CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The crowds going downtown for the Cavs victory parade grew so large, the city’s mass transit system was overwhelmed.
Before the 11 a.m. parade, RTA says it was running every available bus and train, but it still struggled to keep up with the passengers.
In fact, RTA added buses to rapid train stops.
Nonetheless, FOX 8 found long lines weaving through the airport as Cavs fans went there to try to get on rapid trains. We saw a long line outside the East 55th stop. And viewers have told us of similar situations at other RTA stops.
RTA spokesperson Linda Krecic said, “We’re doing everything we can.”
She adds the crowd appears to be double what the city attracted downtown when hundreds of thousands of people showed up for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
RTA has also set up satellite bus turnarounds downtown for the day at East 12th and Superior and next to the state office building so that downtown buses don’t have to try to plow through crowds.
The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission estimates 1.3 million people were downtown to celebrate the Cavs, more than ten times the number of downtown workers on a daily basis.
A mass exodus out of the city began even before the Cavs rally. Police did their best to control the chaos.
“We might end up walking,” said Drew Pinta, who hoped to find a rare open spot on a bus. “We walked here, we walked two hours here all the way from Lakewood.”
RTA experienced record crowds, with many customers watching full trains pass by their station Wednesday morning.
“We ended up waiting four hours,” said Dave Peterhoff, of Mogadore, who eventually caught a train in Shaker Heights.
Long lines snaked through Tower City, where fans waited hours to catch a train home. RTA CEO an General Manager Joseph Calabrese said this was the system’s busiest day ever, even with all of its trains running since 3 a.m.
“Three years ago was our biggest St. Patrick’s Day. We carried about 250,000 customers that day. This is at least double that,” he said, noting that means about 500,000 total rides on the transit system, or about 250,000 people who traveled into and out of the city by RTA.
He said he didn’t expect so many people, so early.
“You don’t size a system for that one celebration every 52 years,” Calabrese said. “Our system is sized for what we do every day. So, we put as many trains out as possible, as many buses out, a lot of people working extra today.”
He said without RTA, an event like the Cavs Parade and Celebration would not be possible due to downtown parking capacity.