CLEVELAND — Some Cleveland low-income RTA bus riders are concerned proposed route changes may leave them out in the cold sometime in 2021.
Rider group Clevelanders for Public Transit said nearly 1,000 residents living at Lakeview Terrace apartments, on the cities near the West Side, are worried a proposed change in the 81 bus line will force them to walk nearly a half-mile further to catch the bus.
Diane Howard, who is a Lakeview Terrace resident, said the proposed route change would make it more difficult for the many seniors living at the complex who rely on RTA to get them to doctor's appointments, church and key shopping locations, including the West Side Market and Steelyard Commons.
“They tried to take the 81 before, it’s a must, we have seniors that live here in the high rise," Howard said. “And for us to walk from the bottom of the hill to go all the way up to West 25th and Detroit, especially in the wintertime, that’s hard. Don’t just leave us with no bus at all. Yes it's a lifeline, we do need this and it’s our lives, especially for those on oxygen. Just because we live in low income, we should not be mistreated.”
Chris Martin with Clevelanders for Public Transit said if the 81 line is changed, then RTA should restore the community circulator, so that residents have access to key neighborhood amenities.
Martin is urging RTA to use what he said will be a projected $139 million in Cares Act Funding reserves to restore and expand service to some of Cleveland's poorest neighborhoods. Martin is also asking the RTA board to live up to a funding promise he said it made in 2019.
“Put forth a tax levy in 2021 to restore funding that we’ve lost since 2008 and expand it," Martin said. “Here at Lakeview we risk losing a direct connection. We’re right next to the shoreway, which disconnects the residents here from the rest of Ohio City. The 81 currently serves as a connection to Ohio City where there is a Dave’s Grocery store, there’s my favorite store to shop, the West Side Market. It connects to the west bank of the Flats, connects to Ohio City and Tremont and Steelyard Commons.”
During a Dec. 9 National Rally for Federal Transit Funding, Steve Bitto, RTA's Executive Director of Marketing and Communications told the Zoom conference that RTA is still facing nearly a 70% reduction in ridership due to the pandemic, producing a projected $19 million budget shortfall.
Bitto also explained RTA is behind in finding the funding to replace crucial equipment, including a third of its bus fleet, which he said is nearing the end of its useful life.
"We currently have a back log of unfunded infrastructure projects that total $500 million," Bitto said. "Our entire heavy and light rail fleets have far exceeded their useful lives."
RTA told News 5 there have been no decisions made on its system redesign plan and that it plans to host a presentation on the plan during a Dec. 15 meeting.