• Cleveland RTA: Heavy and Light Rail System

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by farecard
usroadman wrote:Just wondering if anyone else has had any problems with photography around the system.
You can find many pages on this problem; people have been arrested for participating in the Amtrak photo contest.

Get something IN WRITING from RTA. Carry a copy.
  by Buffalobill
The Erie-Laccawanna ran a commuter train from Youngstown untill 1977 into the Terminal Tower (Now Tower City) and was ran by Conrail in its last months of operation. The state never picked up the subsidy and the train died.
  by Tadman
The current fleet is 60 MU's built by Tokyu in 1985, similar to heavy subway rolling stock. According to the Wikipedia page, thirty of sixty MU's are in such bad shape they are inoperable. Further, a rebuild project is underway and at the end, the best 40 will rebuilt while the bottom 20 will be scrapped. I guess I'm a little shocked that such new cars have been let go so badly that half the fleet is toast. The RTA doesn't exactly have a demanding operation like Metra or Metro North, either.


Moderator's note: fixed the link
  by nkpcar
The RTA has never been one to use money wisely when it comes to transit cars. The Airporters were not even 20 years old when they were junked because they were able to get Federal money for new cars. Even the original St. Louis cars were still in decent shape then. Another operator (Philadelphia I believe) showed interest in buying the Airporters but that never panned out. When the Shaker line was rebuilt they bought the cars from Italy that were designed as subway cars and then ended up out of service in the winter because of snow in the motors. They had rebuilt several PCC cars at this time too, but they were all sold off shortly after as there was no need for them. Both orders of cars were more then the RTA needed but the money was given to them, so they spent it. Now they are rebuilding the stations into mini-palaces. Another good use of money they don't have.

Jim Mihalek
Lakeville, MN
  by CHIP72
I was able to ride the entire rail portion of the Cleveland RTA system excluding the Waterfront Line (plus the new bus rapid transit Health Line) during a recent work trip to Cleveland; actually, I did not rent a car and only used transit and my legs during my trip. (Obviously, I came into Cleveland from the airport via rail transit. Also, I did not use the Waterfront Line because it currently only operates on weekends.) The Red Line (a heavy rail line) typically runs with 2 car trains, though those the cars are pretty long, probably almost as long as WMATA's rail cars. Because the line was built entirely along freight rail ROW (though uses separate tracks), the stations in some cases are not ideally located; the freight rail lines function as a barrier between nearby residential/commercial development and the Red Line, especially near Cleveland's popular University Circle on the eastern end of the line. The Blue and Green Lines (both light rail lines) coincide with one another between downtown Cleveland and Shaker Square, and then run parallel with one another east-west of Shaker Square, roughly a mile apart. The light rail cars, which unlike the heavy rail cars were pretty new, appear to always or almost always run as single cars. Between downtown and Shaker Square (or more accurately between where the Red and Blue/Green Lines split from one another and Shaker Square), the lines run in their own ROW and east of Shaker Square both lines run in the center, grassy medians of wide boulevards. As has been noted previously in this thread, the Red and Blue/Green Lines share track for at least 2-3 miles of track and 3 shared stations, 2 of which (East 34th-Campus and East 55th) have distinct, adjacent platforms to serve the trains - high platforms for the Red Line, low platforms for the Blue and Green Lines. The third shared station, Tower City, is amazingly the only true downtown station in the RTA rail system excluding the Waterfront Line stations and obviously is by far the busiest rail station in the system. It is in the basement level of the confusingly-designed Tower City complex, which essentially is a downtown city mall that also contains a pair of hotels and the historic Terminal Tower.

Both the Red Line and Blue/Green Lines were very interesting. The Red Line, even though it is heavy rail transit, reminded me of portions of SEPTA's Regional Rail more than anything else, which makes some sense considering the line operates in a freight rail corridor and also utilizes overhead catenary. The cars had a spot near the front of the car to place your luggage, which was a nice touch. The airport station, the western terminus of the line, to me looked a lot like a much smaller, simpler version of the Chicago CTA Blue Line O'Hare Airport station (though because Cleveland Hopkins is a much smaller airport than Chicago O'Hare, the airport station is much closer to the terminal in Cleveland than it is in Chicago). The Blue/Green Lines, especially east of Shaker Square, also reminded me of some SEPTA rail lines, specifically the Route 100 (former P&W) Norristown High Speed Line and the Route 101 and 102 trolleys west and southwest of Philadelphia. The primary highlight of these lines was Shaker Square itself, which is one of the best examples in existence of historic transit-oriented design. Also interesting was the setting of both lines east of Shaker Square, especially the Green Line; the development nearby was relatively low density and consisted of housing with very nice, older-style architecture. The Blue Line also had predominantly nicer residential development near the line but also had some limited commercial development, and it terminates near a shopping center. Many stations along both lines, especially the Blue Line, also had small park-and-ride lots composed of angled parking on both sides of the line on the inside of the adjacent boulevard roadways.

During my trip I rode all three lines essentially during the PM rush hour and early evening, and it appeared all three lines had pretty solid ridership. That fact is actually surprising because parking in downtown Cleveland appeared to be plentiful and fairly cheap and RTA fares, due to recession-related budget shortfalls, are fairly high. (As an aside, my biggest criticism of downtown Cleveland is that it appeared to have too many surface parking lots.)
  by jtbell
CHIP72 wrote:The light rail cars, which unlike the heavy rail cars were pretty new
The light rail cars (Green and Blue Lines) are actually slightly older (1980-81) than the heavy rail (Red Line) cars (1984-85). They may have been "refreshed" more recently, though.
  by Bill R.
CHIP72, you must have been there just before I was.

During vacation, I visited Cedar Point and Sandusky, and then moved onto Cleveland. I stayed at a hotel on Snow Road in Brookpark s/e of the Ford Plant, accessing the Rapid at Brookpark Station. RTA has rehabilitated the West Side stations (actually Puritas is under way), but they haven't touched this station yet. Conditions are decrepit, excepting the stairwell and elevator up to the platform. Potholes are the rule rather than the exception in the parking lot. The walkway under the tracks has tiling similar to PATCO station interiors. The ticket machines seemed relatively easy to use, and produce the same type of paper ticket used by PATCO. But the biggest revelation: having to cross the outbound tracks at grade in order to access the platform.

During the relatively limited time period (around an hour) during which peak service is offered, headways are only 10 minutes served by two car trains. Off peak is 20 minutes, sometimes with single car trains, sometimes with two car trains - but not because two cars are needed. The peak period trains that I rode had most of the seats occupied, and the handful of standees did so by choice, rather than neccessity.

Arrival at Tower City the first morning brought about contact with a surly attendant who advised us that the All Day Pass ($5.00-unlimited rides) was considered a special pass and could only be used with the single ticket swipe machine dedicated for that use, even though we had purchased this pass in a vending mcahing featuring many different fare options. The Child Pass always required the driver or attendant to push a button to allow it to be used for entry.

I didn't have the time to ride Shaker or Van Aken this time (I have before - maybe next visit), but I never spotted more than a single unit LRT operating during the peak. Again, very limited time window for peak service offering 12 minute headways for each branch, reducing to 30 (!!) minutes per branch off-peak. The Waterfront line is virtually abandoned, with no weekday service, and only 30 minute headways Saturday, Sunday and special event days (i.e. Monday night Browns games). The East Bank Flats area has been demolished north of the Lakeshore bridge, making for little patronage. Much of the entertainment that used to be there is now on W. 6th. The replacement bus (47) was just reduced to a peak period only service. The B-Line trolley (free downtown circulator on W 6th, Superior, E. 12th, and Lakeside) isn't necessarily obvious (i.e. no schedules were available at Tower City RTA infomation office) and didn't come close to operating on schedule. The E. 9th and Lakeside stop is also further from the waterfront attractions.

There are a lot of what appears to be long-term out-of-service vehicles parked at the west end of E. 55 Street Yard. Most of the East Side stations have yet to be rehabbed.

We attempted to use the 38 (Hough) Bus to get to the Natural History Museum on Wade Oval from E. 120 / Euclid. I discovered that most of the outlying bus routes have headways of 40 minutes or greater. We walked to the museum rather than wait. The return bus arrived 17 minutes late. Not an incentive to use the system.

We (my wife, daughter, myself) got on at E. 120 / Euclid after dinner at an restaurant on Mayfield Avenue in Little Italy (@7:30 PM) and observed only two other boarding passengers. The fare control boundary "stripe" on the floor suggests that a gaping hole probably exists in revenue collection due to the lack of an actual face collection device at this location.

I saw the Health Line (Euclid Avenue BRT) but had no need to ride it. At 25 minutes, it can hardly be described as rapid. It does operate 24 hours / day, however.
  by jtbell
Bill R. wrote:The East Bank Flats area has been demolished north of the Lakeshore bridge, making for little patronage [on the Waterfront line].
That raised my eyebrows, as I haven't been there in several years, so I took a look at the satellite image on Google Maps. Right now it shows markers for places like Jimmy's in the Flats and O'Connor's Irish Pub which now label piles of dirt. :P

Depending on how much later you read this post, Google may have cleaned up its database by now, but you should still be able to see the piles of dirt.
Bill: Interesting post on your recent Cleveland trip - I remember spending time there back in 1999/2000 and traveling around the system but since it has been a while...
I found it interesting that the Waterfront Line has been cut back so much...back then I believe one of the LRT lines served it direct thru Tower City regularly and how the Flats Entertainment District has changed...I remember that many of those Red Line stations W of Downtown were designed in a 50s utilitarian design - it describes what you saw at Brookpark Station. You mentioned boarding at E.105th Street station on the Red Line - I remember that those cars had fare boxes installed in them and the train operator would collect fares from certain stations similar to how SEPTA's NHSL does the same. They still do have a Day Pass-I remember it was $4 back then and after
a few rides and stops it paid for itself...I am surprised that no one recently mentioned that you can see remnants of the old Cleveland Union Terminal down in the parking garage adjacent to the Tower City station - I recall that you can clearly see where underground platforms were filled in where tracks once were laid to create this garage...
Everyone here more then likely realizes that basically the entire Red Line was built on the east/west approaches to CUT and the rail lines were electrified until sometime in the 50s...it was a smart move by the old CTS to use this line and right of way and that the Cleveland-Hopkins Airport Station was the first rail line in the US to directly serve an airport terminal when it opened this extension W in 1968.

Memories from MACTRAXX
  by shlustig
Nearly the entire east side CTS line right-of-way was constructed as part of the Cleveland Union Terminal project. Then it lay dormant for 20+ years until CTS laid the track and strung the wire. If you look at photographs of NKP and NYC (CUT) operations from the 1930's and 1940"s, the rapid r-o-w is clearly visible.
  by M&Eman
Has the system always had such pitiful ridership? It seems like a line used this little was an awfully large waste of taxpayer money. There are bus lines with more ridership than the Rapid. The waterfront line is especially a disgrace, because it is practically abandoned and is the newest part of the system. How come no one has tried to build transit-oriented development around the Rapid in Cleveland?
  by electricron
M&Eman wrote:Has the system always had such pitiful ridership? How come no one has tried to build transit-oriented development around the Rapid in Cleveland?
It may be in part due to zoning restrictions and tax levees from the city. To get TODs you must first make them profitable for the developers....
  by Bill R.
M&Eman wrote:Has the system always had such pitiful ridership?
Per Wikipedia, the population of Cleveland peaked in 1950 at 914,808. The 2000 census shows a decline to 478,403. The 2010 census figure will most likely show a figure well below half of the peak.

I spoke with someone who lived in Cleveland during the '50s. He recalls a Van Aken (Blue) line express composed of a 5 car train scheduled just after 5:00 PM.
M&Eman wrote:There are bus lines with more ridership than the Rapid.
Don't say that too loud. I can envision the day when GCRTA converts the Shaker and Van Aken lines into BRT after the power distribution system and Breda cars are life expired.
M&Eman wrote:How come no one has tried to build transit-oriented development around the Rapid in Cleveland?
electricron wrote:It may be in part due to zoning restrictions and tax levees from the city. To get TODs you must first make them profitable for the developers....
In fact, the Little Italy project on this website, 27 Coltman, is a TOD being built between Mayfield Avenue and the E. 120 / Euclid Red Line Station. Not many are occupied yet, and some units aren't even finished.

A lot of redevelopment has taken place in University Circle and along Euclid Avenue. It is claimed that the HealthLine (BRT) is responsible. However, this article - Cleveland: Euclid Corridor "BRT" – "just like light rail" ... or maybe not? (scroll to August 22, 2008) suggests that private sector development is relatively limited.
Last edited by Bill R. on Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by shlustig
The status of rapid transit in cleveland can best be summed up by referring to the population loss and by the lack of business and retail in the downtown. The RTA's figures show that there is about 1/3 the number of people working days in the downtown compared to 25 years ago.

The Waterfront Line has no traffic base as the East Bank of the Flats entertainment district no longer exists and the W. 3rd St. and E. 9th St. stations are too removed from any office buildings. People will detrain at Tower City and walk 3 blocks rather than use the Waterfront and climb the hill to Lakeside Ave.

The Euclid Corridor project has been a monumental bust. The construction period successfully killed off almost all retail. It was an urban renewal project dressed up as a transportation project. RTA thought that the Bus Rapid Transit would enable it to kill the east end of the Red Line, but that hasn't happened. As it is, the leading Cleveland English-language daily paper just did a feature on the failure of the Health Line to meet the expected running times. The real joke is that 30 years ago, there was an express busline on Euclid Ave. (Route 28) which was faster than the new line.

To compound the felony, the RTA recently discontinued all through bus service to downtown on the #'s 7, 9, and 32 routes forcing people to transfer to either the Red Line or the Health Line, thereby causing a further drop in ridership.

As to the comment about the multi-car rapid trains on the old Shaker system, both the ancient Kuhlman cars and the later PCC's used to run in MU up to 5 cars in rush hour trains on the Van Aken (nee-Moreland) Line. The Shaker Blvd. line never required more than a few 2-car trains in rush hours. Additionally, in rush hour, there were short loops which turned at Shaker Square. IIRC, that was the last usage of the Indiana lightweight cars.
  by CHTT1
The leading "English language" daily newspaper in Cleveland? That's an odd way to describe the Plain Dealer.