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GCRTA Considering Fare Reductions, Moving Forward With System Redesign

An RTA light rail car awaiting repairs. [ideastream file photo]
An RTA light rail car awaiting repairs.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is recommending reductions in passenger fares as the result of a fare equity study completed last year.

The reductions, which would include lowering the price of adult day passes by 50 cents and senior or disabled day passes by 25 cents, would bring those passes in line with the cost of two trips.

The adult and senior or disability day passes are the most common rider purchases and will have the biggest impact on the public transit system’s bottom line, according to Director of Service Management Joel Freilich.

“Like any kind of price reduction, you always get more annual rides and always get less annual revenue,” Freilich said. “But the main purpose of all of this is equity.”

Reducing those fares is expected to bring in an estimated 270,000 more trips annually, he said, but would cause a $1.3 million drop in revenue.

Two additional passes, the student and paratransit passes, also would have fares reduced to maintain consistency, Freilich said, but would not have much impact on revenue or ridership.

The recommendations also call for a wider availability of single and two-trip passes, Freilich said, which currently are only sold in bulk to specific agencies.

“We would like to eliminate that restriction and allow people to come to our customer service center or whichever grocery store that carries our media is near them, and instead of just saying ‘You can only buy five trips,’ you can buy any number of trips you want,” Freilich said.

If approved by the full board later this month, the changes would go into effect in October.

Frelich also presented an update on GCRTA’s system redesign study, which is heading into a public engagement period.

Findings from that study, presented in December, showed residents favored increased frequency of buses over covering a wider area of the region, but only slightly. Current recommendations aim to improve service times, Freilich said, particularly in areas that have a wait time of more than 30 minutes.

“What we are looking at today are more frequent service all day, more direct service, more opportunities to go more places without needing to transfer, on a single transit vehicle,” Freilich said.

The redesign proposal still needs more input, said RTA Board member Valeria McCall.

“There are some questions in there, on some of those routes, I think you’re going to want opportunity to deeper dive,” McCall said. “I’m sure that the public would want an opportunity to deeper dive.”

The four-week public engagement period will include virtual meetings to discuss the proposed changes, Freilich said. Final results of the study will be presented to the RTA board in December, he said, with rollout of the redesign projected for June 2021.

The board also heard a presentation on GCRTA policing efforts during the pandemic,

The agency has seen a rise in the homeless population on its properties, said acting GCRTA Police Chief Michael Gettings, from 160 people in March to a peak of a peak of nearly 400 in April and May.

“This uptick was really due to the fact that many of the homeless shelters were not taking the same capacity that they were pre-COVID,” Gettings said. “And also, the homeless individuals would normally have a routine. They would go around the city and go certain places to plug their phones in and eat lunch. Those places shut down during COVID.”

GCRTA police have been connecting individuals with resources, Gettings said. The number of homelessness reports is approaching pre-pandemic levels, he said, with 125 in July.