Missing from Cleveland’s counsciousness: Public Transportation

After going to Boston for the weekend and planning a class reunion, I was reminded of the stigma of public transportation in Cleveland.

I went to Boston over the weekend for the first time for the MAPACA Conference. The ‘T’, Boston’s public transportation system of subways and buses, was able to get me everywhere (which was the airport, my hotel – walking distance [5 minutes] from a T stop, downtown/Back Bay, Cambridge) I needed to go. I had to make several transfers to do so but there were no additional costs. The price per trip was a reasonable $2.00 (if you had a ‘Charlie Card’, a debit-like card, which in retrospect, probably would have been worth for me to obtain – $1.75) The only disadvantage of the ‘T’ was that nearly all of the subways and buses only operated until 12:30AM or so. One of the days I spent walking around Boston and Cambridge with a friend living in Boston. In our conversation, the ‘T’ was the way to go.
everywhere we went (to Harvard’s campus in Cambridge and later to Back Bay in Boston).
Public transportation is engrained into the minds of many in Boston.

(Granted, this is all ancedotal evidence and it was in the 50s and sunny when I was there – very pleasant weather).

Now, I contrasted this with planning a night out on the town with a larger group of friends [15-20] from school.
A group of 5 of us discussed about getting from point A (meeting at a central location in Old Brooklyn) to Point B (going to East 4th). None of us even mentioned public transportation. The conversation was strictly ‘should we: drive downtown’ or ‘just get cabs’.

Interestingly, after looking at the bus schedule, I realized making this trip would be possible by taking the RTA and walking 2-3 blocks.

The absence of public transportation in some minds in Cleveland has been on my mind and asking why:

A couple hypothesis for this :

– For some middle-class and working-class people that I’ve talked to, The RTA is branded in their consciousnesses as ‘ghetto’ .  If they can monetarily afford not to take the RTA, they will not. The ability to drive instead of using public transportation can also be branded as a status symbol, in that ‘I can afford to have my own car and use it (and the utility that comes along with a car since RTA doesn’t service everywhere, etc.) so I will use it’ .

– [Drawing this from other public transportation, very general]. Some people, especially women, would also feel unsafe riding the RTA.

– In addition to drawing from those two factors just mentioned, they find it more beneficial to drive to a place. Economically, they may find that the cost of owning, maintaining a car, gasoline, and paying for parking is worth more (monetarily and how they value their time and control of choosing when and where to go).

Even if there is a scenario that both the RTA and driving would be options to go to a place, they would drive.

For this to change ? There are no silver bullets but I’ll mention some things that I think would have to change for RTA to enter the public consciousness.

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