AAO responds to recommendation for Blue Line Corridor extension plan

Ken Prendergast photo

For Immediate Release

Jan. 30, 2012

Ken Prendergast
Executive Director
All Aboard Ohio
kenprendergast@allaboardohio.org
(216) 288-4883

On Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, public meetings will be held to update citizens on progress of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) Blue Line Corridor Extension Alternatives Analysis (details at: http://www.riderta.com/nu_notices-community.asp).

After two years of Alternatives Analysis planning and input from the public meetings, the Blue Line Corridor Extension consulting team will present to the GCRTA’s Board of Trustees its recommended Locally Preferred Alternative. A copy of the Blue Line Corridor Extension presentation is available here: http://www.riderta.com/usercontent/file/2012-1-17-BlueLineAnalysis.pdf

If the U.S. Department of Transportation concurs with the GCRTA Board’s recommendation, the project could then proceed into preliminary engineering, then final engineering and ultimately construction, presuming that Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and local funding shares are available at each step.

As Ohio’s only statewide, citizen-based nonprofit organization representing rail and transit consumers, All Aboard Ohio takes great interest in the process and proposed outcomes of project-based planning efforts such as the Blue Line Extension Alternatives Analysis. All Aboard Ohio’s preferences and goals for such endeavors are that they:

•  Are within the capacity of the sponsoring organization(s) and partners to undertake, realize and sustain.
•  Supply long-term transportation choices that offer the potential to stimulate or sustain compact, mixed land uses which offer low-mileage lifestyles that increasing numbers of Ohioans demand.
•  Produce economic development, environmental enhancement and greater access to opportunities and services that inspire stakeholders in other geographic areas to replicate well-designed rail/transit investments for their citizens’ own benefit.

All Aboard Ohio supports the recommended Blue Line Corridor Extension LPA, with minor adjustments as suggested below (in BOLD CAPS), because we believe that components of the LPA will meet our preferences and goals upon service start-up, while other components will reduce barriers and create conditions more favorable to support future expansions of higher-level transit within the funding constraints of GCRTA, FTA and others.

1. The 1,300-foot-long Blue Line route extension to a new Shaker Intermodal Transit Center (ITC) will enable a significant Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) at the intersection of Warrensville Road and Chagrin Boulevard. A fully built-out TOD should provide a significant transit ridership anchor at the current east end of the Blue Line.

SUGGESTION-1: remove the adjoining BP gas station on Chagrin to provide a turning lane for an exit route from the Shaker ITC for eastbound #5 Chagrin buses. Its removal would also create a safer, more pleasant pedestrian-oriented setting as well as avail a new parcel for future, transit-supportive development.

2. University Circle Express (UCX) bus service would provide a transit service which does not now exist – a fast, one-seat ride from the southeast “belt” highways to University Circle. It does not compete with the Blue Line which serves a different purpose and market – rapid transit to downtown. All Aboard Ohio’s continued support of the UCX is contingent upon UCX buses not making any additional scheduled service stops along existing rail lines.

SUGGESTION-2: adding transit buses to Van Aken and other busy residential streets may cause safety and pavement quality concerns. Thus, as part of the branding of the UCX service, buses could be painted in vivid colors to make them more noticeable, such as with bright yellow fronts. Also, Van Aken and other streets could be resurfaced shortly before the start-up of service after which GCRTA may offer financial assistance, if needed, to Shaker Heights to accelerate its resurfacing cycle.

SUGGESTION-3: broaden the UCX’s University Circle distribution/collection area to include the Cleveland Clinic, such as extending the route west on Euclid to the Cleveland Clinic Intermodal Facility at East 93rd Street.

3. Increased rush-hour frequency of Blue/Green Lines rail service from 12 minutes to 10 minutes east of Shaker Square and from 6 minutes to 5 minutes west of Shaker Square is supported by All Aboard Ohio as long as it does not degrade the revenue-to-cost ratio of the Blue and Green Lines.

4. The recommended LPA lays the foundation for future rail transit expansions and improvements within the constraints of GCRTA and FTA funding. The most cost-effective rail extension to the “belt” highways was the Harvard option at nearly $145 million. Construction of one park-n-ride and the Shaker ITC extension are, in total, projected to reduce the capital cost of the Harvard rail option by more than 20 percent.

However, the Chagrin Highlands lacks higher density land-use patterns necessary to support a higher density transportation mode like light-rail. All Aboard Ohio does not believe the provision of a park-n-ride lot will change this as no park-n-ride lot elsewhere in Greater Cleveland has done so either.

SUGGESTION-4: in addition to the limited number of intermediate bus station stops proposed between the Shaker ITC and the southeast end of the UCX routes, add other design elements and enhancements to create a route identity like what exists along the BRT-lite section of the HealthLine east of East 105th such as a different style of light poles, ADA-compliant crosswalks, UCX banners on utility poles, etc.

SUGGESTION-5: using public sector incentives, encourage a transit-supportive development example(s) at an intermediate bus stop (such as at Harvard/Green or near Northfield/Ellacott) to provide a land use paradigm different than the large setbacks prevalent now. Without a different paradigm, the FTA is unlikely to support a light-rail extension out to this extremely low density, pedestrian-unfriendly area.

All Aboard Ohio strongly supports GCRTA’s preferred site for the North Randall park-n-ride, the vacant Syms warehouse property, for the following short- and long-term reasons.

REASON #1: In the short-term, this site works best because it is easily accessible to/from both US422 (via Miles) and I-480 (via Northfield). The UCX bus park-n-ride lot would probably be at the north end of the property, using an existing parking lot.

REASON #2: In the long term, the vacant Syms warehouse could be demolished to expand the park-n-ride into the south end of the property, next to Norfolk Southern’s Randall Secondary between Cleveland and Mantua, now leased by Cleveland Commercial Railroad. This rail line has been rated by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency as one of the region’s most promising for commuter rail.

REASON #3: All Aboard Ohio envisions that someday a rail commuter from Mantua, Aurora or Solon could make a seamless transfer at this station to a UCX express bus to the west end of Chagrin Highlands, the Shaker TOD and/or University Circle. Or a quick reverse commute to one of the industries in Solon or south of Aurora could be made. Such linkages should increase the cost-effectiveness of both transit services.

To see All Aboard Ohio’s full, detailed response to the recommended Blue Line Corridor Extension LPA, see: http://freepdfhosting.com/da27f197ff.pdf

All Aboard Ohio stands ready to assist GCRTA and its project development team in advancing this project to reality. We do so in order to help create a foundation for additional, higher level public transit service in this corridor for citizens to enjoy in the not-too-distant future.

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