want better service from RTA
By Jeff Gallatin
Published Dec. 14, 2005
tells RTA officials that riders expect good service. (Photo
by Larry Bennet)
riders want the Regional Transit Authority to get out of reverse
and move forward in providing better service to area residents.
50 citizens sent that message Dec. 8 to a group of RTA officials
led by General Manager Joe Calabrese at a public meeting at North
Olmsted City Hall. City officials set up the meeting with RTA officials
after many residents complained about different aspects of the bus
service having gotten worse since this spring when RTA took over
services previously provided by the North Olmsted Municipal Bus
A variety of public and private citizens spoke at the meeting with
many of the complaints fielded by the RTA officials centering on
buses being late, with some not showing at all. Others spoke about
some drivers -- including many substitute drivers -- not knowing
where to go on different routes through the area. Some spoke about
how many of the buses are dirty. Some speakers also expressed concern
about safety issues for riders and drivers on buses. Several former
NOMBL drivers also spoke, saying some of the training is inadequate
for new drivers handling some of the former city bus line's routes.
Calabrese acknowledged there have been some problems, but indicated
RTA has already taken some steps to deal with them while also saying
the improvements will continue.
"We will get better," Calabrese said. He also said the system will
follow through on getting additional parking for Park-N-Ride commuters
from North Olmsted until the Great Northern Lot addition is completed.
Doug Sebring, assistant superintendent for the North Olmsted City
Schools, said when he checked with officials at the city schools
served by RTA, the timeliness of the buses seemed to be the major
problem. He said the administrators and parents have concerns about
the pickup of the students at the bus stops and about students being
left out late or not being able to find rides if a bus did not show.
Some residents also expressed concern about the students and other
riders being left out in the cold during winter months
School board member John Lasko said the RTA drivers and staff have
to be aware that they are transporting children.
"These may be high school students, but they are still children
and they are vitally important to us," Lasko said.
North Olmsted resident Al Phillips said he has been on buses for
many years and along with other speakers noted that NOMBL had provided
a high level of service to North Olmsted and the rest of the Westshore
communities that bus line served. He said because of that, the riders
are expecting RTA drivers and staff to provide comparable service.
Some of the speakers said the regular drivers are good, but noted
that problems come about with some of the substitute drivers.
"Our regular driver is great, but when he's out after Thursday we
have problems," one woman said.
Some former NOMBL drivers now working RTA routes said there are
some training and other issues on the buses.
One said that the training hadn't been enough for them when they
had to go to new routes when RTA drivers with more seniority took
the North Olmsted and Triskett bus garage routes. Both a driver
and a resident cited some problems with maps provided to the drivers.
The resident said a driver who didn't know where to go showed the
resident his map when the resident tried to tell the driver where
to drive to be on the proper route. Others indicated that some of
the drivers feared repercussions if they deviated from the map routes.
One of the former NOMBL drivers also said that the scheduled times
on the routes might cause some of the problems. He said sometimes
drivers might have to either drive faster or slower to try and stay
on the posted schedule. He said the times also don't always allow
for the driver to be able to go to the bathroom.
Calabrese said RTA has provided training for new drivers on routes
and will continue to do so, including having some former NOMBL drivers
go with the new drivers to show them the right way. He also said
the all the drivers' maps are supposed to have been corrected but
said they would check into that.
Another woman asked why RTA could not have phased in new drivers
on the former NOMBL routes gradually over one or two years instead
of after just a few months. Calabrese explained that because of
the contract with the driver's union, RTA waited as long as it could
before allowing the NOMBL routes to go to other drivers. He said
the union actually showed some flexibility in waiting as long as
it did on the route changes.
North Olmsted resident Cindy McGinty, who has communicated regularly
with Calabrese, indicated the various problems are frustrating to
longtime bus riders.
One of the frustrations voiced by citizens and drivers were buses
which had urine and trash left on them, causing unhealthy conditions
for passengers and drivers. Others spoke about unruly school children
on bus routes, with one woman noting she had sustained a black eye
and bruises when pelted by snowballs while another complained of
having soda poured on her.
Paul Barker, Ward 2 councilman in North Olmsted, noted that many
citizens are like his wife, who relied on the bus system for years
to get to work.
"I could count on one hand the number of times I worried about her
because she was late getting home when NOMBL had the routes," he
said. "People expect to get to and from work in a timely fashion."
Other people complained of sending e-mails to RTA and not getting
a response. Calabrese said officials do try to respond, including
himself, but said he would have the system checked.