Efforts are underway to freshen up the look and feel of Public Square in downtown Cleveland. The project has already achieved nearly half of its $30 million goal through grants provided by the Cleveland Foundation and Gund Foundation. But for all the promise of a greener and cleaner look to Public Square, some have asked…what of the buses? The Square right outside Tower City sees lots of public transit activity -- and users -- that might be displaced as the dust settles.
ideastream's Brian Bull talked to the RTA's General Manager, Joe Calabrese, about the development. Bull first asked if the redesign will displace the current bus stops at and near Terminal Tower….
Calabrese: Studies are still underway regarding where those stops would be relocated to. But we’re working very closely with the engineering firm on that topic. RTA has some 30,000 people a day getting on and off the trains in Tower City, we have about 40,000 on buses at Public Square. That is a major transfer area for RTA, where about 50% of our customers transfer. So the close proximity of people transferring from one bus line to another, or one bus line to the train, or from a train to a bus line, etc. or to the health line to the trolleys, it’s all an important process, so we’re doing our best to preserve that convenience for our customers.
Bull: Is there an expectation that perhaps the number of buses may decrease because of the renovation?
Calabrese : No… we’ve about 4,000 bus trips a day going through public square, again serving about 40,000 customers per day. The way that our city has evolved, Superior is really the major east-west corridor. We’ve about a lot of buses coming over from the West Side, coming over the Detroit-Superior bridge. Certainly in the most recent plans, Superior certainly may be an avenue that stays open. Either to RTA or to RTA and general use traffic. As we know, Ontario Street will be closed. And there are 4 bus stops on Ontario in middle of the Square. We’ve about 9,000 per day boarding and alighting at those four bus stops. So one of the things we’re working with consultants on, is if those bus stops are not there , where would they be to provide the connectivity that’s so important.
Bull: So by 2016 we’re going to have a newly renovated Public Square with gardens, a café, fountains, and more after the $30 million project is done. Now with those buses come noise, fumes, large groups of passengers idling around, waiting to board their bus….is there an inclination to move those Terminal Tower bus stops elsewhere, to preserve the aesthetic of the new and improved Public Square?
Calabrese: I think everything’s open for discussion. But they were at one point at time on the other side of tower and recently moved more recently to the front of the tower. There’s limited space on the back side, there’s just not enough physical room on there for the 4,000 bus trips a day we have. We’re looking at options, we’re confident in the consultation team. We need to remember this is downtown. No great city doesn’t have great public transit access.
And I’m assuming the stops will be in close proximity to Public Square. I think RTA brings life and breath to Cleveland. For downtown to work, the use of public transit will become more and more important. That’s only going to work it it’s convenient.
Bull: I imagine too from a public relations standpoint, if you move those bus stops, you don’t want the patrons to feel displaced for more…well, attractive “window dressing” for lack of a better way to put it.
Calabrese: Well, these are our customers, and not just our customers, these are employees of downtown businesses. 63% of all RTA’s trips are work related. People going to and from work. And 22% are people going to and from school. Two important things for people to do in their daily lives. So that convenience is important.