Inside RTA -- Summer 2014

 Inside RTA -- Summer 2014

There’s lots of great news, as RTA projects move forward

RIDERSHIP:  In 2013, the nation realized yet another increase in transit ridership to the highest level since 1957. At RTA, ridership increased at a level that was twice the national average.

VP VISITS: Vice President Joe Biden visited RTA on May 14, using RTA’s rail facility as a backdrop to talk about the importance of infrastructure investment. In addition to placing the spotlight on RTA, the VP’s visit garnered great media attention to a topic that is critical to the long-term viability of transit in Cleveland.

STABLE BUDGET OUTLOOK: RTA finished 2013 to the good of budget once again, allowing for the third straight year of service increases to address areas of increasing demand.

BULLY ON BONDS: Both Standard & Poors and Moody’s reaffirmed their top ratings for RTA (AAA and Aa2) before an April 15 sale of $29.7 million in sales tax revenue bonds. The refunding of previous debt created significant savings due to current interest rates and the high ratings.

PAVING THE WAY: RTA’s ground-breaking TransitStat program has saved taxpayers more than $55 million since it began in 2008. Using this information-based management system, RTA has saved $16.2 million in fuel purchases, and $10.8 million in reduced overtime. Paratransit on-time performance rose from 76 percent to more than 92 percent. Officials from around the nation visit RTA regularly to see how they can adopt the program at home.

3 BIKES ON A BUS: RTA is making it easier for riders to combine biking and bus riding. Earlier this year, the RTA Board approved spending $250,000 to equip all buses with three-position racks. Rack-N-Roll, a program to add two-position bike racks, began in 2000. More than 50,000 riders a year take their bicycles aboard RTA trains and buses.

DING! DING! DING! Trolley ridership continues to grow, with a 101 percent increase from 2012 to 2013. There is now late-night trolley service 7 days a week. All trolleys continue to be free with a smile.

FOUNDATION BOOSTS RTA: Community gifts to mark the Cleveland Foundation’s 100th anniversary help RTA riders. The gifts have included a fare-free day on RTA, and free admission to the Rock Hall, Science Center, Cleveland International Film Festival, Metroparks Zoo, four Wade Oval museums, and free outdoor concerts at Tri-C’s JazzFest. Community response to each gift has been terrific, and RTA ridership on those free days has greatly increased.

DIVERSITY AWARD: For the third time, RTA received ‘Best in Class’ honors for Senior Management Diversity from the Commission on Economic Inclusion, for non-profits and government agencies, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. RTA was also recognized for achievements in the Overall Workforce Diversity category.

GAY GAMES: In 2013, RTA helped transport many of the 20,000 visitors who came to Cleveland for the National Senior Games. RTA officials will use what they learned to help serve the more than 30,000 visitors expected here for the Gay Games, Aug. 9-16.

From west to east, RTA keeps major projects on track

CEDAR-UNIVERSITY STATION: Things are moving Rapid-ly. RTA plans to open the rebuilt Cedar-University Station this fall. The $15 million facility is a major bus-rail transfer point for many RTA riders.

LITTLE ITALY-UNIVERISTY CIRCLE STATION: One of Cleveland’s most popular neighborhoods will soon have a Rapid Station just steps away from a major destination for locals and visitors alike. Work is just beginning on the $11 million project. When the new station opens next year, it will replace the current Red Line station at East 120th Street and Euclid Avenue.

GROUNDBREAKING SET: On June 25, officials from RTA and the City of Shaker Heights will break ground on a $4.5 million renovation of the Lee-Van Aken Rapid Station on the Blue Line. The station, adjacent to City Hall, is key to the city, and its renovation assures that the area will continue to grow.

FALL OPENING: Late this year, RTA will complete a four-mile upgrade of Clifton Boulevard in Lakewood and Cleveland. Service will begin on the new West Shore Express, which will replace the popular 55 and 55F routes. RTA’s newest bus rapid transit (BRT) will provide riders in the West Shore communities with service that is faster, safer, more reliable and first-class in every way. Total project cost, including 15 articulated vehicles, is $20 million.

EXTREME MAKEOVER: All 40 heavy-rail vehicles on RTA’s Red Line are getting interior facelifts, with new floors, windows and lights. Several new cars are already in service. The $3.5 million project will take two years to complete. A five-year mechanical overhaul of rail cars was completed in 2012, for $21.6 million. The work is intended to extend the life of the rail fleet by 15 years.

EXTENSION STUDY: RTA is studying the feasibility of extending the HealthLine or the Red Line Rapid from the Louis Stokes Station at Windermere in East Cleveland to a site in Euclid, near the Lake County line. AECOM Technical Services is doing the study for $1.1 million. Alternatives are being analyzed, and a preferred alternative will be chosen later this year.

DESIGN DONE: Design work for a new $12.5 million Brookpark Rapid Station is done. RTA has applied for a federal TIGER VI grant. Funding for major projects is usually 80 percent federal and 20 percent local. After funding is secured, a contract will be awarded within a few months. The heavily-used station is on the Cleveland-Brookpark line.

CHECK THE WEB: Check on the status of any RTA major project.

Trustees re-elect Dixon, Clough to Board leadership

BOARD LEADERS: In March, RTA Trustees re-elected George F. Dixon III as President, and Westlake Mayor Dennis M. Clough as Vice President. Dixon, President since 1994, is believed to be the longest serving transit board member in Ohio. Clough, who formerly chaired the Finance Committee, has served on the Board since 1999.

WELCOME: South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo joined the RTA Board in March. She was elected by the Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association to replace Brook Park Mayor Mark Elliott, who retired. Mayor since 2003, Welo serves on the Board of the Ohio Municipal League, and is active in many professional and community groups.

Innovative Marketing initiatives attract more riders

READY TO RIDE: RTA has been working with some of the largest companies in Cleveland to convince a higher percentage of employees to take advantage of a Commuter Advantage program with pre-tax benefits. The results have been promising – about one out of three persons who took advantage of the short-term, risk-free trial signed up for the program.

CSU LOVES U-PASS: This spring, undergraduate students at Cleveland State University approved a six-year renewal of the U-Pass program, with 93 percent of the vote. Students are served directly by the HealthLine 24/7, and the E-Line trolley 5 days a week, and their U-Pass gives them access to all bus and rail routes.

TRI-C JOINS U-PASS: The 30,000 students at Cuyahoga Community College now have easier access to RTA, because of a U-Pass program that began in January. Eligible Tri-C students now enjoy unlimited access to RTA service during qualifying semesters. The initial program runs through spring semester 2015. The U-Pass provides each registered student a semester-long unlimited ridership pass.

NEXTCONNECT: NextConnect represents the next generation in RTA service communication. Through GPS technology, riders can check the location of vehicles on any route, and obtain predictions of when that vehicle is expected to arrive at a given stop. Subscribed alerts allow a customer to be notified via email when a vehicle is approaching a selected stop, minimizing unnecessary waiting time.

WEB SITE POPULAR: RTA’s re-designed Web site attracts more than 15,000 visits a day. It offers a wealth of up-to-date information to help current and potential customers easily ride RTA.

RTA is safe, video cameras will help make it even safer

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: RTA now has video cameras on every bus, except those scheduled to be retired this year. Every new bus will come equipped with video cameras. There are more than 3,500 cameras on RTA buses, trains, rail stations and other customer facilities. They have proven to be invaluable, both in preventing crime and in solving crimes that do occur.

iWATCH: With this free application, every bus and rail customer can really become the eyes and ears of Transit Police. Riders can text, call or send e-mail, photos or video anonymously to Transit Police, in response to their safety concerns. iWatch’s launch last year helped RTA land its fourth APTA Gold Award of Merit for Safety.

SAFE OPERATORS: RTA has recognized 20 bus and Paratransit operators who have compiled a total of 465 years of accident-free driving. The top honoree this year is James Lee, who has driven 30 years without an accident. A total of 11 operators have 25 years each, and 8 operators each have 20 years of safe driving.

SAFE PLACE: RTA continues to be a haven for youths, by its involvement in Safe Place, a national organization. Safe Places are sites set up in public locations where youth in crisis situations can get help immediately. Safe Place signs are displayed on all RTA buses and trains. The service is free. Youths can tell the bus or train operator that they are there because of the Safe Place sign. The operator notifies a Road Supervisor or Transit Police. They meet the youth at the bus or train, and transport them to a Safe Place shelter partner, where there are counselors who are trained to help.

RTA officials ready to respond to future challenges

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Recent news headlines have put this issue front and center in our community. RTA is working closely with a consortium of local agencies to reduce and eventually eliminate human trafficking. RTA employees have been trained to watch for the warning signs, and several public awareness events have been held.

PUBLIC SQUARE: RTA officials are continuing to work closely with the Group Plan Commission, as plans are being made to re-design Public Square. As Public Square has been the traditional hub of public transportation for more than a century, changes will be critical in how RTA is to serve its customers. Each weekday, approximately 30,000 customers use the rail lines in Tower City and approximately 40,000 customers board buses on Public Square, with up to half transferring between the two modes. RTA is pleased to be at the table to help develop a plan to assure that this new configuration will be one that will add to the convenience of using public transit.

2016, HERE WE COME: Both major political parties have invited Cleveland to bid on hosting their 2016 national convention. Cleveland is one of the top four cities being considered by the GOP. RTA officials are front and center in meetings with other community leaders, as plans come together to tout Cleveland’s assets. Stay tuned.

ESMS: RTA is one of 10 agencies selected to participate in the current class of Virginia Tech's FTA Environmental and Sustainability Management System (ESMS) Institute, which runs through February 2015. The Institute provides training and implementation guidance on the ISO 14001 standard. RTA's Central Bus Maintenance Facility was selected as the pilot facility for development and implementation of the ESMS. Once certified, RTA intends to deploy ISO 14001 Authority-wide to meet objectives of the sustainability program. The ultimate goal of ESMS is the effective integration of environmental considerations into every-day business decisions and actions, ensuring environmental stewardship is ingrained in how RTA does business throughout the organization.

WE HAVE JOBS! RTA has openings in a number of key positions, including mechanics. Help spread the word. RTA offers great benefits.

In closing...


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Joseph A. Calabrese
CEO/General Manager
George F. Dixon III
Board of Trustees