Our region is defined by hard work. Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs were built on it, schools and parents instill it, and employers in the area reward those who make a career out of it. Mixing business with pleasure is something that¹s simply contrary to our Midwest values.
Ambassadors of RTA¹s new Downtown Trolleys had a different message to deliver. They promoted a new downtown hospitable to both work and play -- from trendy restaurants in the Warehouse District and unique shopping at the Old Arcade, to improvements at Playhouse Square and many new attractions in the Entertainment District.
Last year Trolleys were back after a nearly 50-year absence. And they came complete with cow catchers, wooden rails, and brass bells. Bringing them to life are ambassadors -- operators with a gift for gab and deep knowledge of the city. The idea was to combine fun with functionality, with two lines operating on short 10-minute pickup frequencies. The cost to ride: a smile, which most Northeast Ohioans found they could do with a little practice.
In no time, workers were hopping on the B-Line Trolley to meet friends on the other side of town for lunch. They were also jumping aboard the E-Line for a laugh at Pickwick & Frolic and other venues. By year¹s end, daily ridership had grown to 3,000, a major increase from the 700 daily rides provided by the old Downtown Loop service.
While the nostalgic green and gold vehicles turned heads, much of the success of the Downtown Trolleys can be attributed to strong community support. This includes the efforts of nearly 100 child actors and City Year volunteers who dressed as newsboys and greeted office workers in lobbies, spreading the word that the Trolleys were on the street once again. Financial support from the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland kept the service free throughout the year.
In 2006, RTA also made progress on another project that will change the way people move about the town
As with any major construction project, one of the challenges faced last year was how to minimize disruption to residents, businesses, and merchants while the orange barrels were in place. Planning months earlier helped. But to keep foot traffic flowing to merchants, RTA launched the "Open for Business" marketing campaign. It consisted of advertising on interior bus cards, messages on electronic reader boards at rail stations, and stories in the RTA Rider¹s Digest. The campaign was recently expanded, and now includes advertising in various newspaper dailies and weeklies.
There was a time when a trip was a welcomed adventure. Today, however, the excitement is overshadowed by the hassles of finding a parking space, facing serpentine lines at security check points, and experiencing delays both on the ground and in the air. The same can be said about a local commute, with traffic congestion and road construction putting a monkey wrench in an already stressed day.
Last year, RTA focused on ways to simplify travel. It began with a method for navigating the transit system in virtual space. This was achieved with the launch of the Trip Planner. With it, the multitude of stops, routes, and possible departure times are boiled down to just two questions: Where are you starting out? Where do you want to go? Once answered, the Trip Planner finds the right RTA service to get you there.
Providing commuters better information was also the driving force behind the installation of NextConnect signs at major passenger facilities. The electronic signs give riders real-time updates on the precise arrival of trains and buses. They also furnish news on-the-go: national headlines, breaking local stories, sports scores, and changing weather conditions.
Daily orchestration of the bus and rail fleet continued to be managed at RTA¹s Communication Center. Since its installation in 2003, on-time performance has steadily improved, reaching levels that would make most airlines envious. The exact location of every train and bus is tracked at the center using Global Positioning System technology.
Advanced Paratransit scheduling software is another service success story. The $1.4 million investment streamlined the process of picking up and dropping off thousands of individuals every week. The end result is a dramatic increase in the number of Paratransit customers served over the past several years.
Technology was not the only thing employed last year to enhance reliability and customer satisfaction. Employees -- mechanics, operators, dispatchers, customer service representatives -- remained committed to getting riders to their destinations safely, on-time, and in a mood equal to or better than when they got on. The focus was due in part to the TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) incentive program, initiated by RTA in 2000.
RTA¹s makeover of its fleet continued in 2006. In addition to the 11 Trolley vehicles, 45 new buses were added, and 13 refurbished light-rail cars were brought into the system. The infusion of new equipment has streamlined the transit authority¹s operations while creating a completely different riding experience.
Whether it was achieved through technology, a renewed employee commitment, or the new vehicle fleet, RTA riders were happy last year. Customer satisfaction increased by double digits in 2006, up 12 percent.
Comforts come in many different forms. For some it¹s a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter day, a close friend with thoughtful advice, or a favorite song with an inspiring beat. They¹re things that make us feel safe and put us at ease.
In 2006, RTA was a sense of comfort for many. It was a knowledge that even with physical limitations mobility was possible, a level of confidence that a familiar face would be waiting, and security in a world filled with unseen dangers.
Freedom to travel anywhere was a message to those with wheelchairs. RTA¹s entire bus fleet remains ADA accessible. So too are many of the transit authority¹s passenger facilities. Joining the list last year was the Shaker Square Station. Improvements totaling $750,000 were made to the station, including the installation of a powered wheelchair lift, ramps, and signage.
Paratransit service continued to post impressive numbers. After experiencing explosive ridership growth of 24.8 percent in 2004, and 25 percent in 2005, the number of new trips leveled off last year, rising by just 1.5 percent. However, the total number remained high, with 450,000 passenger trips taken in 2006.
Two standout areas for RTA were safety and security. Across the board, preventable collisions dropped by 11 percent. On rail lines, the number of preventable accidents was zero, an achievement not recorded in over a decade. Part of the success can be attributed to the development of a new operator safety curriculum, with attention given to fatigue training and defensive driving./p>
Security was beefed up at the transit system with new officers, equipment, and programs. Eleven joined the RTA Transit Police team
Cameras are another powerful weapon against crime. Last year, RTA employed 280 video cameras to monitor rail stations, bus facilities, and parking lots. They were also used on vehicles -- with the entire fleet of Downtown Trolleys and 40 new NABI buses equipped with state-of-the-art video systems. In addition, funding was obtained in 2006 to retrofit 60 heavy-rail vehicles with cameras. Much of the cost for the cameras is being covered by the Department of Homeland Security.
More eyes should help too. This is the benefit of Transit Watch, a public awareness and outreach campaign introduced by RTA last year. The campaign is modeled after Neighborhood Watch and is being used by transit authorities across the nation to help maintain a safe transit environment.
With an annual snowfall in excess of 50 inches, outsiders sometimes question why we call Northeast Ohio home. Clevelanders often cite the quality of life -- beautiful neighborhoods that are affordable and diverse -- top rated hospitals and universities -- the orchestra, the parks, the lake -- and the ability to get virtually anywhere on transit.
RTA vehicles cover a 458 square mile area connecting 59 communities. They take employees to work, students to school, and fans to ballgames. But the routes and services in the system are not static. They are routinely altered to match the changing transportation needs of the community.
Case in point: a new approach to traveling along the Northwest Corridor with the introduction of the 55F Gold Line. The route follows the communities of Avon Lake, Bay Village, Fairview Park, Rocky River, and Lakewood. Instead of traveling the Interstate, the new flyer makes limited stops along Lake and Detroit Avenues and Clifton Boulevard. It was the best of both worlds for residents who attended community planning meetings -- a quicker commute and better access to local stores and restaurants along the way.
Several capital projects were undertaken in 2006 to expand RTA¹s network of Park-N-Rides and Transit Centers. This included the creation of 186 additional parking spaces at the Strongsville Park-N-Ride lot. Similar work is currently underway at the North Olmsted and Westlake Park-N-Ride lots. The Ohio Department of Public Transportation is covering 80 percent of the cost for the expansions as a way to encourage transit use during the upcoming Innerbelt construction.
In Parma, a new $2.1 million Transit Center was unveiled. The center will be a hub for six bus routes and will significantly improve across-town commuting in the Southwest suburbs by creating a central connection point for the routes.
On the rail, work progressed on the West 117th Street Station. This station was historically one of the busiest on the Red Line Rapid. In the future, it will be surrounded by retail, entertainment, and upscale living complexes as part of a proposed transit oriented development by the cities of Lakewood and Cleveland. Designs were also completed for remodeling of the East 55th Street and West 150th/Puritas Street Rapid Stations.
And in a year when automakers scrambled to produce fuel efficient hybrid vehicles, RTA gave a sneak peak at its own green machine -- a 60-foot articulated hybrid bus that will power the Euclid Corridor BRT Line. Its unique powertrain design offers a 30 percent improvement in fuel efficiency -- making it the ultimate hybrid.
World financial markets issued new long-term forecasts in 2006. Surging oil prices were no longer a reaction to terrorist actions in the Middle East or unexpected demand in China and the Far East. They were here to stay. The reality forced retooling in the auto industry and a rethinking by Americans about their relationship with their cars.
RTA reached out to those disenchanted by surging gas prices. It offered a sensible alternative -- clean-air buses and electric-powered rapid transit trains. More than 100 routes were available to over 10,000 destinations. And 8,500 parking spaces were open to those ready to step out of their cars. Walking and biking were also encouraged, with short distances between stops and bike racks on the entire RTA bus fleet.
As an incentive to jump on board, RTA developed a test ride offer. In conjunction with No Drive Day, free fare passes were handed out to any commuter ready to make the switch from driving to riding. But it wasn¹t just RTA that asked Northeast Ohioans to give their rides a rest for a day. Mayor Frank Jackson, Senators DeWine and Voinovich, and the Cuyahoga County Commissioners all declared May 17 as the day to break our dependence on foreign oil by walking, biking, or taking RTA to work.
Thousands took RTA up on its challenge. Ridership increased to 57.2 million last year, up by 150,000 rides. It represented the fourth consecutive year of ridership gains. Cyclists also considered RTA their second favorite mode of travel in 2006, with 35,000 bike-related trips on the transit system in 2006.
2006 ridership gains were achieved on the heels of the first fare increase in 13 years. The same skyrocketing energy costs that were draining the budgets of families, caused RTA¹s operating budget to run out of balance. For every penny rise in fuel prices, the transit authority¹s costs rose by $54,000. To offset this, $25 million was eliminated from the budget through the consolidation of bus garages, the reduction of the bus fleet, and various improvements in productivity. These savings were still not enough to overcome the expense of fueling more than 900 vehicles.
To lessen the impact on customers, RTA¹s Board of Trustees approved a two-step fare increase, with scheduled adjustments of 25 cents on average in 2006 and 2008. This allowed RTA fares to remain a bargain compared to driving. In addition, special fare programs such as Commuter Advantage, which permits employees to purchase month passes using pretax dollars; and U-Pass, offering unlimited trips and transfers to college students for one low price, kept RTA truly affordable.
When Cleveland¹s distinction as the Rock and Roll Capital was challenged, the community rallied together. The same was true when the Browns were going to be moved, the future of NASA was in doubt, and jobs were to be lost with the closing of the DFAS center. Northeast Ohio is also passionate about giving. We¹re the city where United Way was born, and we step up to the plate when there is a need to fill.
In 2006, a number of charitable missions benefited from this generosity. This included the 3rd Battalion 25th Marines, who led the charge on the Toys for Tots campaign. More than 500 toys and $3,000 in cash was donated by RTA riders at Park-N-Rides and at the Tower City Center Station during the months of November and December.
In September, a critical blood shortage was eliminated through a special blood drive at RTA¹s main office. Office workers and college students were alerted to the need by Trolley Ambassadors, who dressed up in American Red Cross hats, shirts, and emergency vests. Those who donated were rewarded with discounts to Indians games and savings at local retailers. Enough blood was donated to save 300 lives.
August was the month when downtown office workers boarded Trolleys to help kick off the United Way campaign. The destination was Public Square for the annual Pancake Flip. More than 7,000 pancakes were consumed and $11,500 was raised. RTA¹s 2,665 employees helped the United Way of Greater Cleveland exceed its annual goal and made the transit authority a pacesetter in 2006 by donating $79,536.
Saving the earth was the focus in April, with residents jumping aboard RTA buses for EarthFest. Shuttle service to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was performed by two newly purchased clean-diesel buses. RTA was one of the first transit authorities in the country to make the switch to environmentally-friendly fuels, with 100 percent of its bus fleet operating on either natural gas or clean diesel.
A project led by RTA¹s Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) sought to save minds. The program, entitled Moving Minds: The Verse & Vision Project, displays the work of local poets and artists on interior bus and train cards. This is the third year the CAB worked with the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the Poets¹ and Writers¹ League of Greater Cleveland on the project, which produced 12 new pieces in 2006.
Along with supporting important causes, RTA contributed to fun in Northeast Ohio last year. RTA¹s July 4th Family Fest in The Flats put fireworks into view, while RTA Family Day at the Zoo allowed kids to experience elephants and kangaroos. In addition, RTA sponsored the Polar Express Experience at Tower City Center
Year-End Financial Report
RTA maintained a solid financial position in 2006 despite continued pressure from rising energy costs and lower than expected sales tax revenue. This was accomplished through a larger beginning balance and strict expenditure control.
Evidence of the Authority¹s continued fiscal health can be seen in the Financial Indicators. Operating Ratio remained unchanged from 2005 at 19.3 percent. While the year-end ratio was below the policy goal of 25 percent, it was significantly better than the 17.8 budget estimate, a result of additional revenue from the fare increase implemented in July. Operating Reserve surpassed budget estimates and was just slightly under the one-month policy target at 0.9 month. RTA¹s ability to cover its debt structure remained solid with the Debt Service Coverage ratio reaching 1.94, above the 1.13 projected budget level, and within the policy target.
Operating revenues exceeded budget estimates in some categories while falling short in others. Overall, however, revenue failed to meet budget forecasts. Sales tax, RTA¹s largest revenue source, was $6.5 million below budget estimates as a result of a slowing housing market, depressed auto sales, and an overall flat economy. Fare revenue generated $4.8 million over projections due to the initiation of the fare increase, but was not enough to offset the drop in sales tax and grant funding. This caused RTA to finish the year $2.7 million below budgeted revenue estimates.
Operating expenses finished the year $10.1 million less than budgeted. This was achieved by careful monitoring of all expenditures, a slight drop in fuel costs in the fourth quarter, and lower health care expenses. Along with a stronger beginning balance, expenditure savings pushed the ending balance to $15.8 million, which is better than the budget forecast. This represents an improvement of more than $13 million.
Capital expenditures remained relatively close to budgeted levels as the Authority made progress on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). However, some significant positive variances were noted as a number of projects were delayed or completed under budget.
|2005 Actual||2006 Actual||$ Change||% Change||% of Total|
|Passenger Fares||$ 39,300,036||$ 40,587,880||$ 1,287,844||3.3%||16%|
|Total Operating Revenue||$ 41,448,437||$ 42,855,517||$ 1,407,080||3.4%|
|Sales/Use Tax||$ 168,997,361||$ 168,615,372||$ (381,989)||(0.2%)||68%|
|Total Non-Operating Revenue||205,141,621||205,814,286||672,665||0.3%|
|Total Revenue||$246,590,058||$ 248,669,803||$ 2,079,745||0.8%||100%|
|Labor/Fringe||$ 163,934,412||$ 168,973,550||$ 5,039,139||3.1%||68%|
|Total Operating Expenditures||$ 219,349,680||$ 226,289,446||$ 6,939,766||3.16%|
|Transfer to Insurance Fund||$ 0||$ 750,000||$ 750,000||n/a||0%|
|Transfer to Pension Fund||100,000||106,000||6,000||6.0%||0%|
|Transfer to Bond Retirement Fund||14,073,000||14,700,000||627,000||4.5%||6%|
|Transfer to Capital Improvement Funds||6,626,560||7,140,207||513,647||7.8%||3%|
|Total Non-Operating Expenditures||20,799,560||22,696,207||1,896,207||9.12%|
|Total Expenditures||$ 240,149,240||$ 248,985,653||$ 8,836,413||3.68%||100%|
|Revenue/Expenditures||$ 6,440,848||$ (315,850)|
|Balance Jan. 1||$ 9,649,815||$ 16,090,663|
|Balance Dec. 31 (Less Reserve Funds)||$ 16,090,663||$ 15,774,783|
|2005 Actual||2006 Actual||$ Change||% Change||% of Total|
|Federal Capital Grants||$ 55,888,368||$ 71,849,886||$ 15,961,518||28.6%||64%|
|State Capital Grants||3,177,787||6,011,798||(2,834,051||89.2%||6%|
|Local Sources Local Sources
(Gen. Fund and Debt Proceeds)
|Total Revenue||$ 69,400,599||$ 111, 783,356||$ 42,382,757||61.1%||100%|
|RTA Development Fund Projects||$ 92,227,928||$ 99,198,421||$ 6,970,493||7.6%||96%|
|RTA Capital Fund Projects||2,298.565||2,859,042||560,477||24.4%||3%|
|Transfer to Bond Retirement Fund||370,000||860,314||490,314||132.5%||1%|
|Total Expenditures||$ 94,896,828||$ 102,917,777||$ 8,020,949||8.5%||100%|
|Revenue/Expenditures||$ (25,496,229)||$ 8,865,579|
|Balance Jan. 1||$ 38,309,907||$ 12,813,678|
|Balance Dec. 31 (Less Reserve Funds)||$ 12,813,678||$ 21,679,257|
Annual Operating Budget
$236.4 million Blue/Green Line Rapid Transit
(Includes Waterfront Line)
48 light-rail cars
15 miles of one-way track
450,000 passenger trips
57.2 million passenger miles Parking Lots:
458 square miles
1.3 million people RTA-Owned Bridges
731 buses, trolleys and circulators
8,502 bus stops
22.2 million service miles RTAnswerline, 216-621-9500
More than 1 million calls annually
3.5 million service miles RTA Web Site, www.rideRTA.com:
1.6 million visitors viewed 4.3 million pages
Red Line Rapid Transit:
60 heavy-rail cars
19 miles of one-way track