CLEVELAND — Chris Martin has been a daily RTA rider ever since he came to Cleveland 10 years ago, and believes there are a number of public transit improvements that are crucially needed for the upcoming year and incoming new city leadership.
Martin's concerns are part of a list of RTA issues submitted to Cleveland Mayor-Elect Justin Bibb, incoming Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin and the RTA by rider group Clevelanders for Public Transit
Martin told News 5 there is a desperate need for more public bathrooms for riders, and additional dedicated bus lanes citywide to help with longer commute times.
“Honestly who knows when those bathrooms are open or closed," Martin said. "Otherwise I don’t know what I’d do, there’s not really any public bathrooms in the city that I know of. Dedicated bus lanes would really speed up every trip, I would love to see that.”
Chris Stocking with Clevelanders for Public Transit said the list also includes a need for more crosswalks located near popular bus routes; additional development around major bus stations, including affordable housing, office and retail space; and access to groceries and food, which he believes would stimulate more ridership.
Stocking also believes it's essential that city law be changed so that riders accused of fare evasion won't be facing a criminal misdemeanor charge.
"We want to see that decriminalized and made a civil offense," Stocking said. "It should not be a criminal offense if you’re trying to get to work and you’re a dollar short in transit fair. That should not happen.”
“Other cities are putting down red bus paint and bus only lanes to designate we prioritize a bus that has 50 people on it over a car that has one person in it. The signal priority is not working correctly, there are vehicles blocking the lanes, we need better enforcement," Stocking continued. “Get off the redline train at West 25 Street, there’s no crosswalk to the West Side Market, so you have to cross across two busy roads. People have hour, hour-and-a-half bus commutes. They need a safe, clean place to use the restroom or else people are not going to take public transportation.”
Cleveland Mayor-Elect Justin Bibb responded to the list submitted by Clevelanders for Public Transit with the following statement issued to News 5:
I appreciate the recommendations proposed by Clevelanders for Public Transit to make our city more connected and accessible for all of our residents. As Mayor, I will prioritize people over cars and continue to advocate for more reliable, affordable, equitable public transit.
The Regional Transit Authority issued the following statement in response to the list of concerns:
RTA has been meeting regularly with members of Clevelanders for Public Transit since 2016. We appreciate their advocacy and their efforts to help us improve the experience for customers. Community input is essential to our decision-making process, and RTA's System Redesign and the Transit Police Ambassador program are the most recent examples of transformative change made considering the feedback of transit advocates such as CPT.
We remain committed to reviewing customers' policy recommendations and to working toward solutions that benefit all our customers. We look forward to working with Mayor-elect Justin Bibb and his administration to provide equitable transportation for all.
And incoming Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin told News 5 he believes the Vision Zero initiative setup two years ago to try and reduce traffic accidents within the next 10 years will help address some of the RTA issues on the list.
“Transit oriented development is very important, and I think that what they’re stating is something many of us already believe in,” Griffin said. “We’re going to have to have a rigorous discussion in our transportation committee.”
Meanwhile, Stocking said it's also crucial that Mayor-Elect Bibb set up a cabinet level mobility department that is consistently looking at RTA issues, working with organizations like Bike Cleveland.