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Northeast Ohio Transit Agencies Consider Ways to Boost Sagging Ridership

photo of RTA train

Public transportation ridership is down in Northeast Ohio, but the area’s transit agencies say there a number of factors that could reverse that trend.

Cuyahoga County-based RTA moved about 44 million riders last year, down 7 percent from 2015. Ridership is also down in Stark and Summit counties, and all three systems cite low gas prices and shifting populations among the reasons why. Richard Enty with Akron-based Metro RTA says one of the challenges is meeting riders where they live.

“We think that the future is going to be more partnerships with cab companies and Uber and Lyft to provide that additional mobility beyond where the fixed routes go; particularly in suburban areas.”

That idea – known as covering the “first mile/last mile” for passengers – is also something RTA says is a possibility in Cuyahoga County.

And Metro RTA’s Richard Enty says Summit County is re-examining routes through the “Driving Metro Forward” initiative to increase ridership.

RTA and SARTA both still offer free or reduced fares for many students. RTA also offers mobile apps for ticketing and service updates, and spokesman Steve Bitto says that’s key as more young people move into the city.

“Obviously, it generates a little revenue. But additionally, it exposes these kids to the system. They can see how easy it is to navigate the system. And so when they make that transition – from the classroom and to the workplace – they’ve already been introduced to the system, and they’re more apt to never get in that car and drive but rather get on a train or get on a bus for that work commute.”

In Stark County, SARTA officials will hold public meetings next Tuesday to outline some system route changes and get feedback.

The public information sessions on March 14th are at:

9 a.m.: Massillon Transit Station

10:30 a.m.: Canton Cornerstone Station

2 p.m.: Phyllis Beyers Alliance Transit Station

5:30 p.m.: Belden Village Transit Station

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.