In a meeting Tuesday, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's finance committee elected to table the discussion on potential fare hikes. The heated conversation, which is being followed closely by area transit activists and commuters, will continue on March 1.
In December, the RTA board approved the 2016 budget
, which included a one-way base fare increase from $2.25 to $2.50. Paratransit fares were slated to rise at an even steeper rate, from $2.25 to $3.50.
But whether or not those hikes will come to pass this year (or in an incremental way in years to come
) remains up for discussion. CEO Joe Calabrese said that he recognized the impact raised fares had on the ridership — go figure — and said he made the "very, very heartfelt decision," to study it further.
"That's good," said Caitlin Johnson in a phone interview with Scene
. She's one of the lead organizers for Clevelanders for Public Transit. "We should be finding ways to increase ridership in the region, not send it into a death spiral. All along, we've been like just chill, RTA. Let's just think about this and have a community dialogue before we do the knee jerk thing, which is to raise fares."
Transit activists are interpreting the postponement as a victory.
"We are so happy RTA made this decision and put the needs of riders first," said SEIU Local 1 member
Mary Shackelford in a statement provided by the Clevelanders for Public Transit
group. "I spend two hours riding two buses to get to my job as a janitor at the steel mill. This increase would have placed an additional burden on myself and my family. We want to thank General Manager Joe Calabrese for encouraging the board to abandon the plan to increase fares and further cut routes entirely."
Calabrese didn't necessarily abandon the plan; he merely tabled the discussion for a month. However, he's continuing to work to find additional funding sources. WKYC reports
that next Tuesday, Calabrese will appear travel to Columbus to make the case before a House committee that the state, which is notoriously skimpy on public transit funding, should provide more.