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Greater Cleveland RTA revamping plan to ensure passengers pay their fares

Posted at 11:59 AM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 11:59:49-04

CLEVELAND — Greater Cleveland RTA (GCRTA) is revamping its plan to ensure passengers pay their fares.

Four years ago this month, a Cleveland judge ruled RTA was violating riders’ Fourth Amendment rights by using RTA police to check if passengers had paid their fare.

RTA’s new program will task transit ambassadors for inspecting fares by hiring unarmed civilians and social workers who are trained in crisis prevention.

Since that judge’s ruling in 2017, fare enforcement has largely fallen to Healthline bus drivers.

The goal is to reduce the law enforcement footprint on RTA systems, incorporate professionals to handle non-criminal issues, provide a better connection with the community and address any rider concerns.

This proposed plan includes bringing on licensed social workers to help with mental health, homelessness, crisis, and substance abuse outreach.

“One of the things that we are very much aware of is that have interacted with a lot of people who are unsheltered. We’ve also interacted with those who may have some drug and alcohol addiction issues,” said RTA Chief of Police Deirdre Jones. “What the ambassador program would do is work with our social service partners to try and get them the resources they need as an alternative to an arrest or an interaction with law enforcement.”

RTA plans to test this out in a six-month pilot project, by bringing in ambassadors to work seven days a week. The positions will be grand funded positions in 2022 and pay between $35,000 and $38,000 per year.

RTA hopes to begin recruiting these ambassadors in spring of 2022 with hopes of having them hired by the summer or fall of 2022.

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