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Sam Allard / Scene
Clevelanders for Public Transit rally before RTA's first community meeting to discuss fare hikes, service cuts.
At its meeting Tuesday afternoon, Cuyahoga County Council passed a resolution urging the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to exhaust all options before raising fares or cutting routes. The resolution also urged the State of Ohio and the U.S. Department of Transportation to make more transit funding available.
The RTA's presumed fare hikes and service cuts have been a major story of 2016. Ever since the transit authority's board approved a 2016 budget in December, 2015, these options have been on the table. At the end of this year, RTA will only have $7 million in reserves on hand. That's enough to keep the system running for two weeks.
Joe Calabrese has said — and indeed, he repeated Tuesday — that even if all the RTA's proposed service cuts were implemented (about 3 percent of total routes), less than 2 percent of riders would be impacted. Most of them would have another transit option within a half-mile as well.
But city councilman Brian Cummins has said before
that a half-mile zone (or the three-quarter mile zone that RTA had been using on a service graphic) wasn't applicable to most transit users. Usage drops below 10 percent when riders have to walk half a mile to get to a stop.
And opponents, many of whom attended one or more public meetings on the topic, contend that raising fares is an affront to low-income riders who use the RTA daily, especially riders with disabilities, who stand to face the steepest hikes on Paratransit routes.
Members of the lately formed Clevelanders for Public Transit, a riders' organization, attended Tuesday's council meeting to champion the resolution and to restate their goals of transit equity. The group traveled to Columbus last month to urge state legislators to provide adequate transit funding in Ohio.
“The level of funds coming from the state of Ohio for public transit should be an embarrassment to our elected and appointed officials," said Alanna Faith, of Clevelanders for Public Transit, at the time. "It’s time for our lawmakers to stand with riders, fill RTA’s $7 million budget gap, and chart out fair funding for public transportation for years to come.”
Though the County Council resolution doesn't apportion any new funds, it's a step in the right direction.
"We are seeing this as a first step toward developing a stronger county-wide conversation on transit, which has been lacking to date," said Nathan Malachowski, an organizer with Clevelanders for Public Transit. "Also an opportunity to get more stakeholders, in particular riders, to the table on these decisions."