Dear Friend of RTA,
At RTA, our resolve was tested in the wake of an adverse start to 2018. In the midst of dealing with the financial ramifications of Medicaid managed care organization (MCO) transactions being excluded from the sales tax base, we also addressed unexpected leadership changes on the Executive Management Team and Board.
We’re proud to say that throughout all these changes and challenges, the organization rose to the occasion. In September 2018, the Board of Trustees appointed Floun’say R. Caver, Ph.D. as interim CEO and General Manager. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Caver served as RTA’s Chief Operating Officer/Deputy General Manager of Operations, where he lead nearly 2,000 of RTA’s 2,300 employees and executed an annual budget of $218 million. Dr. Caver has provided stability while continuing to drive RTA forward.
During the year, we implemented creative financial solutions, like the sale of two older, RTA-owned garages—which netted nearly $4.4 million and saved about $850,000 annually in property maintenance costs. We earned nearly $250,000 in revenue by selling advertising space on 500 bus shelters throughout the city. As a result of this, we plan to expand it, to ensure a consistent source of annual income.
These initiatives, paired with a disciplined financial approach, resulted in RTA being honored with the GFOA Distinguished Budget Award for the 30th consecutive year. In addition, at year’s end, we exceeded our ending balance projection, allowing us to transfer an additional $5 million to the rail car replacement reserve account.
As we move forward, we are providing the organization with additional tools for success by conducting five pillar studies to help identify areas for improvement, increase efficiencies, enhance service, and serve as the foundation for our next strategic plan. The studies will examine RTA’s:
- Economic Impact On The Region
- Fare Equity
- System Redesign Opportunities
- Operational Efficiency
- Alternative Rail Car Replacement Strategies
While we expect the completion of these studies to be available in 2019, initial results from the Economic Impact Study underscore what an invaluable asset RTA is for Greater Cleveland:
- Increased Cuyahoga County property values by $2.2 billion
- Impact on local employment totaled $485.8 million, measured in annual earnings brought home by those who depend on RTA transit services to get to work
- Overall economic impact on the county is $322 million annually
- Improved public transit access in urban neighborhoods resulted in a nearly 12.9% drop in poverty rates, with a growth in employment of more than 3%
- Created and sustained nearly 3,000 jobs in Cuyahoga County
- Choice commuters collectively saved $51.8 million annually by choosing to ride RTA rather than driving a car.
As we embark on a new year, we strive to fulfill our core mission of providing safe, reliable, clean, and courteous public transportation. Our success will be measured by our customers, our partners, and our community.
That’s why we highlighted transparency and the voice of the community in our 2018 Annual Report. At the start of 2019, perspectives from 300 riders and 300 non-riders were gathered via a survey conducted online and by phone through an independent research firm. The study was fielded to a demographic mix representative of Cuyahoga County, with a focus on those who reside within RTA’s immediate service area.
The overall goal was to understand the true impact of RTA’s 2018 initiatives, while also gaining insight into how we could improve the public transportation experience for our customers.
The following information is inspired by the opinions of the community, our 2018 journey, and our vision for the future.
We hope you’ll join us on the ride for a better tomorrow.
Dennis M. Clough
President, RTA Board of Trustees
Floun’say Caver, Ph.D.
Interim CEO/General Manager
believe public transportation in Greater Cleveland is “very” or “extremely” important to the region’s continued revitalization
say community leaders in Greater Cleveland are putting “too little” or “far too little” priority on the region’s public transportation
Non-Rider, Cleveland, OH
Rider, Cleveland, OH
Non-Rider, Brooklyn, OH
Non-Rider, Parma, OH
Demand & Outreach
Not only is public transportation a lifeline for our customers, it’s also critical for the growth our thriving region.
Riders are motivated by the financial benefits, the convenience, the saved time, and the safety that public transit offers.
Without public transit, the economy would suffer—as would patients’ health and well-being. Healthcare Industry Loss without public transit: $103 million due to missed and cancelled appointments.
This year, we turned to various channels to further engage the community. Our efforts included traditional, digital, and social advertising, as well as public relations—and they definitely paid off:
- GO RTA Campaigns delivered timely messages about the benefits of riding versus driving using broad-reach tactics like billboards and radio, plus hyper-targeted tactics such as connected TV, digital and social ads, and direct mail
- U-Pass program for students at participating colleges and universities
- Kids Ride Free program (for children 12 and under) during the summer
- Rider Rewards program provides customers with discounts at local businesses and destinations
Safety & Security
RTA delivers (nearly) 35 million passengers across 457 square miles annually. And on every trip, safety is our #1 priority.
Non-Rider, Cleveland, OH
Non-Rider, Strongsville, OH
Of course, safety can mean a lot of different things in the context of public transit. Like feeling protected when waiting for a vehicle to arrive. Or being driven by operators who are conscientious with regard to the safety of those on the vehicle as well as those on the road.
At RTA, we’re committed to providing an overall safe experience. Which is why we’ve implemented carefully-constructed security measures that have made a great impact:
We’ve learned that, while over half of riders and non-riders consider mobile access to transit police to be highly important to their public transportation experience, only 18% of riders, and 5% of non-riders are aware of this offering. To increase ridership, we will better communicate the facts around our security measures and the impact they’ve made.
RTA employs over 2,300 people, and every individual is dedicated to providing a safe rider experience. That includes our operators. In 2018, we had the pleasure of honoring a distinguished group of bus drivers:
They now mentor younger operators, instilling a culture of safety for the next generation.
Received APTA Gold Award for Bus Safety
Since 2014, we’ve cut the number of bus claims and related vehicle incidents in half
Added DriveCam to our vehicles to inform training needs, leading to a drop in risky operator behavior by nearly 50% since 2014
For pedestrian safety, we installed “turn alert systems” with external speakers on all buses to alert them of on-coming vehicles
Placed bright LED stop signs on the back of every vehicle so following drivers have a clear indication of stops
We now better understand the gap between perceived and actual safety at RTA. Moving forward, we aim to continue enhancing our safety measures, while putting additional emphasis on external communication of our plans—and their outcomes.
For RTA to continue as a vital asset to the region it serves, we must ensure a state of good repair, while planning for future needs—from vehicles, stations, and shelters, to maintenance and operations facilities.
Rider, Shaker Heights, OH
Rider, Euclid, OH
We made a number of new additions to our system in 2018, and we plan to continue improvements in 2019:
- Continued to replace old clean diesel buses with more fuel-efficient vehicles—including 33 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and 30 new Paratransit buses in 2018
- Began rail fleet assessment in 2018, with recommendations for replacement to come in 2019
- New Park-N-Ride vehicles (2019)
- Ordering new HealthLine buses (2019)
Stations & Facilities
- Completed work on the E. 34th Street Rail Station, which through a Sponsorship Agreement, will be called the Tri-C/Campus District Station
- Broke ground on the East 116th/St. Luke's Rail Station's $7.2 million upgrade
- New CNG fueling station at Triskett (installed and operational with new fleet in 2020)
Government Fleet of the Year by Fleet Owner Magazine
“Client Commitment to Cleveland” Award from the American Institute of Architects
Despite budget constraints, we’ve identified opportunities for capitalizing on and enhancing our current assets:
And we’ve been awarded
Federal + State grants
for future-forward vehicles and operations facilities
- 2019: additional new CNG buses
- 2019–2020: Triskett Garage switch from diesel to compressed natural gas fueling system
RTA is committed to maintaining the health of our infrastructure today, while preparing for a better tomorrow. And with limited resources and unlimited aspirations, the voice of the people will be critical in informing our next steps.
From availability and ridership experience, to timeliness and ease-of-use, service is at the heart of RTA’s mission.
At RTA, we want to provide quality transportation while reaching the most riders possible. This involves working around budget constraints, eliminating redundancies, and planning strategically. We want to ensure our services fit the needs of RTA’s current and prospective customers. That’s why RTA has begun…
In particular, the System Redesign aims to more clearly define how RTA’s accessibility can best evolve to align with communities’ needs. Extended hours? More stops and stations? An expanded footprint?
of riders say their experience could be improved with added routes
Non-Rider, North Olmsted, OH
Non-Rider, Brook Park, OH
Rider, Westlake, OH
Rider, East Cleveland, OH
Dependability is another crucial element of quality service.
Over three-fourths of Clevelanders cite “reliability” as being of high importance when riding or considering riding RTA. In 2018, we achieved our “80% on time” goal, and we’ll work to continue raising that percentage in the coming year.
Fare sales doubled year-over-year
Over 1,800 average daily users
A new era of leadership is poised to drive RTA forward.
Over the past year, we adapted to changes to the Executive Management Team and the transitioning of our Board of Trustees. Included in these actions was the appointment of Floun’say R. Caver, Ph. D., as interim CEO and General Manager. And the Board welcomed three new members, with an additional member to be added soon.
We recognize that the voice of our customers is integral for future success—which is why we actively work to capture feedback, through efforts including:
Quarterly service planning open houses
Ride Happy, Ride Free program
Customer satisfaction surveys
Mystery shopper program
Historically, RTA has made a conscious effort to welcome feedback from the community:
Rider, North Olmsted, OH
Rider, Shaker Heights, OH
Rider, North Olmsted, OH
And the voice of the community is something we intend to keep at the forefront of our decision-making processes. Looking ahead, we’ve initiated several studies to best position RTA for the changing landscape, which will inform our updates to the strategic plan. We’ll be examining the following subjects:
Economic Impact On The Region
System Redesign Opportunities
Alternative Rail Car Replacement Strategies
In the meantime, we’ll continue to employ the distinguished, diverse, and talented individuals who make RTA as great as it is:
Best in Class recognition for Workforce Diversity by the Greater Cleveland Partnership (received honor 3 times, placing RTA into their Hall of Fame)
We’ll continue to collaborate with other leaders to deliver ongoing change and consistent excellence:
Received the “Building the Circle” Award from University Circle Inc. for regional collaboration
CSU management training program + economic impact study
Greater Cleveland Partnership – financial analysis and economic forecast