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GCRTA Delays Vote On Fare Reduction Proposal

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was set to cut the price of day passes Tuesday, but a Board of Trustees vote is delayed because of concerns that RTA would still be able to raise fares in the future.

A fare equity study commissioned by the transit agency issued recommendations earlier this month to improve accessibility, including fare reductions and making certain passes easier to buy.

Trustees were set to approve the recommended changes Tuesday, but a public comment submitted by email expressed concern about the board’s lingering ability to instate a rate hike in 2021, despite the equity study.

“Our fares are too expensive when compared to residents’ income in Cleveland, and the transit service we receive. I ask the RTA Board not to continue the pending fair increase that has been suspended since 2018,” Joshua Jones wrote. “Instead, RTA should reduce fares further to bring back riders, avoiding the transit death spiral pattern.”

The planned fare reduction is expected to bring the RTA an estimated 270,000 more trips annually – and $1.3 million drop in revenue.

Clevelanders for Public Transit also expressed concern over the possibility of a future rate hike in a press release Tuesday. The group also called on RTA to take additional steps to reduce fares beyond the current proposal.

RTA has no plans to increase fares and did not account for it in its 2021 tax budget, said General Manager Floun’say Caver. The resolution attempts to preserve the board’s former process and policy, Caver said, which allowed for a two-step increase, if approved by the board. The last increase was supposed to occur in 2018, he said.

“In this policy, it still allows for that to occur with the board, to make a choice,” Caver said. “But as we have done for the last two years, we would surely come to the board three months prior to, so that this does not go into effect.”

The board should craft a statement to make that clear, said board member Justin Bibb.

“From a public perception perspective, it seems as if we’re going to also approve potential increases in 2021,” Bibb said. “That’s the concern I currently have.”

Board member Valerie McCall asked to table the resolution in order to amend it. The board has discussed fare changes and is focusing on making the GCRTA more equitable and accessible, she said, and the resolution needs to reflect that.

“I’m concerned that if we pass this as it is, it is not reassuring to the public that we are not talking about fare increases,” McCall said.

The fare cuts were scheduled to go into effect Oct. 4, Caver said, but it will take approximately a month to implement them after the board’s approval. Delaying the vote could impact the timeline, Caver said.

Board members plan to revisit the updated ordinance during committee meetings Sept. 1.

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