RTA Red Line Train Slowly Breaks Through Banner, Celebrates 50 Years of Airport Service


Above, watch an RTA Red Line train slowly break through a banner commemorating the 50th anniversary of direct rail service to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The banner ceremony is a callback to 1968, when on Nov. 15, per RTA, "the first rapid transit train broke through a banner stretched across the entrance to the airport, making Cleveland the first city in the world with direct public transit rail service between a city’s downtown district and an international airport."

Floun'say Caver, RTA's interim CEO, said that the rail service to the airport "landed Cleveland on the world map."

“It wasn’t Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or even Washington D.C.,” he said. “It was Cleveland, and RTA’s service became one of many of Cleveland ‘firsts’ and a major asset to the region. Today, it remains a critical component, not only to downtown economic development but to the burgeoning travel, tourism and convention business in the city.”


Things have certainly changed since 1968. While the opening ceremony "drew 18 officials from Washington, D.C., including Transportation Secretary Alan Boyd" and was the talk of the town, according to the PD's Grant Segall, these days it's nearly impossible to get elected or civic leaders excited about public transit, or for that matter to seriously reckon with the fact that increased funding likely won't be coming from the state anytime soon.

The Ohio legislature has also, of course, handcuffed Ohio cities by preempting obvious sources of revenue. And as a county, we've taxed the daylights out of ourselves to pay for three professional sports facilities. This makes finding additional funding for public transit tricky.

Service cuts and fare hikes in the past several years have precipitated steep declines in ridership. Surprisingly, though, in the face of  recurring track work and the use of single cars off and on for months, Red Line ridership has slightly increased in 2018, even as bus and light rail (Blue and Green line) ridership continues to dramatically fall.

RTA noted that ODOT has provided nearly $9 million to help fund track repairs between the West Park station and the airport.  

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