A $185 million intermodal transportation center with the acronym ARTIC will unite bus and rail passengers for the first time Dec. 6 in this city of 341,000. No, it’s not Cleveland. It’s Anaheim, California. But it shows the excellence that can be achieved when multiple stakeholders with competing needs are brought together under the leadership of local and regional officials.
The similarities between Anaheim and Cleveland aren’t exact, but they aren’t as far apart as their 2,500-mile distance would first seem to indicate. Consider:
——————————- ANAHEIM CLEVELAND
City population: 341,0000 390,000
County population: 3.1 million 1.3 million
Visitors per year: 40 million 14 million
If the investment in the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center is scaled, a reasonable investment in a North Coast Transportation Center for Cleveland would be about $77 million based each county’s population, or $64 million based on each city’s annual visitors. Orange County is accessed by other significant transportation centers, the largest of which is the classically designed Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center. Cuyahoga County, which is seated in Cleveland, has other transportation centers too.
For now, no facility in Cleveland unites under one roof these services that operate into downtown: Akron Metro RTA, Amtrak, Greater Cleveland RTA, Greyhound, Laketran, Megabus, Portage Area RTA (Kent), and Stark Area RTA (Canton). Many Clevelanders do not know all of these services exists, which have multiple arrival and departures per day at different, uncoordinated locations downtown — let alone where all of those boarding locations are.
“All of these services stop at different sites downtown without a common point of transfer, let alone in a well-marked, climate-protected setting,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “If they were all routed via a downtown Cleveland intermodal hub, up to 1 million boardings per year would occur at that location based on their existing Cleveland boardings. That’s more than what occurs at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport. That’s enough to support spin-off retail, restaurants, rental car counters, car sharing and bike sharing services at the center. This would be like having an airport in downtown Cleveland.”
The existing downtown transit routes for Akron Metro, GCRTA, Laketran, PARTA, and SARTA would remain largely unchanged. Their downtown routes could add an identifiable curbside stop at an intermodal station.
Citing his experience from developing the Walsh Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse, NY, GCRTA CEO Joe Calabrese noted that boardings on all transportation modes grew 20 percent after the center opened in 1999. Cleveland’s 1 million boardings figure is based on the existing usage of transportation modes into downtown Cleveland and doesn’t reflect the likely increase in usage that would come from having a more convenient, attractive, simplified and identifiable place to connect between multiple modes of transportation.
“We are thankful that officials from the City of Cleveland, Amtrak, GCRTA, Greyhound and others have started joint discussions about an intermodal station,” Prendergast added. “It’s the only way an intermodal station can be achieved — by having all stakeholders work together. But funding remains a key unanswered question and that requires political leadership.”
Several transportation services have their own needs. Greyhound and the City of Cleveland are discussing a land swap to get Greyhound out of its Chester Avenue location to enable future real estate development near Playhouse Square and Cleveland State University. Amtrak is discussing with Cleveland the need to make improvements to its lakefront station to comply with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements.
However, Amtrak cannot relocate its station away from the lakefront tracks between West 3rd and East 9th streets because of the layout of specific tracks used by Amtrak and freight trains. Fortunately, all of the land between the tracks and the Shoreway highway is owned by the city, making a land swap with Greyhound possible here too — if there was the political will to find the money for an intermodal station befitting a city the size of Greater Cleveland.