Assmus: Cleveland celebration shows need for more public transport

Cleveland, the city commonly called the “mistake on the lake” and as a cursed sports town, with a 52 year major league sports victory drought, finally had something to celebrate when the Cavaliers won the NBA championship on June 19. The city spent the week celebrating, culminating in the parade and rallying in downtown Cleveland. 1.3 million people were packed into the city to welcome back the coaches and players. Most people were excited and happy, with only one incident of violence the entire day. Despite the elated feelings of all fans and people in the city, fans criticized the Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority for the long wait for buses and trains in and out of the city[AA1] .

Hundreds of people took public transportation into the city, choosing to avoid the traffic jams that were inevitable from every highway artery into the city. The Cleveland  Regional Transit Authority (RTA), Cleveland’s public transportation system, encouraged people to take public transit to events in the city throughout the year, including the parade and rally. Yet there was a long wait for trains going and leaving Tower City. Many complained of the two to three hour wait to get to the parade and to leave the city afterwards. Yet this was not a problem of preparedness, it is a problem of the lack of funding and resources that the RTA received.

This should be a call to attention for the many people who rode the RTA for the first time for the parade and complained about the long waiting time. The RTA operates on funding from the federal and state governments but this funding is not nearly enough to support the city, especially on days like the parade. The state of Ohio only provides less than one percent of its funding compared to some others states in the US whose funding account for 20 percent of public transit expenses[AA2] . Most of the funding from the state goes to other transportation expenses, such as highways and roads rather than improving public transport systems.

The RTA should not be the one to blame for the long waiting time at all stations just to buy tickets, and people should not be discouraged from riding public transportation. The RTA simply was not prepared for the mass amounts of people because the infrastructure and system is not large enough to support so many people. Never in Cleveland’s history has there been such a large event with so many people going into the downtown area all at the same time.  As a frequent RTA user for over five years now, I think that the RTA did the best job that they could on Wednesday and should get more support to improve and expand their services.

Public transportation is an important part of any metropolitan city, and we should keep the momentum going from the celebration of the Cavs and Cleveland to continuously improving our city through providing better services such as public transit. Instead of complaining about the service that was provided, we should think about why the service was so backed up during the parade and consider how to change it by advocating for changes to the transportation budget. Additionally, utilizing the public transit system more frequently instead of just for special events can show the support people have for the system and hopefully increase the funding for the RTA, so more trains, stations, and other services can be improved.

Abby Assmus is a graduate bioethics and social work student.