Transit Riders' Open Letter to Elected Officials and GCRTA Board Regarding COVID-19

Transit Needs Your Support During COVID-19!

Immediate Action Must Be Taken to Keep Riders Safe and Expand Transit Funding.

Public transit is a public utility. The COVID-19 crisis highlights the urgent need for public transit systems to be considered an essential service. Public transit serves the front-line food and healthcare workers that are critical during this crisis.

Transit agencies across the U.S are projected to lose up to $38 billion over the next year. CPT demands emergency state and federal funding for transit agencies to cover revenue shortfalls and increased needs due to the purchase of personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies, providing sick leave to workers, and increased resources for cleaning.

Legislators in Columbus and Washington must immediately pass relief funding for Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) and all Ohio transit agencies.

In the last 15 years, GCRTA fares have doubled while service has been cut by over 25%. This has led to record low ridership and reduced fare revenue. During the pandemic riders can not endure any further reductions in service.

Ohio lawmakers must act to create a dedicated fund for transit. Ohio spends over 2.5 billion annually on road projects, while nearly 10% of Ohio households do not have access to a vehicle. With the COVID-19 pandemic, CPT is calling for at least $250 million to be spent on transit and alternative transportation annually.

Ohio lawmakers must also repeal ORC 2917.41, which designates fare evasion as a criminal offense. Bus lines are life lines and riders should not be criminalized for trying to get to essential jobs or medical care if they are unable to afford fares during this global pandemic.

Transit agencies across the U.S. are estimated to lose $26-38 billion annually due to COVID-19. Congress must act to make transit agencies whole. We also ask GCRTA and transit agencies around Ohio to be vocal in its demands for direct financial assistance.

While we are grateful that GCRTA has increased station and vehicle cleaning in response to the pandemic, we are concerned that years of underfunding will ultimately put frontline GCRTA employees at risk.  

Given the changing state of emergency surrounding COVID-19 and the rapid response required to mitigate the worst consequences of this disease, we call on GCRTA, the GCRTA board and elected officials to take the actions outlined below to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep transit riders and workers safe and informed.

INCREASE TRANSIT RIDER AND WORKER SAFETY

  • GCRTA should join transit agencies around Ohio that have waived fares and institute rear door boarding on all bus and BRT routes to limit operator exposure and enable social distancing between riders.

  • Permanently cease criminal enforcement of fare evasion. Reallocate enforcement resources to maintain transit service.

  • Identify seats not to use to provide social distancing between passengers.

  • Increased access to restrooms, with hot water and soap for hand washing as recommended by the CDC for riders transferring between buses and operators.

  • Access to hand sanitizer for riders. Protective gloves and sterilizing wipes for all transit workers to wipe down work surfaces.

  • Employees who believe they are high-risk or live with someone who is high-risk should stay home, with pay.

  • Operator pay should be unaffected by service reductions related to the pandemic. If there aren’t enough runs for operators, they should stay home, with pay.

  • GCRTA must keep the public informed of operational developments and decisions during the pandemic.

  • GCRTA must ensure that all Board and Committee meetings remain open to the public during the pandemic using accessible technology.


IN CONCLUSION

Initial reports from other transit agencies indicate that the loss of revenue during the upcoming months threatens the future of transit agencies. Ohio transit agencies must take immediate action to halt the spread of COVID-19. Emergency state and federal funding to cover the increased costs associated with COVID-19 at a scale comparable to the proposed airline industry bailout is needed to maintain service.

Transit riders and workers are depending on GCRTA board members and elected officials to use their political power and influence for the benefit and protection of us all. This crisis has revealed the fragility of US institutions and the cruelty of an economy designed to treat living people as expendable resources.

When this crisis is over, GCRTA and elected officials must sustain today’s demands for substantial increases in funding for equitable, safe, reliable and accessible public transit.

Sincerely,

Members of Clevelanders for Public Transit

Thanks to Philly Transit Riders Union for the language and inspiration of this letter.



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