Friday, July 18, 2008

this is just about the last place to cut

Crain's Cleveland Business: RTA to boost fares, cut service to reduce red ink -- At a time when ridership is making buses bulge at the seams, cutting service and charging more for what remains is the last thing you want to have happen. Service and bus routes should expand; administrative staff should be cut; salaries should be cut; grants should be acquired; general taxes should be levied. But service should expand both in the number of buses circulating each route and in the hours of operation.

We found out recently that GCRTA has no idea how many people actually ride these things. We ride quite often, and the fare boxes are always inoperable.

The shopping areas depend on bus traffic. So do schools. So do the legion of newly minted commuters.

Here's some input from somebody who buys and uses a weekly ticket at all hours and for all destinations:

1. Make the bus appear every 15 or 20 minutes on each route during the
hours of 5 AM and 8 PM. Expand the workday to fit what many of us really

2. Run the buses all day and all night.

3. Stabilize the routes and the scheduling, to the point where it becomes
intergenerational knowledge. Quit the switchey-change-o managerial flourishes
and give an area something it can depend on.

4. Maintain our investment: make the fare boxes work, replace the shocks
and the springs.

5. Make the buildout of the RTA a primary focus; now, the area see it as an
expense for transporting poor folk; it's actually an asset that enables a person
to save $8,000 a year in car expenses (see David Bach's Go Green, Live Rich). GM, Ford, the UAW, and State Farm will suffer for a while, but it's about taking care of the welfare of the individual members of the community first and foremost. Pretend for a while that we are New York City, and there's no way to have a car

6. If we don't do all this, then what the heck did we do spending all that time and money on Euclid Avenue? Was it merely for some short-term jobs and to cut back on the number of independent businesspeople? If we cut back on current service, we need to somehow get back the money we as a community just spent on the Euclid Avenue Extravaganza, and perhaps damages, too. Where do we start?


  1. This was the first week since I started riding the #22 bus to and from work that the fare machines were used each time. And I've been riding it since the beginning of May.

    You don't think they would fudge the numbers do you? The idea crossed my mind. Regardless, by their own admission, ridership is up, even if they don't know by how much. Also, shouldn't it be part of a City strategy to get even more people to ride not come up with ways (cuts) that discourage ridership. It's all crazy-making becaue time and time again I see public transportation as the missing element in our local government strategy.

  2. Actually, like the government help we get from the councilpeople, the school system, and the auxiliary help we get from the nonprofits and the foundations, the transit system should be FREE, and it should operate around the clock.

    That alone would make the economy buzz. It would severely disadvantage the car makers, the auto insurers, the Internal Revenue Service, and the unions, but it would create a ton of self-employed people who had incredible mobility at a reasonable cost, the normal cost associated with being a citizen.

    Of course, we'd have to have the nonprofits, like the Cleveland Clinic, paying taxes too, or at least their fair share of the upkeep in the form of PILOTS. Today, the Clinic does not pay taxes, has its own bus system, and is constructing a behemoth parking garage, because it can because we allow it to skate on paying its freight as a member of this community.

  3. Free service, Tim?

    God, I wish we could swing that.

    I like how Tri-Met (Portland, Oregon's transit agency) has a free ride zone that encompasses downtown and the immediately surrounding areas (Portland is also a city that put a lot of time into planning smart growth, something Cleveland hasn't done as much.).

    I would like the fares to get cheaper but if we have to choose one -- I am not convinced that we do -- we should keep or extend our level of service instead of cutting them to save money.

    Right when I get ready to move back to Cuyahoga County, this happens...