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GCRTA sees ridership increase as fuel prices soar

Posted at 9:18 AM, Mar 15, 2022

CLEVELAND — Gas prices soared over $4 per gallon in Ohio last week and there’s little relief in sight.

Despite crude oil dropping below $100 per barrel overnight according to West Texas Intermediate crude futures, Tuesday’s average in the Buckeye state hovered around $4.07 per gallon. Ohio remains below the national average of $4.31.

The price surge has many people scrambling to find alternative modes of transportation and the Greater Cleveland RTA has seen a spike in ridership.

“Our January ridership was up about 18% and we're seeing about a 20 to 25% increase over the most recent weeks,” said RTA Chief Operating Officer Floun’say Caver. “For our transit dependent customers, RTA is a lifeline. Our largest mode of ridership is for individuals going to work, schools and health care. And those are critical aspects to having a viable community.”

Last year, RTA launched its NEXT-GEN system redesign, giving more people who live in Cuyahoga County access to public transit. The revamped routes now have twice as many people within a half-mile of a high-frequency transit route.

Additionally, RTA cut the price of an all-day pass from $5.50 to $5. A monthly pass for unlimited rapid or bus service runs $95.

Recently, the transit agency has shifted its fleet to compressed natural gas which also benefits from a savings. Right now, 52 % of RTA’s fleet utilizes an alternative fuel source.

By the end of 2022, 60% of buses will run on natural gas.

“As we moved to compressed natural gas, we had two benefits. One we have a cleaner air vehicle, which provides benefits to our community,” Caver said. “But in addition, natural gas has been cheaper and more advantageous for our organization from a cost perspective.”

RTA doesn’t feel the same pinch at the pump most drivers do, because their fuel prices are protected by a hedging program. The transit agency’s prices are locked in through at least 2023.

“By being hedged when the price of fuel increases at the pump, we have a protection against that rise,” Caver said. “We would only expect for this year our fuel prices to increase by about 10%.”

With the St. Patrick’s Day holiday approaching, RTA is urging riders who wish to celebrate downtown to take advantage of the all-day pass. You can also book your fare by utilizing their app for easy no-touch payment.

RELATED: Meals on Wheels Westlake prepare for impacts of rising gas prices

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