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Feb 17, 2023

Cleveland, Cuyahoga County employees recount experiences riding public transit last week 

February 17, 2023 | By Kaitlin Durbin,

CLEVELAND, Ohio – None of the dozen local leaders who participated in Clevelanders for Public Transit’s challenge last week were able to rely exclusively on Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s buses, rail lines, trolleys and paratransit services to get around, highlighting some of the deficiencies in services that advocates have long implored city and county officials to fix.

Participants included the area’s top elected leaders – Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne – down through some of its chief planners and designers.

After his week of riding, Ronayne named a Senior Advisor of Transportation to focus on augmenting RTA’s services to improve access to public transit through first- and final-mile alternatives and pledged to petition the state for greater investment in transit infrastructure. 

Bibb posted a photo of himself taking the HealthLine at least one day during the challenge and seemed to advocate for “more reliable, equitable transit in the LAND,” but did not indicate how he plans to accomplish it. reached out to Bibb for comment.

But other participants also shared their successes, challenges and recommendations on social media throughout the week. Some took just one ride, others multiple. talked to them about how it went:

Cleveland Council – Rebecca Maurer

Cleveland City Councilwoman Rebecca Maurer, representing Ward 12, attempted to start the transit challenge on Monday last week, but watched as the bus “drove right past” her, she said in a post that

CPT responded to her tweet, saying the experience is indicative of “the kind of challenges that all-purpose riders face every day when relying on GCRTA.” Cochair Chris Martin also later told that buses not stopping for riders has “been something of a problem here in Cleveland.”

RTA’s Deputy General Manager of Administration and External Affairs Natoya Walker-Minor refutes that allegation, noting that Maurer’s video didn’t provide enough information to know whether she was actually at the stop when the bus arrived. Regardless, she said she believes it is more common for buses to wait for riders than pass them up.

Maurer posted other positive experiences riding transit during the rest of the week. She declined to comment for the story, amid the city’s ongoing budget hearings.

Cleveland Council – Charles Slife

Cleveland City Councilman Charles Slife, who represents Ward 17, was perhaps the most committed participant during the week. He restricted himself to public transit or biking during the week, though he was a passenger in a vehicle for one meeting, and only drove when traveling outside of the county.

He already rides transit to work once a week, when time allows. But even he said the challenge forced him to experience how difficult commuting can be, not just for riders who want more availability or frequency of service, but for parents who are trying to also factor in their children’s schedules.

“As much as I value public transit, and as much as I want to see people ride it, the fact of the matter is it doesn’t work for everybody,” Slife said.

Transit cannot fill the gap for every need and circumstance, he said, which is why he advocates for a car-light lifestyle, rather than car-free. It can still be impactful to show people they can use transit for most rides around their neighborhood and save their car for only the necessary trips, which can also save on car maintenance, parking and insurance, he pointed out.

“It’s easier than people think,” he said. “I always encourage people to give it a shot.”

He recommended a focused education campaign to teach residents how to effectively use transportation, and he suggested improved frequency of service. He has been asked, along with Ronayne, to testify to the Ohio General Assembly about the need for increasing local transit funding, which he hopes will allow some of the improvements to be realized.

“The city of Cleveland cannot resolve all of our transit needs within the confines of our general fund budget,” Slife said. “RTA is the regional transit authority, so I think it’s about all of the municipalities in the county coming together to determine how we can support transit directly, but also indirectly – so, how we zone, where we help business grow and how we support the larger network.”

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