CLEVELAND — Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority rider group Clevelanders for Public Transit is hoping more riders and community group leaders will soon be a appointed to the GCRTA Board of Trustees.
Group chair Chris Martin told News 5 the move is needed to better address rider issues like GCRTA's aging fleet, a shortage in public bathrooms, bus stop security improvements, cuts in service and an increase in fares.
“Riders know what the problems are with the buses they ride and the trains that they ride," Martin said. “We need that perspective on the board of trustees so that the agency feels the urgency that we riders do.”
Martin said his rider group is calling on new Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne and Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb to live up to campaign promises that they would appoint riders to the board of trustees to help improve service and have a better handle on rider needs.
“We’ve got 40-year-old train cars that are held together with bubble gum and duct tape," Martin said. "This year, during just last month's cold snap when RTA was running trains, they were running just one train per line. So you had to wait for an hour.”
Clevelanders for Public Transit sent out a list of 15 riders and community leaders they believe would be good representatives on the board of trustees, including Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition President Yvonka Hall.
“I think that we have a very unique perspective that is not a business perspective, this is about community," Hall said. “We need to make sure that the people who are there making the decisions about public transportation understand the people who live, work, play and pray within our communities.
"We have to address RTA issues, the cost of ridership, what that plays on those communities that are struggling everyday to make end meet. To get new buses into our fleet that we currently have, to make sure we are assessing where people are riding from.”
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority quickly responded to the agencies request and issued the following statement:
Appointments to (as well as removals from) GCRTA’s Board are made by the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the mayors and city managers of Cuyahoga County. We look forward to working with all selected trustees, and appreciate appointing authorities and their continued support of public transportation in Greater Cleveland.
The new Cuyahoga County executive's administration also issued a statement in response to our story:
Since taking office on January 1, the Ronayne administration has been carefully reviewing all expired and unfilled board seats across the county, including those on the GCRTA Board of Trustees. We look forward to engaging community stakeholders and will soon announce our proposed appointments.
Meanwhile, Martin said his rider group believes up to five seats on the GCRTA Board of Trustees will become vacant within the next four months. Martin hopes some of those seats will be filled with experienced riders and community leaders who have served communities where RTA bus service has been crucial for many years.
"Since 2000, we have seen over 30% of our service cut, and at he same time fares have doubled, Martin said. “Twenty-five percent of Clevelanders do not have a car, we rely on transit to get to our jobs, to get to the grocery store, to get to doctors appointments.”