Statement by Joe Calabrese, RTA CEO & General Manager
Cleveland has been experiencing a brutal winter. Record low temperatures make any commute difficult, but I know that it has been especially difficult for RTA customers.
Our transit system has been impacted by significant snow, record low temperatures and ice storms -- creating frozen overhead power lines, frozen switches, six cars stuck on tracks, snow pile ups, floods and water main breaks. In fact, we have had 16 water main breaks since January alone.
Nearly 200,000 customers have come to rely on RTA every day to commute to work or school. Nearly 40,000 of them use our rail system. And our rail service has disappointed those customers all too many times over the last couple of weeks.
First and foremost, we would like to apologize to our customers for the significant service interruptions and delays. We have made you late for work, late for school or late for other important appointments. In many cases, we have had to replace our rail service with emergency bus service. Compounding this inconvenience has been our failure to effectively communicate with our customers. Late is never good, disrupted service is never good, and when customers don’t know what’s happening, or what’s happening next, it is unacceptable.
This past week alone, many of our customers waited far longer than they wanted for their train. We had a combination of mechanical and software issues that affected 24 switches in Tower City.
Because all trains travel through Tower City, the switch defects at that location affected the Red Line, as well as the Blue/Green Line, causing major delays. RTA crews had to manually control the switches. To ensure safety -- always our number one priority -- trains had to move at restricted speeds through Tower City.
In the next couple of weeks, we will begin a multi-year, $20 million upgrade to the track system throughout Tower City. Some areas, such as substructure and drainage, have been in place since 1955, with minor upgrades done in the 1980s. Long term, we need signal upgrades, track bridges, power substations, right-of-way work, and even new rail cars, which are now more than 30 years old.
Currently, our system is safe. With the work that is scheduled to begin soon, not only will our service continue to be safe, but we’ll be able to put the word “rapid” back into RTA Rapid Transit service.
But how do we better serve our customers today, tomorrow and every day?
Effective immediately, when weather conditions are suspect, we will strategically locate buses on standby where they can be placed into service to serve customers in short order in the event of a rail interruption. We will implement a comprehensive communication plan to better inform our customers of service delays as they occur. The plan will ensure that customers on delayed trains, or waiting on a station’s platform, will receive timely updates.
Additionally, we will work to push more information out to customers earlier to allow you to make better informed decisions relating to your daily commute.
We greatly appreciate and value the relationship we have with each of our customers. We know that, in recent weeks, we have failed to provide you with the level of service you deserve. Moving forward, we are committed to working harder to regain your trust and fulfill our mission of providing every customer – safe, reliable, clean and courteous public transportation.