In 2014, RTA connected people to LIFE— delivering 49,271,617 trips that met every customer’s unique needs—from daily work commutes, to weekend trips to the ballpark, to rides to class, to casual nights out. And by serving 59 municipalities and over 457 square miles with a dedicated fleet of buses, trains, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicles, Trolleys, and Paratransit vehicles, RTA continues to help people wherever their journey takes them—by providing a safe, reliable, clean, and courteous ride to each customer, every day.
2014 started strong, as the Cleveland Foundation announced that January 16th would be a 24-hour RTA free ride day as part of the Cleveland Foundation’s 100th Anniversary celebration. The results were staggering: bus and rail ridership saw a 25% increase over a typical weekday, HealthLine ridership rose 41%, and RTA website traffic surged 40%. But all this momentum was quickly halted by winter’s polar vortex—which forced residents to stay home as schools, businesses, and organizations closed due to extreme cold. The absence of regular riders, along with weather-caused system closures, led to a -5.6% dip in overall ridership during the first quarter of 2014.
Fortunately, the rest of the year proved to be brighter for RTA and its customers. Ridership increased during each of the remaining three quarters (Q2-Q4), rallying the year to an overall increase of 35,539 rides over the previous year, and marking the fourth-consecutive year of ridership growth system wide. This success can be attributed in part to RTA’s unique service lines and ridership programs.
The HealthLine boasted a 4.7% ridership increase in 2014 and continues to be the international gold standard for business and transportation development. Since opening its doors in 2008, the HealthLine has carried more than 27 million customers, with annual ridership now exceeding 5 million—a 60% increase since launching. Additionally, the free downtown Trolley service posted an impressive 12.7% increase, and bus service delivered nearly 34.5 million rides in 2014.
RTA’s special programs also continued to be a main driver in ridership growth. The U-Pass program provides discounted, universal RTA passes to students of six participating universities and is included in tuition. It’s an ideal solution for urban universities that are experiencing growing pains and issues with parking capacity. In 2014, Cleveland State University (CSU) students overwhelmingly chose (97% yes vote) to renew the U-Pass program for another six years. Seeing RTA as an easy, safe, sustainable, and economically efficient transportation option to class, the vote was the easiest question to answer all semester.
Noticing the success of the U-Pass program, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) decided to join in 2014. During the first year of implementation, Tri-C saw a 50% increase in student ridership over the previous year. Thanks to CSU, Tri-C, and other participating universities, U-Pass ridership experienced a record number of over 1.9 million rides—a 72% increase since 2009.
In its fourth year, RTA’s Ready to Ride program encouraged ridership by giving trial rides to employees of partnering Cleveland companies. Since launching the program in 2011, RTA has partnered with more than 30 Cleveland organizations, including University Hospitals, Ernst & Young, and Sherwin-Williams—with one-out-of-three participants permanently choosing “the ride” over “the drive.”
Indeed, RTA proved its commitment to the community more than ever in 2014, by providing the best transportation solutions for all Clevelanders who are ready to ride.
Every great transit authority has a robust infrastructure. And in 2014, RTA reinforced its world-class system to support ridership and service growth by completing major enhancement projects, breaking new ground, and continuing construction on exciting active initiatives.
In August 2014, RTA celebrated the grand opening of the Cedar-University Rapid Station. The new $18.5 million station debuted with an inviting design, complete ADA compliance, expanded and safer pedestrian walkways, and enhanced bus operating times as a result of improved traffic flow.
The $20 million Clifton Boulevard Enhancement Project was also completed in 2014, paving the way for the December 8th launch of the new Cleveland State Line. By partnering with the cities of Cleveland and Lakewood, RTA was able to provide an improved connection from the West Shore communities to Downtown Cleveland. The enhanced streetscape features new brick stations complete with interior lighting, bike racks, NextConnect displays, and public art—along with decorative crosswalks and new median landscaping. And customers will also enjoy 16 new, 60-foot articulated buses, new route signage, and dedicated bus-only rush hour lanes for improved service efficiency.
RTA broke new ground in 2014. The $5.4 million reconstruction of the Van Aken-Lee Station began in June and will feature a modern design with improved customer amenities when it’s unveiled at the end of 2015.
In 2014, RTA also proved its commitment to a State of Good Repair for its diverse capital assets. The Red Line, which provided over 6.2 million customer trips last year, underwent necessary track and bridge upgrades to ensure maximum longevity and operational efficiency. Customers have also begun to experience the benefits of the $25.1 million Red Line vehicle makeover project. The two-year process, which began in the fall of 2013, will result in 40 refurbished Red Line cars. Improvements include new windows, LED lighting, upgraded seating, new flooring, and additional ADA space—extending the life of the Red Line rail fleet by 15 years.
2015 promises to be another exciting year for RTA and its customers, starting with the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Bus Replacement Program. New CNG buses will hit the streets this spring with the goal of replacing 240 of RTA’s current clean diesel buses over the next five years. And the economic and environmental results will be astounding. RTA anticipates fuel cost savings of $764,700 (based on 60 vehicles in service) in 2015 and $1,993,100 (based on 106 vehicles in service) in 2016. And each CNG bus will reduce annual emissions by 100 tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent.
After breaking ground in October 2013, the $17.5 million Little Italy-University Circle Red Line Station will open this summer. The new station will replace the East 120th and Euclid Avenue Station and serve as the new gateway to the Little Italy and University Circle neighborhoods.
RTA continues to be fully committed to the growth and improvement of its infrastructure in order to ensure a great today and a better tomorrow for all its customers.
From new service lines to newly branded routes to enhanced customer service features to special event collaborations, 2014 marked another year of service growth for the Authority. And with a future-forward vision, RTA already has plans for expansion in 2015—all without increasing fares.
The Cleveland State Line (CSL) opened its doors for service on December 8th—marking the completion of the $20 million Clifton Boulevard Enhancement Project. The new CSL service replaces and enhances the #55 family of routes with 16 new, 60-foot articulated buses that double ridership capacity. Dedicated bus-only rush hour lanes ensure service every 10 minutes at any stop along the line, while new brick stations with interior lighting, bike racks, NextConnect real-time information, and new bus stop signs with detailed route information enhance the customer experience. Plus, new median landscaping and public art further beautify the Clifton Boulevard streetscape. All these improvements have led to a well-connected community—from the West Shore to Downtown Cleveland.
With Ohio City emerging as a Cleveland hot spot, RTA wanted to make it easier for customers to explore all the neighborhood has to offer. So RTA rebranded service lines with a direct connection between Downtown and Ohio City, as Ohio City Connectors (OC). The easily identifiable branding, combined with frequent daily service (200 trips every 7-8 minutes), has made the OC an efficient travel option for any need.
In 2014, RTA enhanced its customer service information with new, system wide bus stop signage that combines more detailed route information with a modern design that enhances the streetscape. As the new signs are implemented, RTA is also consolidating bus stops for efficiency—leading to improved travel times and punctuality. In July, RTA installed a new information kiosk at its Tower City Center Station, featuring a downtown map that details RTA route information and identifies notable destinations.
The Authority also showed great flexibility and value in catering to the needs of special events in the community. In 2014, RTA partnered with the Cleveland Special Events Corporation to support the hosting of the Gay Games. By coordinating service with Akron Metro and Laketran to provide over 20,000 participants, families, friends, and other visitors with seamless transportation to the 36+ sports and cultural events, RTA helped contribute to the $52.1 million economic impact the Games brought to the region.
RTA also continued its partnership with the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2014—extending its nightly and weekend Rapid service to connect one-third of all CIFF attendees to over 500 film screenings.
And when the new Little Italy-University Circle Red Line Station opens in the summer of 2015, it will create a direct connection from the West Side and Downtown to these historic neighborhoods.
As ridership continues to grow, RTA’s present improvements, coupled with a strategic plan for the future, will ensure it’s prepared to connect more people to more places.
At RTA, sustainability is a core value that serves as one of the guiding principles to conducting business conscientiously. RTA has outlined a systematic strategy in identifying the internal and external material issues that impact processes, procedures, and the ability to provide quality service. This strategy is segmented into three unique focus areas: environmental, economic, and societal. And in 2014, RTA’s strategy led to a positive impact in the community in all three areas.
One of RTA’s primary responsibilities as a public transit authority is to monitor and optimize its effect on the environment. And in 2014, RTA took strides to minimize the community’s carbon footprint. Through system-wide optimizations, RTA decreased mobile emissions by over 20% versus 2013, resulting in an overall displacement of 40,000 tons of CO2e in 2014.
The economic focus of RTA’s sustainability strategy covers electricity consumption at major operational facilities—with a goal of conserving energy and limiting waste. In 2014, RTA realized an electricity consumption decrease of 8% in kWh, leading to an overall 9% decrease in tons of CO2e emitted versus 2013, and resulting in financial savings for the Authority.
In 2014, positive societal impacts were made through strategic initiatives and new partnerships. Through single stream (glass, plastics, etc.), scrap metal, and paper recycling, RTA achieved a 14% increase in waste diverted year over year. And through a unique partnership with Bikes, Bees & Butterflies (BBB), RTA beautified the community while furthering a sustainable cause—helping BBB place urban pollinators at the E.55th Station. The pollinators are created from recycled and restored bicycles, enhanced by local artists to provide bees and butterflies with sustainable pollinator habitats. And in 2015, RTA and BBB plan to continue their partnership by identifying sites on which to plant new pollinator gardens.
RTA has big plans for its sustainability evolution in 2015. Starting in spring, RTA will begin the five-year process of replacing current diesel buses with new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses that will reduce emissions by 30% over three years and will get up to four more miles per gallon at a significantly cheaper refueling cost.
RTA’s sustainability team recently graduated from the Federal Transit Administration and Virginia Tech’s Environmental & Sustainability Management System Institute. The team is now in the process of seeking ISO 14001 Certification of the Central Bus Maintenance Facility by September—which will provide a guide to quality leadership and management practices regarding sustainability issues. And moving forward, other RTA operational facilities will be assessed in May 2015 with the goal of seeking certifications from September 2016 through October 2019.
RTA also plans to conduct a Materiality Assessment in 2015, which will align sustainable strategy with the Authority’s new strategic plan. The assessment will begin with updating the Sustainability Policies and Procedures Manual to ensure the most current sustainability practices are being implemented. Thanks to its dedication to sustainable practices, the American Public Transit Association recognized RTA as a Bronze Level member in 2014. And with its strategic plans in place, RTA hopes to receive Silver Level honors in 2015.
As a leader in the community’s sustainability movement, RTA will continue to ensure that the decisions made today will also make a positive impact tomorrow.
RTA is more than just a transit authority. It’s an employee’s train to work. A student’s bus to school. An out-of-towner’s Trolley to the game. As the critical link to exploring Cleveland, RTA not only physically connected the city in 2014—but made a meaningful connection with it, as well. RTA was instrumental in the attraction and success of major special events in 2014.
By partnering with the Gay Games, RTA brought athletes to their events and international recognition to the region. RTA also played a significant role in helping the City of Cleveland land the 2016 Republican National Convention, which is projected to bring over 50,000 visitors and $400 million in economic impact. Hosting high-profile events like these help the local community thrive and attract more national and international attention to our ever-improving area.
Cleveland is a passionate sports town, which is why RTA had a presence at all of the city’s major professional sporting events in 2014. As the proud sponsor of the Indians Rally Alley, Tribe fans were rewarded for taking RTA to Friday and Saturday home games with “block parties” that featured games and prizes. And in 2014, Indians fans rallied behind RTA as well, with 20% of game day riders taking RTA to the ballpark.
When the Browns took the field in the fall, RTA played host to a huge tailgate party in the Muni Lot before every home game. With the help of Mark “Munch” Bishop from ESPN Cleveland, RTA provided free food, games, and prizes to fans of football and transit alike.
And with the “Coming Home” announcement causing a frenzy amongst fans of Cleveland hoops, the Authority and the Cavs reunited again this year to provide fans with all-you-can-eat seats in Loudville that included free food, drinks, and an RTA fare card to the game—a real win-win-win!
RTA also connected with Clevelanders through community-wide events that encouraged ridership. Last June, RTA held its 3rd Annual Search the City Scavenger Hunt. Participants used RTA’s myriad of service options for this interactive competition, which spread from Ohio City to University Circle and everywhere in between. Winners were rewarded with great prizes and everyone was treated to an Indians game.
RTA once again hosted its Annual Fourth of July Family Fest at Settlers Landing in the heart of the newly evolving East Bank of The Flats. Thousands of people were treated to food, music, giveaways, and most importantly, the best view of the fireworks in the city.
The RTA family also gave back to the community out of their own pockets. In 2014, RTA’s 2,302 employees gave more than $136,662 to charities, making an enormous positive impact on our local community. Charities included United Way, United Negro College Fund, Cleveland Community Shares, and Environmental Fund.
In 2015, RTA will strive to further benefit the local community by finding new and unique ways to connect with customers—and helping them connect to life in the community.
Year-End Financial Report
RTA has managed very well over the past four years and has achieved a stable and sustainable financial position. Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 concluded with a very strong year-end balance in excess of $26 million—leading to a fourth-straight year of a AAA rating by Standard & Poor’s. But despite the recent success, RTA knows that ultimate success is the longevity of a strong fiscal position. That is why RTA is focused on making sure the decisions made today have a positive impact now and well into the future.
Total Resources ended the year $11.2 million above budget at $312.4 million, marking a fourth-consecutive year of growth and RTA’s second consecutive $300 million total resource year in company history. This gain was led by Sales & Use Tax revenue. Sales Tax receipts represent RTA’s primary funding source, covering between 70-75% of the operating revenue budget. And although the percentage growth of Cuyahoga County Sales Tax declined in 2014, the revenue collection still experienced positive growth. As a result, Sales & Use Tax revenue in 2014 was $197.1 million, up nearly 4% versus 2013.
Passenger Fare collections, the second largest source of operating revenue, has increased from 2010 to 2014. With volatile gas prices, growth in Cleveland jobs, and RTA service expansion, more people are choosing to ride RTA by evidence of a fourth-consecutive year of ridership growth.
With increased and new service in 2014, RTA experienced a rise in year-to-year operating expenditures to $248 million, but through strategic fiscal management, RTA has been able to offset additional operating expenses. A primary root to this success stems from RTA’s Energy Price Risk Management Program, which was implemented in 2010 to focus on fuel hedging and electricity consumption. To date, current five-year savings total over $13.5 million in savings relative to curbed electricity consumption and over $16 million related to fuel costs. And with diesel fuel and natural gas completely hedged through 2015, the majority of 2016, and a portion of 2017, RTA has ensured the reduction of anticipated fuel costs for the next three years.
Recent years of a strong Capital Fund have put RTA in a great position to complete projects and continue planned construction. In 2014, the fund contributed to the completion of the Clifton Boulevard Enhancement Project and Cedar-University Red Line Station. It also is funding the current construction of the Little Italy-University Circle Red Line Station and Van-Aken Lee Station, which will see completion in 2015.
In 2014, RTA began to reap the benefits of the Bus Improvement Program which was implemented in 2013. In year two of the five year bus and Paratransit replacement program, RTA received 16 new, 60-foot articulated buses for the new Cleveland State Line service, purchased 20 new propane-fueled Paratransit buses, and upgraded the bus fleet’s bike racks. And in 2015, RTA plans to receive the first order of 60 new, 40-foot Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses. The ultimate goal is to replace current diesel buses with 240 new CNG vehicles over the next five years.
Financial Indicators are another measure of RTA’s financial strength. There are a total of six indicators, with an established Board Policy Goal.
The Board Policy Goal for Cost per Hour of Service is to be under the rate of inflation (around 2%). In 2014, the Cost per Hour of Service came in on budget at $123.6 million, a -4.2% difference versus 2013. As a result of improved service efficiency in 2014, RTA exceeded goal benchmarks. In fact, the Cost per Hour of Service is less than the 2011 cost, and the total rate of growth over the last three years is 1.1%.
At 2014 year-end, the Operating Reserve was at 1.3 months. Ensuring the target of greater than one month was met for the fifth-consecutive year.
The Debt Service Coverage indicator, measuring capital efficiency, also achieved a fifth-consecutive year of meeting Board Policy Goal. The 2014 year-end ratio of 2.37 was well above the 1.5 minimum and was higher than the budgeted level of 1.69—a result of an increase in total operating resources available for debt service coverage.
After falling within the Board Policy Goal range of 75-90% in 2013, Capital Maintenance to Expansion Outlay fell outside the targeted range at 95.7% in 2014. The goal outlines a balance between maintenance of existing assets and expansion efforts. And in 2014, RTA exhibited a strong focus to maintain existing assets versus new expansion.
The Sales Tax Contribution to Capital indicator has been above Board Policy Goal since 2005, as the transit authority continues to invest more of its own funds in capital projects relative to its available resources. In 2014, this trend continued with the Sales Tax Contribution to Capital ending the year at 18.4%, below the budgeted level of 19%, but above the maximum Board Policy Goal of 15%.
Operating Ratio fell short of the Board Policy Goal. Comparing operating expenses to operating revenues, the policy target is greater than 25%. In 2014, the year-end ratio was 20.6%, slightly above the yearly budget, but below the Board Policy Goal.
In summary, half of the financial indicators met the Board Policy Goal, with two of the remaining three coming in better than budget, further supporting the financial success experienced in 2014.
Yielding another year of financial growth, RTA’s fiscal discipline and strategic vision continues to produce a strengthened financial position, creating a stable and sustainable future for the Authority, its customers, and the community.
|2013 Actual||2014 Actual||$ Change||% Change||% of Total|
|Advertising & Concessions & Investment Income||1,600,379||1,658,081||57,702||0.04%||0.60%|
|Sales & Use Tax||189,630,645||197,118,776||7,488,131||3.95%||71.91%|
|Labor & Fringe Benefits||169,098,188||181,313,335||12,215,147||7.22%||63.53%|
|Fuel & Utilities||21,551,010||23,843,519||2,292,509||10.64%||8.35%|
|Materials & Supplies||16,711,421||16,575,987||(135,434)||-0.81%||5.81%|
|Total Operating Expenditures||230,972,235||248,060,774||17,088,539||7.40%||86.91%|
|Transfer to Insurance Fund||1,400,000||900,000||(500,000)||-35.71%||0.32%|
|Transfer to Pension Fund||100,000||100,000||0||0.00%||0.04%|
|Transfer to Bond Retirement Fund||18,324,391||20,480,914||2,156,523||11.77%||7.18%|
|Transfer to Capital Improvement Funds||15,770,044||15,874,745||104,701||0.66%||5.56%|
|Total Non-Operating Expenditures||35,594,435||37,355,659||1,761,224||4.95%||13.09%|
|Balance Jan. 1||40,713,945||38,239,641|
|Balance Dec. 31 (Less Reserve Funds)||38,239,641||26,958,955|
|2013 Actual||2014 Actual||$ Change||% Change||% of Total|
|Federal Capital Grants||59,795,463||58,199,720||(1,595,743)||-2.7%||76.0%|
|State Capital Grants||264,693||2,046,063||1,781,370||673.0%||2.7%|
|Local Sources Local Sources
(Gen. Fund and Debt Proceeds)
|RTA Development Fund Projects||79,141,367||86,968,378||7,827,011||9.9%||95.6%|
|RTA Capital Fund Projects||2,859,420||4,030,246||1,170,826||40.9%||4.4%|
|Transfer to Bond Retirement Fund||0||0||0||0%||0%|
|Balance Jan. 1||46,726,229||40,656,567|
|Balance Dec. 31 (Less Reserve Funds)||40,656,567||26,211,183|
Operating Budget: $268.8 million
Ridership: 49.2 million
Service Area: 457 square miles
- 59 municipalities, including: 38 cities, 19 villages, 2 townships
- 1.26 million people, 2012 estimate
Rail Service: 3.4 million revenue miles
Red Line: More than 6.2 million annual riders
- 1 route
- 60 heavy-rail cars
- 18 high-platform stations
- 19 route miles of track
Blue/Green Line: More than 2.7 million annual riders
- 3 routes
- 48 light-rail cars
- 34 low-platform stations
- 15.3 route miles of track
BRT: 5 million riders annually
- 1 route on Euclid Avenue and Public Sqaure
- 1 route on Clifton Boulevard
- 13.4 miles of bus-only lanes
- 39 rapid transit vehicles (RTVs)
- 78 stations and 3 platform stops
Trolleys: 1.6 million riders annually
- 5 routes
- 17 vehicles
Bus: More than 39.5 million annual riders
- 428 buses
- 1,000 shelters
- 6,000 bus stops
- 60 routes
- 13.9 million revenue miles
Paratransit: 751,517 passenger trips
- 70 RTA vehicles
- 67 contracted vehicles
RTA Owned Bridges: 85 bridges, 1 tunnel at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Parking Lots: 8,800 free spaces
Commuter Advantage: 14,030 commuters from 737 employers
- $9,000 estimated savings per commuter
- $14.5 million annualized revenue
e-newsletter: 6,748 subscribers
Commuter Alerts: 4,180 subscribers
YouTube: 33 videos attracted 13,000 views
Online store: $248,707 fare media at shopRTA.com
Twitter: 5,753 persons follow us @GCRTA
Facebook: 14,000+ fans like us at rideRTA
LinkedIn: RTA maintains a company profile geared toward the business-to-business audience
NextConnect: Nearly 76,000 visitors
- About 187,000 visits
- 2.2 million pages viewed
- 2,600 subscribers at nextconnect.riderta.com
Website: 1.1 million visitors on more than 30 million pages at rideRTA.com
RTAnswerline (216-621-9500): 510,000+ calls were answered
Mission, Vision, and Values
We will be:
- The transportation mode of choice for those with transportation options and the lifeline for those dependent upon our services.
- Recognized as a transportation industry leader and viewed as the most well run public agency in the United States. RTA will be a top flight organization with a first class image.
- An employer of choice in Northeast Ohio—attracting, developing, motivating and retaining an outstanding, healthy and diverse workforce.
- A champion for sustainable transportation, not only in reducing miles driven by private automobiles but also by reducing waste and emissions and conserving resources. We will achieve the triple bottom line: people, profit and planet.
We will have:
- A sustainable financial position by securing sufficient local, state and federal funding to maintain a realistic operating and capital plan. Expenses will be controlled and a minimum 30 day operating reserve will be maintained.
- An increasing impact as a regional transportation authority by increasing our regional influence—improving efficiency and the coordination of services.
- Upgrade and manage technology and technology systems to best serve our customers and achieve or exceed the efficiencies these systems were designed to supply.
- Achieve an infrastructure state of good repair including the systematic replacement of our buses and trains. We will ensure execution of an effective asset management system.
- Fund, plan, coordinate, execute and deliver quality projects on time and on budget.
- Continually improve the quality of our services and enhance the value of RTA to our community.
- Safety -- The safety of our passengers, our employees and the general public is always our top priority.
- Ethics & Integrity -- We are dedicated to the highest ethical standards including uncompromising honesty and integrity in our daily activities.
- Service Excellence -- We will provide safe, reliable, clean, on-time, courteous service that our customers and the community will view as outstanding.
- Fiscal Responsibility -- We are committed to managing every taxpayer and customer generated dollar as if it were coming from our own pocket.
- Teamwork -- We believe in teamwork and will foster a spirit of cooperative effort within RTA and with our partners.
- Responsibility & Accountability -- Every individual is accountable. Meeting our individual responsibilities will ensure that collectively RTA is a high-performing organization. We will meet all regulations and commitments and continually strive to improve.
- Respect -- We will treat all members of the RTA family, our customers and the general public with dignity and respect.