RTA service cuts will result in need to transfer to reach downtown

If the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) implements service cuts as planned for April, Cleveland Heights and University Heights will become unique among inner-ring suburbs in that they will have no direct public transit service that is, without a transfer to downtown Cleveland. Several citizens expressed their concerns at a public hearing Jan. 6 at the Cleveland Heights Community Center.

The cuts, which seek to address a sharp drop in sales-tax receipts, decreased state aid, and a reduction in ridership, would eliminate all service west of University Circle on routes 7 (Euclid Heights-Monticello), 9 (Mayfield) and 32 (Cedar). Currently, these routes have rush-hour runs to and from downtown. The proposed cuts would have all buses turning back at the Red Line station at University Circle, as they now do on weekends and nonrush-hour trips. Service east of University Circle would remain essentially unchanged.

The 9 travels to the rapid station by way of Euclid Avenue and thus connects directly to RTA’s HealthLine (Euclid Corridor), which provides 24-hour service between East Cleveland and Public Square. But the 7 and 32 routes, as now configured, do not connect to the HealthLine on their nonrush-hour trips. RTA is considering adjustments to these routes that would give riders easier access to the HealthLine.

RTA explains its financial situation on its Web site, at www.riderta.com

The authority’s main source of income accounting for 60 to 70 percent of its operating budget comes from a 1 percent sales tax. In 2009, receipts from this tax were $19 million below the previous year.

Ohio covers only about 3 percent of operating costs compared to a national average of 23 percent for state support. Ohio’s support for transit systems reached $43 million in 2002, but has been reduced to less than $11 million in the 2010-11 state budget. Falling ridership, tied to fewer people working in the region, will bring 2009 fare receipts of about $4 million below budget. Fare receipts cover 20 to 25 percent of RTA’s operating costs.

RTA is not alone in its predicament. A recent study by the American Public Transit Association found that 9 of 10 systems have cut  service or raised fares or are in the process of doing so.

Citizens interested in becoming involved in the effort to secure greater and more dependable public transit funding in Ohio can visit www.policymattersohio.org/SaveTransitNow.htm.

Vince Reddy is a FutureHeights board member and a member of the Greater Cleveland RTA Citizens' Advisory Board.
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Volume 3, Issue 2, Posted 9:22 PM, 01.19.2010