Jose Feliciano Jr. is an external affairs administrator for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. That's a title which encompasses a number of responsibilities for the two-year RTA veteran.
For the first 18-20 months of his employment, Feliciano participated in a management development program during which he rotated among the agency's various departments. He even learned how to drive a bus. Now, he works for the communications team, and one of his duties is social media management.
"I'm not the
social media guy," Feliciano told Scene,
a few days after the Cavs' championship parade. "But it's one of the many hats I wear."
It's certainly the hat he wore last Wednesday, when extreme delays on the RTA caused a social media uproar. Feliciano was the man fielding questions and complaints as an unprecedented number of riders tried to get downtown for the parade and festivities. RTA Communications Director Linda Krecic told local TV news that Wednesday was the biggest day, by rider volume, that RTA had ever experienced.
Feliciano himself tried to take the Rapid to work from Shaker Heights at 5:30 a.m.
"I thought that was ample time," he told Scene.
"But when I got to the Green Road station, the train was already full. And not only that, there was a line of at least 100 people. I knew I could either wait in line in for 3 hours or I could drive to work. Unfortunately, I drove to work."
He knew, then, that Wednesday was not going to be an average day. He was stationed at the RTA Command Center at the agency's headquarters on W. 6th. Ordinarily, the RTA's chief social media person, Beth Castelucci, also runs the Social Media accounts, but she was swamped helping riders at Triskett and couldn't make it downtown.
Feliciano said the moment he started responding to individual riders, the heat started to pick up.
"At quarter to 7, there were already people asking, ‘Where’s my train?’” he said.
Soon, there were so many questions and complaints that he couldn't respond to every rider.
"I felt terrible because people need answers," Feliciano said, "but when you’re that inundated, you just can’t.”
Though people were eager to know route information, applicable delay updates, and general information from out-of-towners or folks who were unfamiliar with public transit in general, Feliciano said one one of the major questions early in the day related to available parking.
"It would’ve been helpful if we could’ve been able to deliver to people when a parking lot was filling up," Feliciano said, when asked about the day's biggest challenge. "In the best case scenario, we could’ve moved more people at a time and gotten people down there faster, but with that volume of ridership, the trains were at capacity within the first couple stops. We can’t make the trains go any faster."
Feliciano said the Rapid lines had forsaken their regular schedules and were simply moving as quickly as possible, the Red Line every 7-8 minutes, the Blue/Green lines closer to every 15 minutes.
"It’s so hard for people to understand that we can only move so many people downtown in an hour," he said. "And so when the crowds build up like that, the delays add up exponentially. But we were working as quickly as we could to provide service. At the end of the day, we know everybody just wanted to celebrate."
Feliciano said he didn’t get off work until after 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"It was kind of surreal, having walked to work as they were setting up the stage, and then walking back afterward and seeing the aftermath," he said.
Feliciano wasn't shy about how he used Social Media
to address the lack of transit funding at the state level.
"I think the advocacy piece is important, and I don't know why these conversations weren't happening earlier," Feliciano said. [On Thursday, Feliciano attended the Clevelanders for Public Transit meeting
to participate in an impassioned regional conversation.] "What scares me is that these cities and states that Ohio is competing with in terms of trying to retain talent and attract businesses are making the investment [in public transit] and in turn we’re gonna lose out on talent."
It was a long day, but after more than 12 hours in the RTA Command Center, Feliciano was able to celebrate in his own way and reflect on the chaos of the day.
"I had a Chillwave with my wife," Feliciano said.