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Cleveland RTA riders, operators still have health concerns

Posted at 9:27 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 23:20:21-04

CLEVELAND — Some riders and operators with Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority still have coronavirus concerns and are asking RTA leadership to examine additional steps in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Clevelanders for Public Transit is raising concerns in light of 15% RTA service cuts set to take place on April 12.

Chris Stocking said the reduction in service will likely increase how many people are on-board, making social distancing even more difficult.

Stocking said RTA's refusal to suspend fairs and stop passengers from needing to go to the front of the bus to pay is also causing additional driver-passenger contact and increasing risk.

“When you’re cutting service, buses are coming less frequent, more people are getting on the bus closer together,” Stocking said. “Riders have to crowd at the front, coughing and sneezing on each other just to pay a $2.50 fair. It's just not right. The last thing we need is for an RTA driver to get sick. [They] may not be showing symptoms for a week or two. We don’t know how long it takes to show symptoms, you’d be transmitting that to other drivers, other riders.”

Stocking pointed to Ohio Department of Health recommendations that urged transit systems statewide to allow passengers to enter and exit the back of buses, if possible. Stocking said it would require RTA to suspend fairs for a number of weeks, which has already been done by transit systems in Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo and Youngstown.

William Nix Senior, President of Amalgamated Transit Unit 268, said RTA drivers have coronavirus safety concerns, and he hopes RTA leaders will continue to work with the union to improve safety protocol.

“Drivers are being exposed to this coronavirus by all the individuals that might get on the bus and they’re taking it home to their families and it's a fear," Nix said. “Especially when we don’t have that distancing that they talk about in the government—six feet. You don’t get six feet on the buses. On our buses, they're getting on in the front of the bus. And then we have some people that are getting on there—that my members are complaining—that are just coughing and not covering their mouths or doing anything and that’s scary. All we can ask is that people to stay at home if they could, if they don’t need to be out there and go to work.”

Cleveland RTA continues its coronavirus response, improving daily cleaning procedures, using ultra-violet cleaning technology, and issued more than 6,000 personal protection kits to front line workers.

India Birdsong, General Manager and CEO, with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority issued the following statement:

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) provides an essential 24/7 service to people who must get to medical appointments, the grocery store and essential jobs during the COVID-19 surge.

RTA has decided to continue to collect fares in order to support this needed service, while at the same time working to minimize the spread of the virus among riders and operators.

I understand that many public transit systems across the country have temporarily suspended fare collection during the crisis, prompting questions about our decision.

In many cases, suspension of fare collection has unfortunately resulted in an unintended consequence: People who otherwise wouldn’t be on public transit are choosing to ride simply because it’s free, including an uptick in continuous riders electing to take public transit for non-essential trips.

The result of that is more people in a contained area – exactly the opposite of the recommended physical distancing.

The full statement from the RTA can be found here.

RELATED: More RTA employees test positive for COVID-19; officers find symptomatic man sleeping at station