Each year has its share of highlights, and 2017 was no different. The city of Cleveland had many reasons to celebrate, including the Indians’ historic winning streak; the Cavaliers’ third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals; the 100th Anniversary of the Cleveland Metroparks, the Nation’s premier urban park system; and yet another outstanding Cleveland International Film Festival—just to name a few.

At RTA, we had our own share of victories as well. We made great strides in enhancing our customers’ riding experience, revitalizing our infrastructure, improving safety and security measures, and continuing our extensive sustainability efforts, all while deepening our engagement with the community.

It took hard work and the dedication of our staff to reach these goals, but that level of commitment is expected when serving our customers. And we’re pleased the community has been responsive to our efforts.

Here are some of the successes that meant the most to us:

  • The Kids Ride Free promotion ran all summer and served tens of thousands of children.
  • We completed a number of critical construction projects, while maintaining momentum on works in progress.
  • We honored numerous employees for excellence in service, including 26 operators for their combined 590 years of accident-free driving.
  • Since the bus replacement program began in 2015, we’ve now converted over 30% of our fleet to vehicles that run on clean Compressed Natural Gas.
  • Our rider reward program was a hit with customers and partners alike.
  • We entered into a 25-year naming rights sponsorship to rename the #51 family of routes the new MetroHealth Line.

We also finished the budget year with an ending balance of $24 million, which is a testament to our sound fiscal management. And we’re similarly pleased to be the recipient of several important federal grants to ensure our state of good repair projects continue on schedule.

The importance of these financial results are further magnified when put into the context of a $20 million annual revenue loss due to changes by the State of Ohio related to sales tax receipts. Our customers depend on us for transportation to jobs, education, health care, and social events. And RTA is proud to be this indispensable resource. But the loss of this revenue will significantly impact our ability to fulfill our mission. In the coming months, a strategic direction will be selected to address this challenge, and your support in our efforts will be greatly needed.

We hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Enhanced Services

Our top priority at RTA is serving customers, so we constantly work to enhance their riding experience. Such fine-tuning led to new and updated apps, which seamlessly integrate the convenience of technology and the dependability of public transit. The RTA CLE app allows you to plan your trip and buy your fare right from your smartphone, and the new Transit app provides real-time information, as well as timely rider alerts.

Additionally, we focused on recruiting the next generation of public transit advocates. The Kids Ride Free summer promotion, which provided a break from school and fares for over 65,000 young customers, was a total success.

We took considerations about rider experience into account when planning RTA’s new MetroHealth Line, which features state-of-the-art buses and updated shelters. Thanks to the addition of this line, riders can enjoy enhanced direct service from the W. 25 corridor into Downtown. Furthermore, the C-Line Trolley’s route now includes The Flats East Bank, the Green Line Rail runs for three extra service hours daily (9 p.m.–12 a.m.), and the Cleveland State Line makes stops at Edgewater Park on Saturdays. Finally, the newly launched VanShare program is a viable rideshare solution for people without convenient access to public transportation.

All of these enhancements were in full effect when our community came together to celebrate local events, like the Indians’ record-setting winning streak, the always-popular St. Patrick’s Day parade, and the 41st annual Cleveland International Film Festival. RTA provided nearly 40 million rides in 2017; as we move into 2018, we’ll continue to be your connection to everything Cleveland has to offer.

Infrastructure Upgrades

Over the last year, we continued to grow and expand, build and improve. We completed several projects, including construction on the Red Line Brookpark Rail Station and the Green Line Lee-Shaker Station, a $6.8 million Red Line track upgrade on the West Side, and improved pedestrian access to the Little Italy-University Circle Station.

The future is just as promising: we recently broke ground on the E. 34 Street-Campus Rail Station and met with six rail car manufacturers to discuss upcoming rail car replacement options. Within our bus fleet, we replaced 21 Paratransit vans with state-of-the-art models and introduced 29 new clean-diesel buses to our rotation to take the place of vehicles we retired.

Improved Safety and Security

System safety is one of our core values. Across our organization, we’re passionate about the well-being of riders and operators—which contributes to RTA’s status as an industry leader, always at the forefront of security. At our annual recognition event, we honored 26 operators for 590 combined years of safe driving. Because of our diligent employees, we’re able to tout that rail reportable incidents are down by more than 60% from 2016.

Our efforts to provide safe transportation did not go unnoticed. In fact, in April, RTA became the first transit system certified by Ohio’s State (Rail) Safety Oversight Program, which was approved by the Federal Transit Administration. The American Public Transit Association (APTA) awarded us both the Bus Safety Excellence Award and the Rail Safety Excellence Award.

But we’re always looking to get even better, which is why we participated in 2017 Operation Lifesaver Rail Safety Week, and why we conducted canine unit and active shooter drills—so transit police will be prepared in case of emergency. We will always take advantage of an opportunity to provide a safer experience.

Continued Sustainability Efforts

We want to ensure when riders go RTA, they also go green. That’s why we’ve focused on expanding our fleet of clean air vehicles. In 2015, we launched the bus replacement program, and in just two short years, we have converted over 30% of our operating fleet to environmentally friendly CNG vehicles. And the majority of our Paratransit vans now run on propane, a more efficient fuel.

In order to further reduce our carbon footprint, we re-doubled our recycling initiative and partnered with Bike Cleveland. On Bike to Work Days, commuters who rode RTA with their bikes could ride for free.

APTA recognized our eco-friendly endeavors by awarding us silver-level status. We’re currently one of five transit systems in North America to hold this distinction, and we’re honored to be commended in this way. Meanwhile, we also became ISO14000 certified for complying with a set of standards that ensure we’re adequately managing our environmental responsibilities.

We’re dedicated to delivering a more sustainable city, and we hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Engaged Community Outreach

Our customers are the lifeblood of RTA, and we want to ensure they know how much we appreciate them. That was the driving force behind our Rider Reward program; over 25 retailers, from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to Melt to Cleveland Cinemas, have partnered with us to provide exclusive discounts to those who show their valid RTA pass.

We also surprised riders with random acts of kindness—like a pop-up Customer Appreciation Day, when we handed out breakfast sandwiches to thank them for their patience during construction of the Brookpark Station. Our summer jam sessions, in which we turned bus shelters into concert venues and delighted waiting customers with live music, were a hit—in more ways than one. The RTA street team took over Cleveland, spreading smiles and knowledge at Wade Oval Wednesday, Edgewater Live, and Indians games all summer long.

And because it’s never too early to teach kids about public transit safety, our community relations staff and transit officers visited schools and gave engaging, hands-on presentations. They also enacted Operation KidWatch at community events, which provided free I.D.s and finger-printing for children. For teenagers, the Transit Police Explorer Program was a way for young adults to shadow officers and consider a career in law enforcement.

Our employment open house invited the public to learn about jobs with RTA, ensuring that community will always be woven into the fabric of our agency. We currently employ over 2,000 hard-working greater Clevelanders, and we’re committed to growing that number—for the benefit of workforce efficiency and the local economy.

Strong RTA Leadership

We take pride in providing safe, reliable, clean, and courteous public transportation, so we’re pleased to present this list of awards and distinctions we received in 2017 that validate the dedication to our mission:

  • The Partnership for Excellence (Baldrige Award): Received Gold Level certification
  • Smart Business 2017 Customer Service Award
  • Campus District 2017 Infrastructure Award: E. 34 Street-Campus Station
  • Who’s Who in Northeast Ohio: CEO and General Manager Joseph Calabrese for impact on the region
  • Computerworld Premier 100 Technology Leader for 2017
  • Government Technology and AT&T Technology Innovation Award
  • Computerworld Premier 100 Technology Leader: Pete Anderson, CIO
  • Award for Fiber Sharing Agreement with City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, The Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Department of Transportation, and Ohio Department of Administrative Services

As we map out the future, we’re ensuring this tradition of excellence will continue. We recently finalized succession planning and announced appointments to RTA’s Executive Management Staff. The Ohio State Apprenticeship Council approved a 30-month Rail Car Apprenticeship program. We hired four Management Development Program participants. And RTA’s Public Transit Management Academy at CSU graduated 26 employees in 2017, a wonderful addition to the many graduates already thriving within the RTA family.

As We Look Ahead

We’ve worked to provide the best possible transit system for Cleveland, and we will continue to do so for years to come. But 2017 did present a new challenge: modifications to the Sales & Use Tax went into effect on July 1. Unless the state of Ohio addresses these changes, RTA stands to lose upward of $20 million in revenue annually.

Because safe, reliable, clean, and courteous public transportation is so vital for our community, we hope you’ll feel compelled to take action in any way you can. The strength of public transit reflects the strength of our city, and thanks to RTA, Cleveland is as exceptional as it is.

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