Riding the RTA during COVID-19

By: Maggie Phillips

The RTA bus taking its route up Euclid Ave at Cleveland State, By: Jack Brancatelli

Despite the many changes Cleveland State University has undergone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university is still offering students the U-Pass. The U-Pass costs $40 and allows unlimited bus and train access on any Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority (GCRTA) operated route. In the past, students could get their U-Pass at the cashier’s office in Berkman Hall. This semester; however, they must fill out an online form and wait for the pass to be delivered by mail. 

The GCRTA is taking enhanced safety precautions to keep their riders and employees safe. According to their website, surfaces on buses and trains are cleaned every 24 hours. Drivers are protected by a vinyl barrier and are required to wear masks at all times. The GCRTA is also providing masks at the Tower City Rotunda and a variety of other train and bus stations throughout the city. 

Their website claims that “GCRTA strongly encourages all riders to wear face coverings when waiting for or riding our service to protect themselves and others. We have always considered this a shared responsibility, with our customers.  This cooperative effort is needed now more than ever.” 

While wearing masks is strongly encouraged, they will not confront those who do not wear masks. Instead, they will attempt to provide more masks to those in need.

Despite the unclear health risks surrounding public transit during this time, many CSU students rely on the GCRTA to get to campus. There are safer ways of traveling to avoid COVID-19 exposure, but the bus is the most affordable and convenient method of transportation for many people.

Jared Craigo, a senior writing major at CSU, relies on the GCRTA to take him to campus and has taken the bus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Craigo, “Taking the bus during the Covid-19 pandemic has actually been more pleasant than I initially expected…Everyone that I have come across wears masks. People have also naturally distanced on the bus — though this was already fairly common when possible before the pandemic.” 

He also mentioned a massive decrease in bus ridership. Before the pandemic, he recalled seeing around 50 people on the bus every day, which is a major difference from the few people he sees now.

“It is somewhat saddening because there used to be a kind of familiarity between bus riders after having to see the same people consistently for years,” says Craigo. Despite this, he claims “I’m happy to be staying safe and keeping others safe, though.”

While the decline in GCRTA use has allowed people to feel safer from virus spread while traveling, there are concerns about the future funding of the transit system.

“This must be disappointing for the RTA because last year they both attempted to modify major bus routes and implement upgraded buses that are now barely being used,” Craigo remarks.

Transit fares account for roughly 20% of the RTA’s annual budget, a number that is certain to go down this year as fewer people use the bus. They did announce their acceptance of a $15 million federal grant earlier this year, which will be used to make repairs on the red line rail cars. However, the GCRTA is still far from having enough funds for needed repairs in the entire rail system, a goal that might be even farther away now that ridership has decreased tremendously.

Taking the GCRTA may not be the safest transportation method during the pandemic, as there is always a risk for exposure when contained in a small space with others. However, the transit system has clearly demonstrated a commitment to keeping its riders safe while continuing to operate for those who rely on its services.

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