‘RTA let its customers down’: Packed trains come to standstill after Browns game

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CLEVELAND – Browns fans who took RTA rapid transit trains home from Sunday night’s game faced major delays, with some Waterfront Line trains stopping on the tracks after losing power, and now, RTA is apologizing.

Passengers said some train cars lost power just west of the West 3rd Street station following the game.

“It was jam packed, shoulder to shoulder, a lot of people were drunk,” said passenger Nick Szabados, who said he boarded at the North Coast Station. “Finally started taking off, and the tram just shuts off. The lights shut off, the air conditioning cuts out, and it stops moving.”

He said passengers on his train were kept on board with no air conditioning and little communication from RTA for about an hour.

“It’s already humid as-is, it’s getting hotter and hotter, and people are freaking out,” Szabados said, noting another passenger forced open train doors to create airflow.

He said passengers eventually had to walk on the train tracks back to the West 3rd Street Station, escorted by Transit Police. Szabados said he and other passengers then walked to Tower City to board trains and continue to their final destinations.

RTA admits it let its customers down. The agency said a train operator picked up a disabled passenger at the West 3rd Street station but then mistakenly drove past remaining passengers waiting on the platform.

In trying to return to the platform the train did not have the speed needed to clear a gap in the power source and became stuck.

RTA said in a statement it “sincerely apologizes for its failure in delivering reliable transportation and in communicating with our customers in a timely acceptable manner.”

RTA said passengers waited an unacceptable amount of time and RTA failed to adequately update onboard passengers.

As a result, operators will receive additional training, and rail operations procedures will be evaluated and adjusted so the issue will not be repeated.

**See the entire statement, below**

One Reddit user posted online, “RTA’s leadership should be ashamed. It’s 2:37 a.m., and according to our train conductor, there are STILL Browns fans stuck at the waterfront. We are finally on the train to the suburbs.”

“I don’t think they were prepared for that amount of people, especially being a prime-time game on a Sunday night,” Szabados said.

He said he will now think twice before taking RTA trains to games.

“I think they just need to be prepared for a lot more people and just be able to be prepared for things to go wrong like that,” Szabados said.

FOX 8 News requested information about this incident from RTA Monday morning.  Below, is the entire statement RTA released Monday afternoon:

“At approximately 12:15 a.m. on Monday, Sept 23 after the Browns football game, a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) light rail Waterfront Line train picked up an ADA customer per procedure at the W. 3rd St. station platform. Instead of stopping at the other end of the platform to pick up the remaining passengers, the operator mistakenly drove past the platform. The operator was then instructed by the control center to reverse direction.

While reversing, the train traveled a section of track where there is a gap between the power source and the train. The gap is designed to accommodate taller freight trains which need a higher clearance level when they cross the RTA track there.

A train moving at regular speed would ordinarily coast through that gap and then regain connection with the overhead power. Because the train stopped in that gap, it didn’t have the speed to coast through that section and then reconnect. As a result, the RTA train was unable to make the contact to the power source and lost power.

An attempt was made to troubleshoot the issue by assigning a rescue train, but a power connection could not be made.

Unfortunately, customers experienced a delay on the train for upwards of 45 minutes. With the assistance of Transit Police, customers were escorted back to the W 3rd Street station platform. Passengers were picked up by another train about an hour later.

In reviewing the incident, RTA let its customers down. Our expectation and that of our customers was that they would have the transportation they depended upon to take them from First Energy Stadium to their destination. They waited an unacceptable amount of time in crowded conditions without power to the train.

Despite efforts by staff to communicate to customers waiting on the platform, RTA failed to adequately update onboard passengers. As a result, operators will receive additional training so that they communicate with customers frequently and with real time information. RTA rail operations procedures will be evaluated and adjusted accordingly so that this issue will not be repeated in the future.

RTA sincerely apologizes for its failure in delivering reliable transportation, and in communicating with our customers in a timely, acceptable manner.”


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