RTA Holds Off On Drastic Cuts And A Fare Increase For 2018

Audience member listens to RTA board debate 2018 budget at its March 6 meeting. [Luke Fortney / ideastream]
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Cuyahoga County’s public transit agency plans to put off some of the service cuts and layoffs that had been looming this year. 

The transit authority’s CEO, Joe Calabrese, is asking the RTA board to cut 40 staff positions, furlough some workers and reduce capital spending by $5 million. That’s in addition to already passed reductions in route frequency that take effect Sunday.

“And it buys time,” said Calabrese at Tuesday's board meeting. “It buys time for advocacy. It buys time for us to look at some additional ways to cut our cost. Again, it’s a combination of cost and revenue that’s going to lead us forward.” 

Under the proposed budget, the agency’s $34 million surplus would last through 2020.

Calabrese says a new governor in Columbus after November’s election may support increased funding for public transit.

The board is also considering ways to generate revenue locally, though there have been no open discussions of what those sources might be.

The RTA is mostly funded by a 1 percent countyide sales tax. There have been calls to put an increase on the ballot, as the agency has dealt with low levels of state funding.

So far there are no plans to move ahead with any tax increases for RTA.

The budget, a revision of one passed in December, goes to the full board for approval on March 27. 

Changes to fifteen RTA routes will still take effect starting Sunday.

The changes were announced in January, and include reduced frequency on 15 lines, along with altered routes to serve employment sites including an Amazon fulfillment center in North Randall.

There’s one planned change that won’t be moving forward – an increase in fares.

Calabrese told the board he realizes now that the negative effects of a fare hike outweigh the positives.

And he said the RTA needs public support.

“And we’re going to get more support if we don’t cut service and don’t raise fares to the public,” said Calabarese. “And so I think it’s a new narrative. I think we need as many people as we can get on buses and trains because if we do go to the ballot box, those are going to be the first people to vote yes.”

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