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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History


The GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY was established 30 Dec. 1974 to administer a countywide system of public transportation organized around the existing Cleveland Transit System (CTS). CTS had been formed 28 April 1942 after the city's purchase of the CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO., which had operated the city's transit system since 1910. During World War II, CTS transported an increasing number of passengers to Cleveland's wartime industries when gasoline rationing restricted the use of automobiles. In 1946 the all-time high in ridership occurred, with 493 million passengers. Following the war CTS modernized its operation. Transit routes were made more flexible by converting the surface system from streetcars to rubber-tired vehicles, which was completed in 1954. On 15 March 1955, service on Cleveland's $29.5 million rapid-transit line was inaugurated between Windermere on the east side to CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL, and on 14 Aug. the west side rapid was opened from the terminal to W. 117th St. In 1958 the line was extended from W. 117th to West Park, and in 1968 it reached CLEVELAND-HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, making Cleveland the first city in the nation with a rail link connecting downtown to its airport.

Cleveland's declining population and employment, increasing automobile ownership, and inflation combined to erode CTS revenue and ridership in the 1950s and 1960s to the point where its continued operation was threatened. Dependent solely on farebox revenues for its operation, CTS raised fares and cut service, a process that accelerated the ridership decline. Between 1968 and 1974 CTS deficits steadily increased, forcing Cleveland to regionalize the system. As a result, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) was established in Dec. 1974. Its first 10-member Board of Trustees was appointed in Jan. 1975 with Richard Stoddart as president. Leonard Ronis was the system's first general manager. RTA operation, however, was contingent upon voter approval of a 1% piggyback sales tax allocated specifically to the system. Voters, lured by the promise of a $.25 local fare and improved service, approved the increase on 22 July 1975. In addition to CTS, the authority also absorbed the SHAKER HEIGHTS RAPID TRANSIT, and contracted for service with the existing suburban bus lines. Ridership, which had plummeted to 78 million in 1974, rose rapidly, climbing 76% by 1980. Soon, however, reductions in federal subsidies and declines in anticipated revenues from sales taxes forced RTA to raise fares, and by 1982 the local fare was $.85, and ridership had declined 30% between 1980 and 1983.

In its first 10 years of operation RTA established coordination of the county's transit services, expanded routes, and created special services for the aged and handicapped. Fares continued to escalate, in combination with service cuts, reaching $1.25 for local rides in 1993, where they, remained in 1995. The declining ridership begun in the 1980s continued until the 1990s when ridership escalated following the opening of Tower City (see TOWER CITY CENTER). Similarly, the opening of Jacobs' Field in 1994 had a positive impact on the number of patrons using RTA as, it is hoped, will the addition of the line serving the FLATS and the lakefront in 1996. In 1995 the 1% county sales tax accounted for about 60-65% of RTA's revenue, with 28% coming from the farebox.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Records, WRHS.

Last Modified: 16 Jul 1997 03:26:36 PM

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