At a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority board meeting Tuesday morning, CEO Joe Calabrese once again reminded the committee of the whole of the agency’s stark financial realities.
In December, 2015, the board voted on a 2016 budget that included a fare hike and service cuts. But the implementation of both has been stalled while the RTA gathers public input and plumbs its woebegone existential condition.
In February, Calabrese called the decision to briefly postpone the fare hike a “very, very heartfelt decision.”
Tuesday, he said that this month of deliberation and soul-searching has been a month the agency could afford. But looking ahead, he admitted that there was “no easy answer.” He presented a graph illustrating the decline in state public transit funding: Since 2000, state support for all transit agencies in Ohio has dipped from $43 million per year to about $7 million per year.
The only way that a fare hike wouldn’t be implemented is if the state ponied up. Calabrese suggested that were Ohio to provide 10 percent of the RTA’s budget (or roughly $30 million), all these discussions wouldn’t be happening.
But alas. Calabrese laid out a plan for public hearings through the month of March — a plan that got significant blow back from board member Valerie McCall for a few inhospitable afternoon start times on the east side — and presented options for fare hikes and service cuts.
The service cuts were the most striking. Calabrese walked the board through a list — “it’s like a menu,” he suggested — from which potential routes would be excised. The Waterfront Line after 7 p.m., the Green Line after 8 p.m., the Cedar Road bus route on evenings and weekends, a weekend route to Brecksville, and two loops on the #81 Tremont route were all mentioned and hotly debated.
It’s very clear that the preference is not to cut any
of the aforementioned routes. But as board members questioned the wisdom of cutting certain among them — Didn’t we just add the #81 loop after meetings with CMHA? Don’t a lot of people use the Green Line for Cavs games? What about St. Patrick’s
Day? — Calabrese said that for every route taken off the list, another must be put on.
(He did mention, off the cuff, that he'd sent an email to developers Adam Fishman and Dick Pace about the peril of the Waterfront Line — perhaps another Public-Private partnership or sponsored route's in the offing.)
Calabrese said RTA would be listening intently to public comment throughout the month.
“There’s a perception in the public that we already have our mind made up,” Calabrese said. “But we don’t. We’re constantly listening and adjusting.”