RTA to Raise Base Fare, Cut Service in 2016

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In a letter to the RTA board of trustees, CEO Joe Calabrese proposed fare increases and a "slight service reduction" in the 2016 budget to react to what he characterized as downward financial trends. 

The proposed budget includes an increase in base fare from $2.25 to $2.50 and an increase in Paratransit fare — the service for riders with disabilities — from $2.25 to $3.50. Also, due to overcapacity at RTA garages, Calabrese has proposed a 1.3 percent reduction in the number of buses in service.

The board deliberated at its meeting Tuesday morning, and will do so again, said Calabrese, at its meetings on December 1 and December 15. Public comments will be welcomed on those dates. (The meetings take place in the board room at RTA headquarters downtown, 1240 W. 6th St.).

Calabrese said the fare increase was necessary due to increased expenses in 2014 — including a 27th pay period for hourly employees — and 2015, not to mention smaller projected growth in revenues due to a shrinking available pool of grant funding. Expenses are budgeted to increase once again in 2016, this time by $20 million. 

RTA has not increased its base fare for seven years, and during that time, Calabrese said, inflation alone has increased the transit authority's costs by 12 percent. 

The letter to the board also featured highlights from 2015 which included: seeing "safety for our customers and our employees improve significantly, thanks to better training, more cameras and the effectiveness of Transit Police." (A line-item which conveniently overlooked the shit storm the transit police exacerbated, via pepper spray, in July). 

In more jubilant news, Calabrese was just named one of Governing Magazine's Public Officials of the Year, in large part for his exemplary stewardship of Bus Rapid Transit, i.e., The Health Line. Locally, though, he's been fending off public transit advocates who claim that RTA's financial outlook is bleak, and that without a more holistic, regional approach to public transit issues (not the least of which is funding), RTA might be forced to close its rapid lines on the east side in a few short years.  

Calabrese has acknowledged the challenges, but says RTA continues to explore solutions to fleet upgrades, even if replacing all 108 rapid cars proves to be financially impossible.

Meanwhile, Mayor Frank Jackson issued an effusive, congratulatory statement Thursday morning about Calabrese and his leadership.

"This award [from Governing Magazine], together with the appointment of Valarie McCall as the chair of the American Public Transportation Association, shows the nation that Cleveland is leading the conversation on public transportation,” Jackson said. 

And we certainly might be — who can say? The Plain Dealer, in its latest round of moves, said farewell to its transportation beat writer Alison Grant, who, along with four others, volunteered to depart  — and all of these important developments and conversation topics have been ignored by our region's major news outlet.  


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