchases made by Medicaid managed care organizations.

All Aboard Ohio, a passenger advocacy group has called on the Ohio Legislature to provide funding to thee agencies in order to make up for the lost revenue.

AAO said the transit agencies may have to impose service cuts, raise fares and undertake fewer repair projects. Also affected are transit agencies in Portage, Mahoning and Lake counties.

The lost sales tax revenue will hurt the most those agencies that rely heavily on sales tax revenue, including Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Under current practices, sales tax is applied twice to purchases from Medicaid managed care organizations.

The state of Ohio expects to lose $550 million annually from sales tax receipts once the double application of sales taxes ends.

AAO wants the legislature to double the $7 million it appropriates to help fund public transportation. It noted that despite being the 7th most populous state, Ohio ranks 46th in support for public transportation.

Ohio Increases Public Transportation Funding

May 31, 2016

Ohio has increased its funding of public transportation for the first time in more than a decade.

The Ohio General Assembly this month approved a supplemental appropriation for the Ohio Department of Transportation that increased transit funding by $8.2 million.

ODOT 2The move reversed slightly a 15-year decline of state spending for public transportation from $42 million to $7 million.

The increase in funding comes from $6.8 million from a federal TIGER grant and $1.4 million in other federal funding.

Most of the increase will go to the Transit Tech Ohio project to help rural transit agencies purchase hardware and software that allows them to schedule and dispatch transit vehicles more efficiently.

Other funds will be used to reduce fares for elderly passengers.

The legislature, though, tabled amendments by state representatives from Cleveland and Cincinnati to boost transit funding to $97 million annually.