A Browns fans heads for a game

RTA has to make up $11 million revenue decline in 2016

Discussions continue this month, as RTA’s Board and staff review a proposed 2016 operating budget.

Because of cuts in operating grants that expire, and increased expenses, RTA faces an $11 million revenue decline. By law, Board members must pass a balanced budget.

A final vote on the budget is expected Dec. 15. The budget takes effect Jan. 1.

The Board is considering a proposal to reduce service slightly, and raise the base fare for a one-way trip from $2.25 to $2.50. Paratransit fares and some Paratransit policies may also be affected. The proposed fare increase of 25 cents is 11 percent over 7 years, about 1.5 percent per year and less than the rate of inflation.

While the cost of most products or services goes up annually, RTA fares are typically increased every 6 years or so. 

The only viable option to a fare increase would be to further reduce needed services.

If the Board approves the proposal, RTA may hold public hearings around March. After reviewing all comments, the staff would make a recommendation to the Board.

If the Board approves a fare increase, it would be the first in seven years.

Transit workers retire, more openings coming

Like transit agencies across the country, RTA is facing a wave of retirements among skilled workers in front-line positions -- bus and rail mechanics, signal technicians and bus operators.

That’s why RTA is leading the charge to kick off a standards-based training and apprenticeship program funded by a $400,000 FTA grant. RTA’s partners include Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University and El Barrio.

“Standards-based apprenticeship training systems can bring along the next generation of skilled technicians that we urgently need,” said RTA CEO & General Manager Joe Calabrese. He cited studies that show over the next 10 years, the industry will need to hire and train new workers equivalent to 126 percent of today’s total workforce.

In fact, passenger rail and bus service is the fastest-growing sector in the overall transportation industry. Its 400,000 jobs are projected to expand by 38 percent in the next 10 years.

Over the same time period, it is projected that half of the industry’s current employees will retire, creating even more career openings. The result: the transit industry will need to hire and train the equivalent of 88 percent of today’s total employment, or 350,000 new people, in the next 10 years.

RTA is looking to hire more than 30 electricians and mechanics next year, and more than 200 bus and rail operators.

“Apprenticeships are essential to our ability to meet this workforce challenge,” Calabrese said. “Partnerships with community colleges and career and technical high school programs help expand the pipeline of qualified applicants for entry-level workers.”

Holiday service set Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1

Dec. 24, Christmas Eve: Regular weekday service. All offices closed. RTAnswerline staffed from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Dec. 25, Christmas Day: Sunday-holiday service. All offices closed.

Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve: Regular weekday bus and trolley service. Rail service operates all night. RTAnswerline staffed 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

Jan. 1, 2016, New Year’s Day: Sunday-holiday service. All offices closed.

Available 24-7:

Rapid operates all night on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve

To better serve party-goers throughout the area, RTA’s Rapid system will operate through the night on New Year’s Eve. There’s no reason to get stuck out in the cold.

Even though a major downtown event has been cancelled, RTA will still offer extended rail service. Buy a $5 All-Day Pass, and ride any Rapid to your destination in Ohio City, Shaker Square, Little Italy, University Circle, Flats East Bank, or other neighborhoods in Cleveland and Shaker Heights.

If you are headed downtown, ride the Rapid into the Tower City Rapid Station. On Public Square, board the free C-Line trolley, which operates until  11 p.m.

December brings holiday hoops + more hot action

A sports-filled December brings all the holiday hoops you can handle, with basketball on three levels, plus ice hockey, coming to Quicken Loans Arena.

Round that out with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on Dec. 30, and you have a full month at the Q. Avoid downtown traffic and high-priced parking. Pay just $5 for an All-Day Pass to ride the Rapid until around 12:30 a.m., with transfers included. Park for free at a Rapid station and ride into the Tower City Station. Take the Walkway for easy access to Quicken Loans Arena.

Browns host two games

If you don’t mind some tinsel with your tailgate parties, check out the Cleveland Browns, who play at FirstEnergy Stadium 1 p.m. Dec. 6 and Dec. 18. RTA sponsors a tailgate party before each game at 10 a.m. at the South Harbor Station of the Waterfront Line.

Park for free at a Rapid Station and ride the Red Line, Blue Line or Green Line to the Tower City Rapid Station, and transfer to the Waterfront Line. The Waterfront Line operates from 9 a.m.-midnight every weekend. You’ll be dropped off at the West Third Street Station, right across the street from the Stadium’s Southwest Gate. Riders are encouraged to purchase a $5 All-Day Pass.

Find holiday fun on trolley and HealthLine

The best way to experience Cleveland’s winter wonderland is on RTA.

The HealthLine travels along Euclid Avenue, from Public Square through University Circle and into the Louis Stokes Station at Windermere. It operates 24/7 and stops at popular destinations along Euclid Avenue.

The free trolleys are also a great way to explore the city. The E-Line and B-Line operate from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays, and the C-Line operates on evenings and weekends.

As Christmas draws near, keep an eye open for Santa riding on RTA buses, trolleys and trains.

Survey: customer satisfaction grows for RTA bus riders

There are several ways an agency can improve, and one of them is to compare yourself to others. RTA does that annually, when it asks bus riders to fill out a survey for the American Bus Benchmark Group (ABBG).

RTA is one of 19 transit systems around the country that participates.

The results have been both helpful and rewarding.

Customer satisfaction has improved. Of the more than 1,000 bus customers who participated in this year’s survey, 70 percent were satisfied with their service. That’s up nearly 10 percent from last year and a 37 percent improvement over 2013.

A typical bus customer: Over age 40, rides daily to work, and is relatively happy with RTA’s service.

Are RTA bus operators helpful and professional? Yes, said nearly 70 percent of those surveyed.

Areas that showed improvement: Customer safety, service availability and ease of use.

Areas that need improvement: Customer communications, bus cleanliness and responsiveness to customer complaints.

RTA has been working to address those areas that need improvement, and are looking forward to seeing customer responses from the next ABBG survey, slated for April 2016.

Dec. 28 is the deadline for comments on route proposals

RTA is seeking comments by Dec. 28 on a proposal to replace routes 21 and 45-45A with a revised route 45.The revised route 45 would improve service along Clark Avenue and West 73rd Street from daytime-only service 5 days a week, to daytime and evening service 7 days a week.

From downtown, the revised route 45 would travel:

  • West to West 25th Street.
  • South to Clark Avenue.
  • West to West 73rd Street.
  • South to Denison Avenue.
  • Continue via Ridge (comparable to the current route) to Parma Transit Center and Tri-C West, with limited service to North Royalton.

Because the revised route 45 would no longer operate on West 65th Street, public hearings were hjeld Dec. 10.

Comments

  • Mail written comments to: RTA Marketing & Communications, 1240 W. Sixth St., Cleveland, Ohio 44113.
  • Send comments by e-mail.

Comments received by Dec. 28 will be reviewed and become part of the official record.

The change was requested by Ward 15 Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone.

If you build it…

Rail ridership at RTA’s new Cedar-University Red Line Rapid Station is up 31 percent compared to 2008.

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