Joe Calabrese

CLEVELAND - Joe Calabrese is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the only multi-modal transit system in Ohio, and one of the largest in the nation. He reports to a 10-member Board of Trustees, and directs an 11-member Executive Management Team.

Calabrese has more than 42 years experience in both the public and private sectors of the transit industry. Under his leadership, RTA has won prestigious local, state and national awards. He has become a leading national spokesman on the benefits of bus rapid transit, or BRT.

He is the longest-serving General Manager in RTA history, and the longest-serving General Manager of any multi-modal transit system in the nation.

Since his arrival in Cleveland in early 2000, he has led RTA on an aggressive infrastructure upgrade program, while placing an increased emphasis on image, financial management, customer service and safety. RTA is now one of the most respected transit systems in the nation.

In 2015, he became the first transit manager in history to be named a "Public Official of the Year" by Governing Magazine. In 2008, he was named the "Outstanding Transit Manager of the Year," by APTA, and in 2014, was named "One of Public Transportation's Most Influential People of the Decade" (2004-2014) by Metro magazine.

RTA experience

  • Joined RTA: Feb. 22, 2000. He is the longest-serving General Manager in RTA history.
  • Supervises: 2,400 employees
  • 2016 Operating Budget: $267.75 million
  • 2016 Capital Budget: $67.75 million
  • 2015 Ridership: 47.0 million

Previous transit experience

  • 1975-1986, Various positions up to Assistant General Manager, Central New York RTA
  • 1986-1993,  Co-founder and VP/General Manager of a private-sector firm that provided electronic customer information services to public transit agencies in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. He took the company public in 1991 and sold it in 1993.
  • 1993-2000 – Executive Director/President, Central New York RTA, Syracuse, NY. Oversaw public transit services in a seven-county area. Reversed a 15-year trend in declining ridersip. Improved agency's financial performance.
  • Certified as both a bus and rail operator.


Leadership positions




Other leadership roles

RTA accomplishments under his leadership

  • Began RTA's "Ride Happy or Ride Free" customer service pledge and guarantee program.
  • Oversaw the funding, construction and operation of the HealthLine, recognized as the most successful BRT in North America, with a ridership increase of 60 percent, and an economic development return of more than $5 billion.
  • Established a downtown trolley network to transport workers, visitors and residents between all major downtown venues with a subsidized fare that is Free With a Smile.
  • Sold "Naming Rights" to public transit assets, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for RTA.

Major RTA awards under his leadership

Major personal awards

Updated Oct. 11, 2016

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