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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Cleveland RTA sets 2001 budget, continues year-old hiring freeze


Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (RTA) board last month approved the agency’s 2001 capital and operating budgets.

RTA anticipates slightly higher revenue projections based on income taxes collected and a 3 percent increase in passenger fares based on modest ridership gains.

Based on those projections, RTA budgeted $160.9 million toward employee salaries and wages — a slight increase over RTA’s 1999 budget due to a new Amalgamated Transportation Union contract that stipulated certain raises.

The budget also stipulates that RTA continue a year-long hiring freeze, which began in response to last year’s increased gas prices, says Jerry Masek, RTA media relations manager.

Certain positions, such as bus and rail operators, and some mechanical positions, are not included in the hiring freeze, which reduced RTA’s work force by 75 positions, about 40 of which already were vacant due to the freeze.

"If we can go two years without filling position ‘A,’ we can do without it," says Masek.

Fifteen full-time employees held positions that were eliminated; twenty other workers held part-time positions. Most of the affected workers were moved to vacant positions.

"That seemed to be a very humane way of doing it," says Masek, adding that of the 75 positions eliminated, only about four people left the agency as of Jan. 1.

Rising fuel costs also led RTA to increase its natural gas budget 50 percent to $1.5 million, and its diesel fuel budget 26 percent to $5.4 million.

RTA earmarked an additional $4.4 million for various cost-reduction measures.

Also last month, RTA’s board approved the purchase of a new bus/rail radio system. Segments of the existing system were purchased in 1975 when RTA was formed; replacement parts no longer are available.

The Com-Net Ericksson-based 900 MHz radio and dispatch system manufactured by Siemens Transportation Systems would cost $16.9 million, of which federal funds would cover 80 percent.

The radio includes global positioning satellite technology, which would enable RTA to more accurately track its on-time performance. It also has a passenger counting system.

Installation is expected to take 12 to 18 months and conclude in mid-2002.

Kathi Kube