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RTA Board Discusses Budget: "We Will Get Through 2019"

RTA train [ideeastream file photo]
A gray RTA train awaiting repairs with red "RTA" facing front [ideastream file photo]

Greater Cleveland RTA presented its 2019 budget for the first time Tuesday, and thanks to a limited infusion of state aid, the agency will likely get through 2019 with a positive balance.

The 2019 budget projects small increases in fares as well as sales and tax revenue for RTA.

“With an estimated beginning balance of $35.1 million, 2019 is starting strong,” said RTA’s Kay Satula, who presented the budget at its first hearing.

But ridership continues to decrease. Satula says that it could have been worse.

“In 2018, ridership is recovering slowly, and is estimated to the end of the year at 38.1 million riders, a decrease of only 3 percent from 2017,” said Satula.

Fare increases passed two years ago did not yield the added revenue that was expected, says RTA’s Joel Freilich.

“Several things were going on at the same time – increased fares, reduced service, and other things that can be happening in the community which can affect ridership,” said Freilich.

RTA says it will be able to make more informed decisions about its financial future after a fare and economic impact study are completed in early 2019.

When asked about Ohio’s new governor-elect and a plan to ask the state for more funding, RTA interim CEO Dr. Floun’say Caver says he looks forward to conversations with Mike DeWine.

“The current election allows us an opportunity to explain our need as both an agency and an industry to the new governor,” said Caver. “I’m hopeful that the new governor will be open to understanding our need, and help to prioritize more spending towards public transportation.”

The board plans to approve the budget by December 18.

“It’s getting harder and harder to make those adjustments, and I think that’s the concern that we should all have as a board,” said RTA Board President Dennis Clough. “But the positive side of it is, it looks like – based on this – we will get through 2019.”

Also on RTA’s agenda – finding a new CEO.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday's board meeting, a local transit advocacy group presented its proposed guidelines for choosing a new RTA leader.

Clevelanders for Public Transit wants a CEO dedicated to the riders.

“We as a group are very optimistic about the CEO search. We’re hoping it will be transparent, and that it will be an open search,” said Alanna Faith, a Cleveland Paratransit rider and member of Clevelanders for Public Transit.

The group also asks for a chance to participate in a public Q and A session with finalists for the position and that the job be split into two – a CEO/General Manager and a Secretary/Treasurer – to maintain accountability.

Cuyahoga County Councilman Dale Miller has added his support to the group’s list of guidelines.