Next April is going to be a very bad time to be a transit-rider in Cleveland if RTA moves forward with proposed service cuts. For a system that’s been devastated with fare hikes and service cuts over the past few years, this might just be RTA’s nail in the coffin.
Something particularly important that caught my eye in the Plain Dealer story is this quote from RTA’s general manager, Joe Calabrese:
“We will spread the cuts among the seven days,” [Calabrese] said. “The staff feels it is more detrimental to have any day completely eliminated.” While routes will be evaluated by ridership, geographic coverage is also key, he said. “We don’t want to abandon the suburban territory where it is important for people to get to for work,” Calabrese said.
Based on my analysis, Cleveland’s RTA already has one of the highest base fares in the country. If the proposed cuts occur, I think few will disagree with me in saying that no system with higher fares will have less useful service.
For the most part, RTA’s fares are consistent throughout the system. You’ll pay the same fare whether you’re traveling 2 miles from the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood to Public Square or 20 miles from Strongsville to Downtown. The only exception is if you park at one of the suburban park-and-ride locations, then you’ll have to pony up an extra quarter to ride one of a few plush buses straight to your destination.
Is this the most socially responsible way to provide such an important public service?
Even throughout the Rust Belt, Cleveland is fairly unique in the way it prices transit service. Columbus’s has different fares for “local” and “express” buses. Cincinnati uses a tiered system with fares ranging from $1.50 (within Cincinnati) to $3.50 (the longest routes). Pittsburgh’s popular ‘T’ has tiered fares ranging from $1.50 (downtown zone) to $3.50 (zone 3) and special fares for rush hour and events.
Why haven’t these options been explored in Cleveland? Every RTA fare hike has been across the board, and now Joe Calabrese has shown where his priorities are when it comes to slashing service.