Cleveland Metro: RTA, the Rapid

Cleveland is the second largest city in Ohio, a state in the United States. It has more than 2 million people living in its greater metropolitan area. It is the county seat of the Cuyahoga County, an important manufacturing center that goes a long while back, to the start of the 20th century, its industrial roots developing thanks to its strategic geographical location.

Many railroad lines pass though the city, connecting several important destinations across the United States and Canada. Despite its industrial background, Cleveland, as with many other modern north American cities, is migrating to a more flexible economy focused on services, with many banks, financial institutions, medical facilities and insurance companies.

This renovation process and the new ways the city was making money led to an ever-increasing demand for transportation, a natural phenomenon to any fast-growing city. In consequence, mass public transport projects were considered, and by the year 1958, a heavy-train line was inaugurated, the service now known as The Rapid.

Another older line (dated back to 1913) that provided service as a light rail train was integrated into the newer line. This first Cleveland Interurban Railroad (CIRR, as it was known) was conceived as a way of connecting residential suburbs where workers lived and the industrial zones and developments they attended to, aiming to reduce commute times and boosting punctuality rates. The streetcar system was renovated in 1930.

The heavy train started its commercial operations with a system length of about 30 km. It was integrated into the other existing infrastructure, connecting it with some stations of the light trains and incorporating bus lines so it could provide service to the maximum amount of people.

Cleveland The Rapid Image via Gray Lensman QX!.

Lines and stations

The RTA Rapid Transit system that operates in the city of Cleveland has a current system length of about 60 km, and services 52 stations. The Cleveland metro has an average of 10,800 daily users, and about 3.7 million each year. It operates 3 commercial lines: a heavy train (Red line), and two light rail trains (Blue and Green lines).

Red line (heavy train)

This line has a total of 40 operative wagons that run between 18 stations distributed along a 31-km route.

It goes from the Hopkins International Airport to the Windermere neighborhood, to the east of Cleveland. The Louis Stokes terminal is located there. This line runs all days of the week, about 20 hours a day. Trains run every 7 to 15 minutes. According to the GCRTA (Greater Cleveland Regional Transport Authority), the company that runs the system, the Red line moves about 12% of the total passengers they provide service to.

It was inaugurated in the decade of 1950, and was the extended in 1968 so it could service the airport. Back in the day, it was the first rapid transit system in the western hemisphere to be connected to an airport terminal.

Blue and Green lines (light rail)

The Blue and Green lines have a commercial rolling stock comprised of 34 vehicles that serve 34 stations distributed along 29 km of track, starting in the eastern suburbs. It was in 1913 that the first trains commenced operations, and the system has undergone significant changes since. It was not until 1996 that the lines were extended towards the waterfront area.

This newer extension connects the Tower City station with the Flats East Bank, and further along the line services FirstEnergy Stadium (home of the Cleveland Browns), the Great Lakes Science Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (both through the East 9th – North Coast station). The terminal, South Harbor station, serves the Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport and the Cleveland Municipal Parking.

These light rail lines account for a total of 8% of the total users that RTA Rapid Transit serves. An additional 12% is served by the Red Line, while the other 80% moves by bus and trolleybuses that the company also manages.

Waterfront Line

It's a blue and green lines extension that goes from Tower City to South Harbor Station.

Timetables and schedule

The trains at the Rapid Transit of Cleveland operate most of the day: 22 hours without stop. The rest of the day is reserved for maintenance and inspection services.

The Red line functions from 3:15 a.m. to 1:45 a.m., Monday to Friday. The trains arrive at the stations every 10 minutes in rush hours and every 15 minutes when there is less demand. 22 buses are available from 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. (when the Airport station is closed) to keep the connection with the airport running at all times.

The light rail lines provide their services from 3:40 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. every day of the week, without exceptions. During rush-hour, trains run every 10 minutes, but the wait is increased to 30 minutes at times when demand is very low. This wait time is halved where both lines converge, from Shaker Square to Tower City. They run every 5 minutes in peak hours and every 15 minutes the rest of the day.

The Waterfront extension is served by three trains that run from 6:50 a.m. to 7:05 p.m., with an average of 15 minutes between trains on the Westbound trains. On the Eastbound, trains start at 4:08 a.m., but the next one leaves 50 minutes later. They continue service until 12:50 a.m. with different intervals between trains according to the time of the day.

On weekends, trains from the Green and Blue lines run every 30 minutes. Stations between Tower City and Shaker Square are served every 15 minutes. The Waterfront terminal (South Harbor) is served from 9:18 a.m. to 6:48 p.m.

19680225 26 Cleveland Union Terminal

Connections

The public transport system in Cleveland is very well-connected. All three lines are linked to the extensive bus network that runs through the city. Most stations have bus stops in their vicinity. They are detailed below:

Red Line Stations

  • Airport: it is connected to bus line 22.
  • Brookpark: it has stops from several bus lines: numbers 22, 54, 78 and 86.
  • Puritas: served by line 78.
  • West Park: it has access to bus lines 22, 49, 75, 83 and 86.
  • West 117th – Madison: it is served by lines 25 and 78.
  • West Boulevard – Cudell: linked with lines 25, 26 and 81.
  • West 65th – Lorain: it is served by bus line 22.
  • West 25th – Ohio City: very well connected by lines 22, 45, 51, 51A, 51B, 51C, 79, 79A and 81.
  • Tower City – Public Square: the main transport hub in the city, it interconnects all three Rapid Transit lines (Red, Green and Blue) with the Health Line trolleybus, along with urban bus lines 1, 3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 19, 22, 26, 38, 39/39F, 45, 51, 51A/B/C, 53F, 55A/B/C, 76, 77F, 79A/B, 81, 90F, 246. 251 and 263. It is also connected to regional bus lines Metro RTA, PARTA, SARTA and Laketran.
  • East 34th – Campus: shared station with both light rail lines, along with bus lines 15, 19 and 76.
  • East 55th: it is also shared with the other two rail lines and bus line 16.
  • East 79th: served by bus line 2, albeit only on weekends.
  • East 105th – Quincy: it is linked to bus lines 10 and 11.
  • Cedar – University: it connects with bus lines 7, 8, 32, 48 and 48A.
  • Little Italy – University Circle: served by bus line 9.
  • Superior: it has access to bus lines 3 and 40, along with a stop for the Health Line trolleybus.
  • Louis Stokes Station at Windermere: it serves as a terminal, connecting the Red Line with bus lines 3, 28, 28A, 30, 37, 41, 41F and the Health Line trolleybus.
    • Waterfront extension (Green and Blue lines)

      • South Harbor: it is served by the NineTwelve Trolley line.
      • East 9th – North Coast: it is also connected to the NineTwelve and the L-Line Trolley lines.
      • Amtrak: it serves as a transit station between the Rapid Transit system and the regional railroad lines Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

      Converging Green and Blue lines stations

    • Tower City – Public Square: the main transport hub in the city, it interconnects all three Rapid Transit lines (Red, Green and Blue) with the Health Line trolleybus, along with urban bus lines 1, 3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 19, 22, 26, 38, 39/39F, 45, 51, 51A/B/C, 53F, 55A/B/C, 76, 77F, 79A/B, 81, 90F, 246. 251 and 263. It is also connected to regional bus lines Metro RTA, PARTA, SARTA and Laketran.
    • East 34th – Campus: shared station with the heavy train line, along with bus lines 15, 19 and 76.
    • East 55th: it is also shared with the Red Line and bus line 16.
    • East 79th: served by bus line 2, albeit only on weekends.
    • Buckeye – Woodhill: it links with bus lines 10 and 11.
    • East 116th: served by bus line 58.
    • Shaker Square: it is connected to bus lines 11, 48 and 48A.

    Green line stations

    • Shaker – Lee: it has access to bus lines 37 and 40.
    • Warrensville – Shaker: it is linked with bus line 41.
    • Green Road: terminal station of the Green Line, it is served by bus lines 34 and 94.

    Blue line stations

    • Van Aken – Lee: it is connected with bus lines 14, 37 and 40.
    • Warrensville – Van Aken: it is served by bus lines number 5, 14, 41 and 41F.

    Pricing

    The base price for a single ticket has remained constant since august 14th, 2016. It costs $2.50 USD.

    There are several plans that people can buy according to their transportation needs: from 5-trip Fare Cards, Daily Passes that allow the user unlimited travel for the duration of the pass, 7-Day Passes (same unlimited deal as above) to Monthly Passes. They can all be purchased by the public at Ticket Vending Machines.

    Special discounts are also available for Seniors and the Disabled. Students also have special pricing, while children under 6 years of age travel for free.

    It is important to note that all passengers must have their tickets or valid travel cards with them before boarding any train. Tickets may be bought at any TVM (Ticket Vending Machine) at any station.

    At Tower City station, users can also ask for assistance from support personnel who seek to better the user’s experience at the system. They can help the costumer choose the appropriate travel plan for each personal case, as well as clear any doubts regarding the system or payment options and solve any problems that may arise.

    Once the user has paid the fare, they will be granted access to the ‘Fare Paid Zone’, a reserved area within all commercial stations of the Rapid Transit system specifically built for passengers.

    RTA personnel has the authority to demand your ticket or fare card for validation, be it at the stations or inside the trains. In case you don’t have a valid ticket with you, a Violation Fare will be assessed, and any recurrent transgressions may face criminal prosecution.

    Ticket fares (for the year 2017) are as follow:

    Cash Fares (single ticket)

    General: it costs $2.50 USD, and is only valid for a single trip.

    Senior / Disabled: it has a price of $1.25 USD, and it is only valid for one trip.

    Students: it costs $1.75 USD, and may only be used once.

    5-Trip Fare Card (pre-paid card)

    General: it costs $12.50 USD, and can be used 5 times on any service the RTA provides.

    Senior / Disabled: it has a price of $6.25 USD, and it can be used 5 times on any train or bus.

    Students: it costs $8.75 USD, and is valid for 5 trips on any service.

    Daily Passes

    General: it costs $5.50 USD, and can be used an unlimited amount of times for an entire day on any train or bus service provided by the RTA.

    Senior / Disabled: it has a price of $2.75 USD, and has the same benefits mentioned above.

    Students: it costs $4.50 USD, and grants access to any train or bus line the RTA manages, for an entire day.

    7-Day Passes

    General: it costs $25.00 USD, and can be used an unlimited amount of times for an entire week on any train or bus service provided by the RTA.

    Senior / Disabled: it has a price of $12.50 USD, and allows the user to travel as much as needed on any of the bus or train lines the RTA operates, for a 7-day period.

    Monthly Passes

    General: it is valued at $95.00 USD. Users may use this pass for an unlimited number of trips for an entire month, on any train or bus service provided by the RTA.

    Senior / Disabled: it has a price of $48.00 USD, and allows the user to travel as much as needed on any of the bus or train lines the RTA operates, for a month.

    Regulations

    • Conversations must not be excessively loud, as higher volumes cause discomfort for other passengers.
    • Users may rest with their feet up if needed, but they must yield the extra seat if someone else wants to sit down.
    • Please refrain from listening to music while inside the trains if you don’t have headphones.
    • Food and beverages are allowed in the system as long as they don’t cause discomfort to other passengers.
    • When entering or leaving the trains, passengers must not push other users, as this can cause accidents and harm.
    • Any act that involves harassment of any nature, intimidation or violence of any type against any other passenger is strictly prohibited. Security personnel may intervene if necessary, and may also prosecute criminal charges.
    • No passenger may leave the train while it is on the move, as this can be extremely dangerous.
    • Smoking is prohibited within all trains and stations.
    • Users may not access restricted areas reserved for personnel and operators.
    • Any user under the effect of alcohol or illicit substances may be evicted from the trains or stations by security personnel.
    • The consumption of alcohol or any illicit substance is prohibited within the trains or facilities.
    • Unauthorized marketing or propaganda is forbidden, be it within the stations or the trains. Leaflets or similar media may not be distributed.
    RTA Blue & Green Lines map

    Future expansions

    There have been some proposals to loop the Waterfront Line back to the city downtown through Tower City station, but it seems unlikely so far, and information is scarce.

    On the other hand, with the recent completion of the Health Line trolleybus, a project may be developed to connect the Rocky River and Euclid neighborhoods through a new heavy rail line.

    An additional proposal is to extend the Waterfront line eastwards along the lakefront, with the construction of a light rail station that would serve the city centre.

    Connection with the airport

    The RTA Rapid Transit system offers all its users the possibility to reach the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport directly through its heavy rail line (Red Line). Airport station is the western terminus and is located below the baggage claim level.

    To reach the airport from downtown Cleveland, one must first reach Tower City station or any other Red Line station, pay the corresponding fee ($2.50 USD for a single ticket) and board the train heading to Airport station (westbound trains). The trip takes about 30 minutes from Tower City, and trains leave every 15 minutes. Upon arrival at Airport station, it is only a matter of getting off the trains and walking up to the upper levels, where the airport is located at.

    To reach the city from the airport, users must only reach the station. It is located at the lower floors, beneath the baggage claim level. Mechanical stairs and elevators are readily available. Once the fare is paid for, one must wait at the quays and take any train, as they will only go towards the city from this station.

    Sightseeing and tourist attractions

    Located very close to the Red Line’s Little Italy – University Circle station, is the impressive Cleveland Museum of Art. It is one of the most important museums in the country. It has a large array of collections distributed in 16 different departments, ranging from Native American art, Chinese and Korean expositions, Islamic art, medieval pottery and woodwork, to photography and sculptures. It is a must-see within the city, with famous paintings from Goya, Van Gogh and Modigliani. If that were not enough, it also offers a stunning architecture, a mix between the minimalist and avant-garde movements.

    On another hand, the famous Jack Cleveland Casino is located in front of the Tower City station, the main transport hub for all three lines in the system (Red, Green and Blue). The casino is very well known for being a lively place dedicated to entertainment. It is open 24 hours a day and offers gambling, live concerts and shows, among many other things.

Metro map of Cleveland

Metro map of Cleveland Full resolution
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Cleveland Rapid Transit map

  • Also Known As: Rapid Transit
  • Passengers/Day 13700
  • Fares:
  • 24h operation: No
  • Air Conditioning: No
  • Walk between platforms: No
  • Driverless trains: No
  • Screen Doors Platforms: No
  • Operator: Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
  • Airport–Windermere Line
  • Cleveland Metro Official Website
  • Tlf: +1 216 566 5100

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