After 16 public meetings and the urging of the Cuyahoga County Council to explore all other possible options in the face of budget woes, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) voted Tuesday to raise fares and cut routes anyway. The board voted 8-1 in favor of the actions.
All rate increases and service cuts will take effect on August 14, 2016.
The graduated fare increase, up $0.25 in August (to $2.50) and then $0.25 again (to $2.75) in 2018, was one of a series of proposed rate increase structures. RTA hopes this will help fill in its $7 million budget hole. Each $0.25 fare increase is good for about $3.5 million annually, the RTA says.
CEO Joe Calabrese said that the RTA has been listening to its riders. And indeed, the RTA modified a few of its original intended route closures. They are as follows:
- Route #2 on East 79th Street — originally slated for elimination due to low ridership — was maintained. However, the adopted plan calls for the current schedule to be adjusted to begin service one hour later, at approximately 5:15 a.m., and end one hour earlier, at approximately 7 p.m.
- The #8 Cedar route proposal was to eliminate weekday service after 6 p.m. and to eliminate all weekend service. The current plan is to operate weekdays and weekends until 9 p.m.
- The extensions to Lakeview Tower and Tremont Pointe of the #81 Tremont route, which were proposed to be eliminated due to the high cost per rider, will be retained on days and hours to be determined soon.
- The Waterfront Line on weekdays will operate every 15 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes during the mid-day, with service ending at 7 p.m., except on summer Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Calabrese maintained that the service cuts are more impactful than the rate increase. The local group Clevelanders for Public Transit applauded RTA for being responsive to the needs of the community.
“We obviously didn’t want to see any cuts, but we are happy that RTA kept equity at the center of their plan,” said Clevelanders for Public Transit member Rich Raphael. “We are enthusiastic for opportunities to work together for fight to increase funding for transit at all levels of government.”
Among the rate modifications, which include a $0.50 increase to the all-day pass (up to $5.50) and a $10 increase to the monthly pass (up to $95), RTA will also launch an all day pass for Paratransit, which will gradually increase from $7 to $8.50 in 2019.
“We see this as a partial victory, especially for Paratransit riders, because the original increase proposed was $1.25,” said Clevelanders for Public Transit member and Paratransit rider James Lamb. “Folks on SSI and disability have not had a cost of living raise in nearly three years.”
The rate hike is RTA's first in seven years. Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins, the RTA board's newest member, cast Tuesday morning's lone dissenting vote. He had proposed a sunset clause for the fare increases while while local leaders sought more sustainable funding for RTA. (Elkins was also a dissenter when the regional mayors and city managers association voted to support the Sin Tax.)
Here is the official rate summary, from RTA:
- The bus/rapid cash fare will increase from the current $2.25 to $2.50, and then to $2.75 in 2018.
- Senior/Disabled fares will increase from the current $1.00 to $1.25, and then to $1.35 in 2018.
- Park-N-Ride Bus will increase from the current $2.50 to $2.75, and $3.25 in 2018.
- The regular All-Day pass will increase from $5.00 to $5.50 in August and $6.00 in 2018.
- The Monthly Pass for bus, rapid and HealthLine will increase from $85.00 to $95.00 and then to $105.00 in 2018.
- Paratransit fares will increase from the current $2.25 to $2.50, and then to $2.75 in 2017, $3.00 in 2018 and $3.25 in 2019. In addition, Paratransit customers, in the adopted proposal, will be able to purchase All-Day, 7-Day and Monthly passes at a slightly higher rate than regular fares. Those passes have not been available previously.