RTA responds to reader

Letter to the Editor, 

Jeanne Coppola raises some excellent points in her letter, and I am pleased to have an opportunity to respond.

#39F -- The #39 route changed as of April 4. The #39F route is rush-hour only and was not affected.

SRO -- The #39F may be standing-room-only at times, and that is allowable under RTA’s policies. Transit riders stand on buses in most cities in the country; it shows that our service is being fully utilized. I ride the Red Line to work every day, and I often stand.

NO AC – When you drive a car, you can switch from heat to air-conditioning with a flip of a switch. Bus coaches and rail cars are not easy to change. Each vehicle must be prepped for the summer by a mechanic, and with 400+ vehicles, it takes some time. The unseasonably changeable weather does not help either.

DIRTY SEATS – Buses are cleaned daily. By 3:20 p.m., there has been ample time for dirt to collect, from use and abuse. That’s why we ask customers to take their trash with them when they exit the bus.

ALL-DAY PASS – If you have to transfer several times, the All-Day Pass is your best option.

SALES TAX – A one-percent countywide sales tax provides RTA with about 70 percent of its operating fund. Service in 2009 was based on revenue collected in 2009, and service in 2010 is based on revenue colleted in 2010. Because of the recession, sales tax revenue is down $17 million - $20 million. The service reductions will save RTA about $9 million this year. Only the federal government can spend money it does not have.

OPERATORS – About 130 operators were laid off on April 4, to coincide with the service reductions. All layoffs are based on seniority, so those with the lowest seniority are the first to go. When someone retires, the operators are called back, based on seniority. It’s in their contract. Work hours of operators vary, but those on your route (#39F) often work a split shift (AM and PM rush hours). They have 4 to 6 hours in mid-day to relax at the garage, or go home. As far as clothing goes, all operators receive a specific clothing allowance each year. Again, it’s in their contract.

FARE COLLECTION – Off-board fare collection has worked well in many cities. Riding without paying your fare can be compared to shoplifting. And the oversight of the Transit Police can be compared to police who monitor the highways for speeders. They may not catch every speeder, but how many people drive more safely, knowing that there is a chance they will get caught? RTA is aware that the vending machines need to be simplified, and we are working with the vendor to accomplish that.

HEALTHLINE – The Rapid Transit Vehicles (RTVs) are 63 feet long; standard buses are 40 feet long. Because of the design of Euclid Avenue stations, the vehicle has to have doors on both sides, and some of the space for more seats has been lost. The vehicles are scheduled to come at a 5-minute frequency during rush hour, and less often at other times of the day.

CONGRESSMAN – I am aware of the letter on the Web site of Congressman Kucinich. To show a more complete picture, you also need to see the response letter from RTA GM Joe Calabrese. In early 2009, the federal government awarded more than $45 million in stimulus money to RTA, mostly for capital improvements. Construction work started a few months later, and the federal governments sent RTA the money installments. The announcement you cite was simply the last installment – it WAS NOT new money. A small portion of that was legally allowed to be used for operating assistance, and was already included in our budget.

I truly appreciate the fact that you care so much about the health of public transit in Cleveland. I urge you and others to write to your state and federal legislators and ask them to fund transit at a higher level.

Jerry Masek is Media Relations Manager for RTA   
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Volume 2, Issue 5, Posted 10:58 AM, 05.06.2010