GCRTA Advancing Railcar Replacement, Civilian Oversight Programs

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Photograph Courtesy of GCRTA)

(Photograph Courtesy of GCRTA)

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) is one step closer to fully funding its Railcar Replacement Program with an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) grant and to forming a civilian oversight committee.

ODOT recently awarded GCRTA $8 million under the Ohio Transit Partnership Program, the agency reported Aug. 24. This is the third consecutive year GCRTA has received the award, bringing its total ODOT funding for the Railcar Replacement Program to $21.4 million. GCRTA, which operates a 33-mile rail network, has now raised $197.5 million of the $300 million Railcar Replacement Program budget, according to Deputy General Manager Engineering and Project Management Mike Schipper. That budget also includes awards and commitments from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Federal Formula Funding, and USDOT BUILD, as well as the self-funded Rolling Stock Replacement Fund.

“Our railcars are some of the oldest in the country. They have far exceeded their 30 year lifespan,” Schipper said during an Aug. 23 GCRTA Board of Trustees meeting, reported ABC News 5 Cleveland. “Even as we are in the process of procuring the railcars, the new cars are still going to be 3-4 years from now.” Schipper explained that the state funding “is vital in getting the GCRTA in a position to begin entering into contracts and having production on the new railcars begin,” according to the News 5 report. According to GCRTA, there is funding in place for an initial order of 24 railcars, with options for 36 additional cars. 

ODOT also awarded a $3.5 million Urban Transit Program grant to GCRTA, which will be used to replace six 40-foot diesel buses with six 40-foot Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-powered buses.

Meanwhile, the Board of Trustees on Aug. 23 also voted unanimously “on a resolution that would create a seven-member civilian oversight committee to review and investigate public complaints against transit police department employees,” reported News 5. “The resolution, which had the full support of GCRTA Police Chief Deirdre Jones, aims to enhance transparency and accountability, officials said.”

The Board of Trustees would screen and select the committee members, who would be “representative of the diverse communities in Cuyahoga County,” with at least one being a retired police officer, according to News 5, which noted the committee “would have the power to receive, investigate and make recommendations to Jones as to how the complaint should be resolved.”

“What’s important is that we rebuild the trust that the community has lost in our police departments,” the News 5 report quoted Jones as saying. “In the wake of George Floyd and other incidents of police brutality, it’s important that we remain a strong ally and partner with the community.”

GCRTA Chief Operating Officer Dr. Floun’say Caver said at the meeting that “[c]ommunities, in particular communities of color, have oftentimes wanted to make sure that they could have transparency infused in their interactions with the police department. The police department has done a terrific job but this is a good governance item. We have not had a major issue but this item allows us to have those institutional aspects so that if an issue were to occur, we have a mechanism for the community to be involved in how we resolve those issues.”

In related developments, GCRTA in June joined the American Public Transportation Association’s Racial Equity Commitment Pilot Program.

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