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RTA Board Elects Rev. Charles Lucas As President

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees elected Rev. Charles Lucas as its new president Tuesday.

The vote comes after former President Dennis Clough said he would not seek reappointment to the board last year. Clough had held the position since 2018, and had served on the board since 1999.

Lucas was appointed to the board in 2016, following in the footsteps of his father, who was the first African American to be appointed to the agency’s board in 1968.

“I’m hopeful that my father is able to step out onto the balcony of heaven today and look down and see his son elected president of the board of RTA,” Lucas said.

Lucas, a wheelchair user, regularly takes RTA’s paratransit services, he said, and values the agency’s commitment to riders’ needs.

“And then, to be able to come on this board and to be able to become a new drum major for paratransit, has been such a joy,” Lucas said.

Lucas was the only nominee for the position and was unanimously approved. Board member Karen Moss will serve as vice president.

Tuesday also marked the final day of Cleveland mayoral candidate Justin Bibb’s term as a member of the RTA board. In a farewell video, Bibb said he plans to continue working with RTA to improve transportation services in the City of Cleveland.

“We have a lot more work to do,” Bibb said. “And I’m willing to work with you as a private citizen now to make sure that we truly have an equitable transit system that serves our residents.”

During the regularly scheduled meeting, RTA also provided an update services and budgets. The pandemic continues to impact ridership, which is down by about 58 percent compared to March of last year.

The current ridership numbers are in line with what the agency has seen during the pandemic, said Deputy Manager of Finance Raj Gautam. Sales tax revenue is consistent through December, Gautam said, but the agency doesn’t have data for 2021 yet.

“There is a three-month lag in the economic activity and when we actually collect the sales tax,” Gautam said. “So when we see March collections, they really relate back to transactions that transpired in December 2020.”

The agency has received federal and state funding to help balance out the loss of ridership and said that money will help cover losses through 2023.

An initiative to provide free transportation to vaccination centers for residents has seen positive response from the community, RTA officials said, including providing more than 800 rides to the Wolstein Center for COVID-19 vaccinations so far.

The agency on Tuesday also announced a new pilot program to help Cleveland residents get to jobs in outlying suburbs. The $200,000 program is set to launch in the fall and run for six months to a year.

RTA will partner with local agencies to provide operators and vehicles and will handle route planning, marketing and promotions, Birdsong said.

Public transportation can’t get everyone all the way to their destination with RTA’s current model, General Manager and CEO India Birdsong said. The pilot program will focus on the “last mile,” she said, and provide options to get from RTA facilities to a job site.

“We definitely are excited that this is a solution, a step in the right path to getting to the end goal for the mobility,” Birdsong said.

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