The ribbon was officially cut today on the HealthLine, the nation’s first federally funded Bus Rapid Transit system. Cleveland sports legends Lenny Barker, Kevin Mack, and Campy Russell joined area youth athletes in the official ribbon-cutting duties. Local, state, and national officials joined the public in sending the hybrid vehicle on its maiden voyage with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
A community effort
Local foundations, the business community, non-profit organizations, the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and RTA all played a role in the planning of the event. The unveiling of the HealthLline presents an opportunity to bring Clevelanders together – drawing attention to our city’s many cultural and intellectual assets, celebrating what has been accomplished and what the future holds – pumping new life and energy into our town.
RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese is thankful for the community support.
“From businesses and foundations, to our cultural institutions and civic leaders, we were all in agreement that the city needed to celebrate the current and anticipated $4.3 billion in new development along the route,” says Calabrese. “Donations, both cash and in-kind, took this idea and turn it into reality. We believe the events planned for this weekend should attract folks from throughout the region.”
The HealthLine connects the region’s two largest employment centers – downtown and University Circle. Beyond this, it’s the connection to the region’s new economy. Industrialists -- like Rockefeller and Severance -- made Euclid Avenue a showplace for the city. Along the route, one will find world-class health care, and a world-renowned orchestra, inspiring art and architecture, and nationally respected centers for learning and entertainment. The once-famous avenue is also becoming a place for tech firms, empty nesters and Iron Chefs. And soon, it will be a place to display advancements in medical technology, with the creation of the Medical Mart.
Creating a fast link between downtown and University Circle will address a logistic issue that has hindered the city’s development for a number of years – the separation of hotels, major employers and venues in Cleveland’s central business district from cultural institutions, hospital systems and research centers. The short 20-minute commute will change the definition of what is perceived to be the city’s “center.” It will also change the direction in which people are commuting – with Warehouse residents boarding the HealthLine in the morning for a day of work in University Circle and Case students catching a ride at night for a game at Progressive Field.
Like Silicon Valley in California and the Quadrangle in the Carolinas, the HealthLine route is Northeast Ohio’s center for job creation and research. It’s also a catalyst for redevelopment. More than $4.3 billion in development has occurred or has been committed along the route. This includes rehabilitation of old buildings into housing and retail centers, new locations for business startups, and major expansions at universities, museums and hospitals. Signs of this investment can already be seen in downtown, midtown, University Circle and East Cleveland.
The HealthLine will be the first federally funded Bus Rapid Transit line – putting Cleveland in the national spotlight. The transit system offers the benefits of rail without the tracks. This includes a faster commute through dedicated transit lanes and rail stations, off-board fare payment, and traffic signal prioritization.
Green thinking is an integral part of the HealthLine. The 21 hybrid-electric vehicles used on the line are powered by clean diesel engines and electric transmissions with 100 kW motors and 600-volt nickel hydride battery packs. This unique power train reduces particulate emissions while dramatically improving fuel efficiency. Along Euclid Avenue, the planting of 1,500 trees has greened up the streetscape, and dedicated bike lanes provide commuters another green alternative to driving.