2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)

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Dennis M. Clough, President, and Members, Board of Trustees Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and Residents of Cuyahoga County, Ohio:

It is a pleasure to submit to you the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (“GCRTA” or “Authority”) for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018. This is the thirty-second such report issued by GCRTA. In the first year, there was no GFOA Certification. It has become the standard format used in presenting the results of the Authority's operations, financial position, cash flows and related statistical information.

Management assumes full responsibility for the completeness and reliability of the information contained in this report, based upon a comprehensive framework of internal control that has been established for this purpose. Because the cost of internal control should not exceed anticipated benefits, the objective is to provide reasonable, rather than absolute, assurance that the financial statements are free of any material misstatements.

Keith Faber, Auditor of State of Ohio, has issued an unmodified opinion on the Authority’s financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018. The Independent Auditor’s Report is located at the front of the financial section of this report.

GCRTA also participates in the federal single audit program, which consists of a single audit of all federally funded programs administered by the Authority. As a requirement for continued funding eligibility, participation in the single audit program is mandatory for most local governments, including GCRTA.

Management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A) immediately follows the independent auditor’s report and provides a narrative introduction, overview, and analysis of the basic financial statements. MD&A complements this letter of transmittal and should be read in conjunction with it.

GCRTA takes great pride in the fact that each of the previously issued Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports earned the recognition of the Government Finance Officers Association ("GFOA") in the form of its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. This award evidences the fact that the previous CAFRs complied with stringent GFOA standards for professional financial reporting. GCRTA was the first public transit agency in Ohio to earn this important recognition and has consistently done so since 1988.

The GCRTA also submits its annual operating and capital budgets to the GFOA and has been doing so since 1990. Each of these budget documents has won the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, having satisfied the most stringent program criteria and proven its value as (1) a policy document, (2) an operations guide, (3) a financial plan, and (4) a communication device.


The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is an independent political subdivision of the State of Ohio. It was created in December 1974 by ordinance of the City of Cleveland, Ohio, and by resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Operations at GCRTA began in September 1975. The Authority provides virtually all mass transportation within the County. It is a multimodal system delivering bus, paratransit, heavy rail, light rail and bus rapid transit services.

A ten-member Board of Trustees (Board) establishes policy and sets direction for the management of the GCRTA. Four of the members are appointed by the Mayor of Cleveland with the consent of City Council; three members, one of whom must reside in the City of Cleveland, are appointed by the County Executive; the remaining three members are elected by suburban mayors, city managers, and township trustees. Board members serve overlapping three-year terms. Under the provisions of General Accounting Standards Board (“GASB”) Statement No. 61, the Authority is considered to be a jointly governed organization.

Responsibility for the line administration rests with the India Birdsong, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and General Manager. She supervises Chief Operating Officer (COO)/Deputy General Manager-Operations/Secretary-Treasurer, and four Deputy General Managers who head the Legal Affairs, Finance & Administration, Engineering & Project Management and the Human Resources divisions. Additionally, Information Technology and the Marketing and Communications department function outside of the divisional configuration and report directly to the Interim General Manager. The Internal Audit Department reports to the Board of Trustees and maintains a close working relationship with the General Manager. An organizational chart, which depicts these relationships, follows later in this introductory section.

The Authority had 2,074 employees as of December 31, 2019. The system delivered 12.7 million revenue miles of bus service and 3.1 million revenue miles on its heavy and light rail systems. The active service fleet was composed of 371 motor bus coaches, 40 heavy rail cars, 32 light rail cars, and 160 Paratransit vehicles and 22 van pool vehicles.

The annual cash-basis operating budget is proposed by management, at the division and department levels, and adopted by the Board of Trustees after public discussion. The budget for each division and department is represented by appropriation. The Board must approve any increase in the total Authority appropriations. The General Manager must approve any inter-divisional budget transfers. The appropriate Deputy General Manager may modify appropriations to applicable departments within a division and to accounts within a department.

Budgetary control is maintained at the department level. It is the responsibility of each department to administer its operations in such a manner as to ensure that the use of funds is  consistent with the goals and programs authorized by the Board of Trustees. The Authority also maintains an encumbrance accounting system for budgetary control. Unencumbered appropriations lapse at year-end. Encumbered appropriation balances are carried forward to the succeeding year and need not be reauthorized.


The Authority's service area is contiguous with the boundaries of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The County includes the City of Cleveland, two townships, and fifty-six other jurisdictions. This is the largest metropolitan area in Ohio and one of the largest counties in the United States. The population of this area is approximately 1.24 million people.

Historically, the foundation for Greater Cleveland's economic vitality had been heavy industry with the largest employment sector being manufacturing. The largest employment areas in 2019 were in the following industries:

  • Healthcare/Education
  • Professional/Business services
  • Government
  • Insurance
  • Trade/Transportation/Utilities

Real property, consisting of agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential real property is reappraised every six years. The current assessed value is estimated to be $30.5 billion. This process is the foundation for property taxation, and it sets the debt limitation for the Authority.


In 2019, the Authority continued its pursuit to provide Greater Clevelanders with unparalleled connectivity, along with high quality service design and delivery.

This included:

  • Continuing the focus on improving the overall state of Good Repair (SOGR) of the
    assets and infrastructure.
  • Completing various Pillar Studies, which included an economic impact study, a fare
    study, a rail car study, an efficiency study and a system redesign study.
  • Completing the S-Curve retaining wall emergency repairs project that included the
    installation of 75 steel beam frames along the 300 ft. wall.
  • Creating Wi-Fi Hot Spots at a number of stations including Stephanie Tubbs Jones
    Transit Center, East 55th, Southgate, Cedar-University Rapid Station and bus
    waiting area, Windermere Transit Center and Tower City.
  • Completing several rail and station improvement projects.

During 2018, RTA:

  • Received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government
    Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada.
  • Successfully completed The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) Triennial
  • Conducted twenty (20) community engagement meetings and over 20 community
    engagement meetings for the System Redesign Study and Fare Equity Study.
  • Completed the Cleveland State University’s Center for Economic Development
    Economic Impact Study.
  • For the fifth year, the Authority participated in the American Bus Benchmarking
    Group (ABBG) Customer Satisfaction Survey. The customer satisfaction grew from
    59% in 2018 to 64% in 2019.

2019 was a year of transition for the Authority. In September 2019, the Board of Trustees named India Birdsong, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)/General Manager. Additionally, Floun’say R. Caver, Ph.D. was named as the Interim Secretary-Treasurer. During the year, several strategic planning studies were started or advanced. These studies (Pillar Studies) include an economic impact study, a fare study, a rail car study, an efficiency study and a system redesign study.


As indicated earlier, several Pillar Studies were completed in 2019, as the Authority has continued to implement its Long-Range Plan. This Long-Range Plan serves as a blueprint for building tomorrow’s public transit by addressing shifts in our area’s population and employment centers, as well as changing travel patterns. This plan includes:

Transit Centers - Transit centers are strategically located where bus routes intersect and service is timed to provide easy transferring. Larger centers include indoor waiting areas and concessions. GCRTA has existing Transit Centers at Fairview Park, Maple Heights, Parma Mall and the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center in downtown Cleveland.

Park-N-Ride Lots - Parking lots are strategically located at freeway or other major intersections. Commuters leave their cars and ride express service to and from their destinations.

Paratransit Facility – The Paratransit Facility, including a propane fueling station, houses all Paratransit functions including scheduling, dispatching and both revenue and non-revenue repairs.


The development of the 2019 budget included preparation of a five-year Capital Improvement Plan (“CIP”). This document is an outline for rebuilding and expanding services by the Authority through the end of 2023. Totaling $370.96 million, the CIP constitutes a significant public works effort aimed at remaking the transit network and positioning the Authority, not just for the short-term, but also for the long-term future.

Significant capital improvements planned for the five-year period include:

Rail Projects - $98.95 million

This commitment of funds includes the replacement of several substations, stations and track rehabilitation, bridges, train control systems, rail vehicles overhaul, signage and rail expansion. Major significant projects include the rehabilitation of rail stations for $5 million, $14.45 million for various track rehabilitation projects, and $1.45 million for substation, electrical, and train signal improvements throughout the system.

Bridge Rehabilitation and Other Facility Improvements - $51.17 million

Funding has been provided for the rehabilitation of track bridges and includes State of Good Repair projects and other facility improvements totaling $51.17 million.

Bus Purchases, Paratransit Vehicles and Circulator Bus- $89.40 million

The useful life of a standard bus, as defined by the Federal Transit Administration (“FTA”), is twelve years, or five hundred thousand miles. The Authority is aggressively reducing its fleet's average age by replacing its oldest vehicles.

Transit Centers and Shelters and Other - $1.50 million

The Authority will make an investment in the construction of Transit Centers over the next five years of $1.5 million. These centers will be designed to provide our riders with convenient connections between local, regional and downtown transit lines. Comfortable waiting areas and time-coordinated service will make it easier for riders to transfer between routes.

Equipment and Other- $13.19 million

There were no funds allocated for any replacement of Equipment and Vehicles in 2019. Budget appropriations within this category in the past have included improvements to the Data Center, intranet development, and network improvements. Other projects include various transportation studies depending upon the availability of grant funds.

Local Capital Projects - $16.75 million

Classified as Routine Capital Projects ($8.11 million) and Asset Maintenance projects ($8.64 million), these initiatives are funded entirely from local resources. Routine Capital Projects are typically equipment requested by various departments and not funded through grants. Asset Maintenance funds are used to maintain, rehabilitate, replace, or construct assets of a smaller scope or cost than those typically supported with grants. These projects are authorized within the Authority’s Capital Fund and are supported with annual allocations of sales tax receipts.

Operating Expenses and Other Expenses - $100.00 million

Certain operating costs are budgeted as capital items as designated by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) or the State government to be incurred over the next several years and are reimbursable by the Federal and State governments totaling $100 million. These costs are recorded as operating costs in the enclosed financial statements.


Certificate of Achievement for Financial Reporting

It is management's intention to submit this and future CAFRs to the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for review under its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program. We believe the current report conforms to the program requirements, and we expect that participation will result in improvements to our reports in coming years.


The GCRTA expresses thanks to the staff of the Accounting Department directed by John Togher for their work in preparing this report. Manager of General Accounting and Receivables, Marsha Laney Pettus, David Pfeiffer, Mamadou Ndour, David Reynolds, Zardik Haruthunian, and Cora Vlacovsky assisted with this report. In addition, appreciation goes out to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer for providing supporting demographics and other statistics.

India Birdsong
General Manager/CEO

Rajan D. Gautam, CPA
Deputy General Manager,
Finance & Administration