RTA Board Hears Final Presentation On System Redesign

RTA bus at a stop near Jack Casino in downtown Cleveland
The proposed model would create a “high-frequency network” in the center of Cleveland’s downtown. [Isaiah Paik / ideastream]
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The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is considering a plan that would prioritize bus frequency in the downtown area at the cost of low-population zones. A consultant gave the final presentation on the system redesign study to the RTA board Tuesday.

A potential redesign of the RTA would aim to increase either ridership or coverage. The study relied on public input to determine which way to take the RTA and results were split, said consultant Jarrett Walker with Jarrett Walker and Associates. Roughly 42.1 percent of respondents preferred more coverage and 42.4 percent would prefer more ridership. The remainder said to keep the service the same.

But when presented with possible maps, Walker said more of those surveyed preferred an option that would increase ridership. The map offered Tuesday aims to allow more ridership while maintaining coverage.

“We might, under certain circumstances, reduce the frequency of service to a very low-demand area,” Walker said. “We might design the route differently so that it stops in a different place, but service remains within a quarter mile of everyone who has service now.”

The plan would reduce trolley services where there is already overlap with other RTA routes. It would also increase bus frequency in downtown locations, though service to areas with fewer residents would be reduced. The bus park-and-ride services would still use downtown buses, but would not always use the freeway.

The proposed model would create a “high-frequency network” in the center of Cleveland’s downtown, Walker said, where multiple routes would see increased stops. That would create easier transfers and reduce waiting time.

The plan received approval from roughly 52 percent of survey respondents, and Walker said half of the negative reviews were restricted to the change to park and ride services.

A majority of respondents also agreed with the idea of expanding weekend bus services, Walker said. But there is no funding option for that in the current plan, which operates within the RTA’s budget. Recommendations for weekend coverage were included in a plan relying on increased funding.

RTA CEO India Birdsong says the board will take its time going over the study and holding public meetings before making changes.

“I do appreciate the urgency, but one thing I want to reiterate to everyone in the room is that, we have to get into a mode of intentional planning,” Birdsong said.

But residents want more immediate change.

“What we’re asking today is that the board and RTA doesn’t just put this on the back burner, doesn’t just put it on the shelf and leave it for months,” said Dana Beveridge, lead organizer for Clevelanders for Public Transit.

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