Submitted by Roldo on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 13:20.

Now that we have $4 a gallon gasoline upon us maybe we should look at what could have been if only…

If only our Regional Transit System had concentrated on being a system that had as its main aim the transit dependent, not to mention our environmental needs.

That’s because, little by little, we are all becoming transit dependent.
However, RTA, as with other instruments of government here, have been directed and dominated by forces that serve limited and special interests.

For example, few people understand that because of special interest demands RTA built the Waterfront Line with RTA money. It was built entirely by local government funds. Ordinarily such a project would be heavily subsidized by federal funds, maybe 80 percent of it.
Instead, RTA took it upon itself to fund the entire $69 million.

Why? Special interests wanted a line to the Rock Hall. And they wanted it NOW! In other words, they didn’t want to wait for the time it takes to get authorization so that federal transit funds could substantially support the cost.

It had to be NOW. Of course, in addition the Waterfront Line runs at big deficits. RTA says it doesn’t keep separate records of how much it costs. We all know, however, that empty and near empty transit cars are costly to operate than cars filled with paying customers.

We also really didn’t have to build with transit money a walkway from Tower City to Gateway for, depending upon what figures are used, $11 million, or as another report notes, $13,738,536.

Now, of course, RTA has recreated Euclid Avenue with its Euclid Corridor project, at some $200 million plus, if we ever find out what the plus is. The feds pay a sizeable part of this cost, but local funds are substantial: $75 million for the State of Ohio; $21 million from RTA itself; $10 million from Northeast Area Coordinating committee; and $8 million from the city, which was just contributed an added $208,000 to help expedite the project.

One thing for certain, however. RTA buses will still course down Euclid Avenue and likely at a slower pace than before the $200 million was invested, though RTA says it will be faster.

I noticed in a walk downtown this week that both sides of Euclid downtown are being spruced up with dual colored brick sidewalks (which will in our weather soon need replacement) and expensive thick granite curbing.

The $200 million project is more a questionable beautification project than a real transit project. I think the beauty will soon fade but the transit needs will only become more crucial to a financially-squeezed city and county. Ironically, as RTA beautifies Euclid Avenue, our special interests are pushing to shift its commercial life to the river and waterfront. Such is our city planning condition today.

Here’s what I’d suggest. Forget about the unnecessary and special interest-promoted  medical mart and convention center. Keep the extra sales tax that produces some $40 million a year.

Give the $40 million to RTA with rigid, unalterable conditions.

The conditions: A workable plan that provides cheaper rates, including special rates based on income to the extent that is possible. As gasoline prices increase the cheaper rates will cause greater ridership and we will have begun, hopefully, to shift from car dependency to a viable public transit system.

If the special rates can’t be worked out, there is an alternative.
By accepting the $40 million, RTA could be forced to not RAISE rates for a very, very long period, as was worked when the City of Cleveland turned over its transit system to what became RTA. That would make public transit more affordable as private transportation cost continue to increase.

Moving people

  Moving People.  Transportation design.  It has not been a priority in this country, but now it will become a growing industry.  How does Cleveland fit into the picture?  Recently, Mayor Jackson went to Paris (sounds like a nursery rhyme, non?).  He could have had the opportunity to meet with the architect of Paris' Charles-de-Gaulle Airport. 

Did the city take advantage of the opportunities afforded by local design contacts?  What did our envoy take away from this trip (aside from the obvious public dollars wasted/spent for some of the entourage)?  Given our existing infrastructure, how do we efficiently move people from Columbus to Cleveland, Cleveland to Toledo, Youngstown to Cleveland?

BTW, in my ever attempt to be obscure--give your child the opportunity to recreate the Eiffel Tower at home!