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New Healthline buses boosting an already-successful route

Posted at 3:20 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 19:27:34-05

CLEVELAND — Anyone who spent much time on Euclid Avenue on Monday probably saw the new look for the Greater Cleveland RTA HealthLine buses, which picked up passengers for the first time this week.

The HealthLine’s six and a half miles has seen a lot of change in the last few months, with millions of dollars in new development breaking ground during the COVID pandemic.

Part of the RTA Operator training for driving the new buses is learning a slightly different system to pull the bus into the stops along Euclid.

One of the few things not changing is driver and 22-year RTA-employee Mark Campbell.

“I get to meet people from all walks of life,” said Campbell while driving a new HealthLine bus up and down Euclid Avenue. “[The new bus] is very smooth, it’s not as bumpy as the other HealthLine was. It’s very solid, it’s very quiet.”

The new buses are designed to be easier to clean and operators say the ride is much smoother.

The new buses have a new blue wrap on the outside but also a long list of upgrades, some COVID-inspired, to modernize the fleet.

Upgrades include:

  • Powered by compressed natural gas instead of diesel or diesel/hybrid engines
  • Easy-to-clean plastic seats
  • Hand-sanitizer dispensers at each door
  • Plastic door for drivers
  • Bike and stroller storage inside the bus
  • Windows that can be opened for fresh air
  • Wifi
  • New 360-degree radius, 4K, HD security cameras
  • Screens inside the bus showing the route and next stop

The buses will also have signal prioritization, meaning they will trigger traffic lights to allow the buses to move along Euclid quicker than if they were waiting for lights to turn on their own.

Hand-sanitzer at each door is a COVID-inspired upgrade.

“The concept is basically when the system is activated, at approaching traffic signals, it will give a prioritization to the bus so that it can seamlessly go through traffic and really give the customers a bus/rapid-transit feel,” said RTA District Director Nicholas Biggar. “So it’s rail-like technology.”

Transit advocates have complained in the past that it didn’t seem like the signal prioritization was active along the HealthLine. RTA tells News 5 it is active now and will be for the new buses.

One of the new HealthLine buses passes by WEWS while operators train on the new vehicle.

Since the HealthLine launched in October 2008 through 2018, RTA estimated that the transit line sparked nearly $10 billion of investment along the Euclid Corridor, from Public Square through East Cleveland.

“I think if you look at the Euclid Corridor, it was a tremendous success story not only for RTA but for the city of Cleveland as a whole,” said Biggar.

The Artisan is under construction at the corner of Stokes and Chester, planning on bringing many more residents to the relatively-sleepy University Circle corner.

That estimate doesn’t include the hundreds of apartments that came online during the pandemic around Downtown Cleveland, and the hundreds more being built in MidTown Cleveland and University Circle.

In Downtown Cleveland, projects like the new Sherwin-Williams Headquarters, City Club Apartments, Euclid Grand, and the Lumen are all along the HealthLine Route.

View of Tower City and new site for Sherwin Williams
Tower City and the three parking lots (to the right of the tower) is where Sherwin-Williams says it's building a new headquarters.

In MidTown, various projects like the Cleveland Foundation Headquarters, new Hough Library Branch, and a few apartment projects will put more people working and living along the HealthLine.

In University Circle, the corner of Euclid and Stokes is being transformed into a live, work, play development.

“The HealthLine is absolutely catalytic to everything that’s going on in MidTown today,” said MidTown Executive Director Jeff Epstein.

New, safer, and environmentally-friendly buses, Epstein says, will only continue that momentum.

“[The HealthLine] was a turning point in the history of MidTown in terms of enabling us to revision the neighborhood and leverage the transit investment to attract a diverse set of developments that I think it really serving the entire community,” said Epstein.

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