Will Mayor Frank Jackson's decision to ban busses on Public Square wind up costing local taxpayers $12 million ?
Monday, RTA officials met with city planners and engineers to come up with a Plan B that will convince the Federal Transit Administration not to start clawback procedures to reclaim $12 million of Federal funding given for transit planning around Public Square, with the requirement that Superior Avenue remain open to busses.
Shelters were purchased and bus lanes painted to accommodate buses as part of the original Square design.
But after a temporary no-bus shutdown, Mayor Jackson last week decided it should become permanent.
The goal is to convince the Feds that the same goals of speed and efficiency can be accomplished in other ways with busses going around the Square.
As the temperature drops, riders like Crystal Burkett are more upset at having to take longer walks to and from shelters surrounding the Square.
"It's cold...that's ridiculous because many of us take busses every single day, " she said.
Multiple sources say RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese was pressured into going along with the Mayor's wishes.
He made publicly supportive comments at the Mayor's hastily called media event last Tuesday.
Possible mayoral candidate Zack Reed is opposing the Mayor on this issue. He believes there should have been more public discussion about the decision, saying Jackson "'was elected mayor...not dictator of Cleveland."
Councilman Brian Cummins agrees the decision needs more public input.
And he is calling on the Mayor to make the Square open to busses through the winter in a trial period, and as a rider-friendly concession during the cold weather.
An October 12 letter to the mayor's chief of staff says, " If the portion of Superior Avenue in Public Square is permanently closed, the GCRTA (RTA) would be in breach" of its agreement.
And, "this would constitute a debt owed to the FTA of approximately $12 million," according to Regional Administrator Marisol Simon.
There will be a hearing by Cleveland City Council's Transportation Committee, probably next week, to let people speak their mind about this decision.
Transit advocacy groups and officials opposing the Public Square bus ban plan a rally against it next month.
Mayor Jackson believes the Square should put people first
But critics ask why that decision was not made before the Square was designed to accommodate buses on Superior.