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Clevelanders For Public Transit Asks RTA To Waive Fares During Pandemic

RTA staff are disinfecting touchable surfaces on all buses and trains every 24 hours, according to the agency. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
RTA staff are disinfecting touchable surfaces on all buses and trains every 24 hours, according to the agency.

Advocacy group Clevelanders for Public Transit (CPT) is asking the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to suspend fare collection during the coronavirus pandemic.

Transit agencies in  Akron and  Columbus are among the Ohio cities that have already waived public transit fares while encouraging riders to use buses for essential travel only.

“When you have riders getting on at the front door that need medical care, and then they have to pay their fare within a foot or two of an operator, that’s not keeping within CDC guidelines of 6 feet for social distancing,” CPT’s Chris Stocking said at a Monday online news conference.

RTA is not considering waiving fares, but is working to keep buses and trains clean and safe, according to agency spokeswoman Linda Krecic. Staff are cleaning touchable surfaces in vehicles every 24 hours, and RTA has given bus and train operators disinfectant wipes,  according to the agency’s website. The transit agency is also recommending passengers keep at least 6 feet apart by using every other seat. 

Because of the state’s stay-at-home order,  RTA is suspending Park-N-Ride and Downtown Trolley service beginning Tuesday.

CPT is also asking state and federal lawmakers to provide relief funding for the transit agency, saying RTA will likely lose revenue from sales taxes under the stay-at-home order.

“We can only hope that, especially because there are essential workers that need to get to their jobs, and a lot of them do take the bus or the train, that this will be something that is crucial to getting people where they need to be safely,” CPT coordinator Dana Beveridge said. 

That call for funding comes as the Ohio state government prepares to tighten its belt in anticipation of a similar revenue decline.  Gov. Mike DeWine has frozen state hiring and is asking department heads find possible budget cuts of up to 20 percent.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus suspended fares to put more distance between riders and operators, allowing passengers to board from the back of the bus rather than the front. 

“This allows everybody to go immediately in, find their seat,”  COTA spokesman Jeff Pullin told WOSU last week. “They don’t have to come in contact with others. And other operators don’t come in contact with the hundreds of other people they typically come in contact with every day.”

Fewer people are taking the bus in Columbus. Last week, ridership fell about 35 percent, WOSU reports

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.