CLEVELAND – A 2018 fare increase that was scheduled to take effect in August should be put on hold for at least 12 months while a comprehensive fare study is completed by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
That was the recommendation of the Operational Planning and Infrastructure Committee of the RTA Board of Trustees, after today's meeting of the full RTA Board. The board is expected to approve the committee’s recommendation at its March 27 meeting, when it reviews and votes on a revised 2018 operating budget.
“We need to take a look at the possibility of modifying our fare structure to best assure fairness and equity to our customers,” said Joe Calabrese, RTA’s CEO and General Manager.
“It’s critical that we study if there is a way to join with community partners to offer lower fares for our customers with lower incomes,” he said.
Calabrese said that transit systems across the country are reporting a drop in ridership due to reduced gas prices, reliance on Uber and Lyft and an increase in telecommuting. “But in Cleveland, while those factors have an impact, the biggest impact on loss of ridership is affordability among those with reduced incomes,” he said.
Significantly, poverty in Greater Cleveland is increasing. A recent study by the Ohio Development Services Agency indicates that 36% of Cleveland’s population falls below the Federal poverty level. That’s up from 26% in 1999.
Other cities in the US have had success with subsidized fares for those with lower incomes. In Seattle, for example, recipients of the SNAP card are automatically eligible to purchase a transit pass at a reduced cost.