Cleveland public bus service in need of improvement, says consultant

05 March 2019 3 min. read

Jarrett Walker, of Portland, Oregon-based consultancy firm Jarrett Walker + Associates, has studied Cleveland’s Regional Transit Authority (RTA) bus service. He is not pleased. “RTA service is stretched incredibly thin,” he said in an interview with “It isn’t able to be very satisfying to anyone. It’s being asked to do too many things with too small a budget.”

Walker, who is in the midst of a short-term study of a potential RTA redesign, would certainly know. He has consulted with approximately 100 transit authorities around the world, offering assistance and advice on their efficiencies or lack thereof. “He said it was easy to help many of them by pointing out glaring waste in bus service,” the article states. So far, he has found no “glaring waste” in the RTA’s service. This is good news for Cleveland, as it means improvements will in all probability be feasible and relatively easily implemented.

A survey posted earlier this month asked Clevelanders whether they would prefer wider bus coverage or more frequent service in the next three years. The survey has so far garnered 1,400 responses, and will continue until mid-March. This survey, however, leaves some Clevelanders unhappy, with advocacy group Clevelanders for Public Transit issuing a press release demanding that Walker’s study look further than the short-term.  Walker’s reply? “I don’t see anything wrong with addressing the immediate problem immediately.”

Cleveland public bus service in need of improvement, says consultant

The RTA covers the entirety of Cuyahoga County, but currently focuses 60% on popular routes and 40% on “widespread service,” Walker reported to the RTA committee. While popular routes are more financially feasible – and can also help reduce pollution and traffic congestion – they don’t serve the community as a whole, and especially leave out those who can’t afford or drive cars, and therefore rely on a service such as that the RTA provides. As a city, Cleveland is slowly spreading – in what is known as a “suburban sprawl.” This results in jobs and employees further apart, placing more pressure on an efficient public transport system.

Despite Ohio state aid for public transportation having fallen sharply in the recent past, Walker will continue the study – one of five “pillar” studies that will analyze RTA operations, fares, and other aspects of the service - until October, he said. Rather than simply focusing on a system of new routes, the emphasis will be “to develop scenarios and maps to help trustees and constituents understand their choices,” according to the article.

In related civic consultancy news, Cedar Falls, Iowa recently hired a consultant to improve the city’s somewhat dire parking situation. The San Diego City Council, meanwhile, was in for a pricey surprise when news surfaced that a consultant’s misestimate might mean the city is in the hole for millions on a proposed public park redesign.