With thousands of visitors set to descend on our great city for the Republican National Convention this summer, public transportation is a vital necessity. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will certainly be a major player in getting organized.
"For 10 years, I've been using it," said Francis Cook on an RTA trolley. He rides RTA all the time and he'll be riding it when the RNC rolls into town. "I'll be down here. I'll park 17 blocks away… and walk."
In preparation for the huge event, RTA will have 12 new trolleys for downtown routes that will replace the 11 that were purchased in 2006. The state paid $6 million for them.
"And those trolleys, yes, will be working for the RNC week, but we'll have them for the 10 years after that to serve the greater Cleveland area," said Joe Calabrese, General Manager of RTA.
With so many people converging on downtown that week, security will be a heightened concern. The trolleys and vehicles are equipped with cameras and officers will be in full force with security sweeps inevitable. "We have the second largest police force in the county at RTA…about 150 persons strong," explained Calabrese.
Because of our location here in Cleveland, Calabrese said they're anticipating quite a few delegates driving in for the convention. RTA is hoping to relieve some of that congestion which, in turn, could help lessen the potential of pedestrian accidents.
"RTA eliminates 50,000 cars a day from the roads so, if you could imagine your commute with 50,000 more cars," Calabrese told us.
At this point one of the biggest challenges for RTA is that information about logistics for the convention is not coming out rapidly. "We're three months out and still a lot is not known,” said Calabrese. “There's a lot of planning going on, which is great, and there's also a lot of security concerns."
What they do know is that there will be many new people downtown. "We'll have volunteers out at the airport, at Tower City station out in front of the casino area to give information to people who may be here not knowing the RTA network."
However, Calabrese told me RTA’s main priority will be to serve its daily customers. "We would love to have people not stay home that week but to come down that week to participate and then to work and enjoy and mingle," commented Calabrese.
Cook won’t be staying at home. “I don't want to miss it. I'm a Democrat but I'd like to see it," laughed Cook.