Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Strategic Plan

cleveland skyline graphic

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Strategic Plan

Multimodal Plan to Improve Transit Customer Experience for the Largest Metro Area in Ohio

Cleveland is the anchor of the largest metropolitan economy in Ohio, and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is the backbone of the region’s transportation system. With approximately 40 million rides annually prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, RTA is a critical link for residents and a significant economic driver for the region. However, RTA is facing several challenges, many of which are common among transit agencies in the U.S.: decreasing ridership in line with national trends; limited and reduced funding; aging infrastructure; and emerging technology and mobility disruptions.

Through a partnership with the city, county and other key stakeholders, HDR developed a strategic 10-year plan, informed by the input of thousands of community members and successfully adopted by RTA’s board of trustees in October 2020. The plan’s need for innovation and inclusivity was underscored by the 2020 disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn and calls to action for social justice. In the face of these changes, our team quickly pivoted to recognize these disruptions and incorporate that perspective throughout the strategic plan. Technological innovations were also a key focus of the plan, which addresses connected and automated vehicles, smart infrastructure and continuing workforce development.

Focus on Transit Customers

Known as the Framework for the Future, the strategic plan provides a guide for enhancing the customer experience and pursuing capital improvements over the next decade, with a focus on emerging technologies, mobility disruptions and strong public engagement.

The plan highlights vision, goals, existing conditions, strategy identification and recommendations. With a geographic focus on priority corridors in transit-oriented urban areas as well as job hubs across the region, the strategic plan points to seven key initiatives:

  • Improve where and when buses travel
  • Improve how streets function
  • Improve how customers pay
  • Improve passenger safety and comfort
  • Engage with emerging technology, data and new mobility
  • Address funding challenges
  • Build partnerships to support vibrant communities and access to job centers
greater cleveland rta train

Built on Collaboration, Data and Public Input

The strategic plan includes work for more than two dozen HDR employees from multiple specialties, including experts in autonomous and connected vehicles, transit, micromobility, transportation planning, strategic communications and geographic information systems. The 18-month effort of building the strategic plan included multiple studies and technical analyses to ensure plans relied on the best information available. In addition, a robust community engagement effort included public meetings, interactive surveys, a project website, social media and more, ultimately creating more than 9,000 touchpoints for public input.

The resulting plan identifies 64 action items that range from short-term efforts that can be completed in the next year to long-term goals that may take seven or more years to complete. A key part of the plan was determining how the RTA’s role may change in the coming years as disruptors such as ride-hailing services affect ridership and technology matures that can aid transit efforts. Our team incorporated the idea of future-proofing into the strategic planning process to address a range of possibilities, addressing possible impacts within the identified action items.

The process took place during a time of transition for the agency. A new CEO came on board a few months into the process. Through close internal agency outreach and broad community engagement, new topics such as mobility disruptions and emerging technologies were highlighted. It also was about to wrap up when the COVID-19 disruption occurred. We were able to assess COVID-19 impacts on the client’s operations while maintaining seamless virtual stakeholder engagement to wrap up the plan.

cleveland skyline graphic
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

Cleveland, OH
United States