CLEVELAND – On Tuesday, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) authorized spending $947,893 to survey riders.
According to Mary Shaffer, the RTA spokesperson, the purpose of the survey is to find out more information about who uses the public transportation system in and around Cleveland.
“Who’s riding, where they live, where they’re coming from, what their interests are, what they want from RTA and what they want from public transit, in general,” said Shaffer.
There are approximately 200,000 riders on the RTA each day with differing opinions.
“[A] few little things here and there need to be improved, like cleaning the elevators,” said Lucky Giles from East Cleveland.
Akeem Morrow from Cleveland agreed.
“It’s really bad, it smells.”
An out-of-town company, ETC Institute, won the bid to conduct the survey and has committed to hiring local sub-contractors. The RTA wants 30,000 completed surveys which will be done by staff members on RTA trains, trolleys and rapid lines.
“With three train lines and with 100 bus lines, we’re everywhere within Cuyahoga County and we want to get a good sample from all those areas,” said Shaffer.
“[It] sounds a bit extravagant to me, I think if they reduced the price of the fares people’d be more apt to use the bus,” said Dan Stasek, a frequent rider.
Deborah Small agrees.
“Lower prices for people because the way the economy is right now, we need something.”
According to the RTA, the company needs the information for long-term planning and it’s a federal requirement. In an email, Shaffer said, “The data will cover not only Cuyahoga County, where RTA serves, but also Lake County, Medina, Brunswick and Geauga County, and the data will analyze the transportation needs of a full five-county area. This data is vital since it will decide how the region gets federal money in the future!”
RTA’s financial situation has improved over the past few years. In 2009, they were down to an $8.4 million end-of-year balance. In 2010, that was reduced to $2.8 million. By 2011, the end-of-year balance increased to $19.8 million and it’s expected to reach $31.3 million this year.
“The good news is, we haven’t cut any lines in more than two-and-a-half years, which is great. We don’t have any intentions of cutting lines at this point, we’re actually looking at expanding service as we move into the future,” said Shaffer. It costs $800,000 a day, or $25 million a month, to operate the RTA, funded mostly by a portion of the county sales tax.
“I love it, I think it’s great, I have no problem with it,” said Lucky Giles, from East Cleveland. “They’re on time 99 percent of the time.”
The RTA promises upgrades, including new buses in the next few years and some improvements on the rapid. They have no plans to raise the fare, which hasn’t gone up since 2009. The surveys will begin within the next few weeks.