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Cleveland Transit Partnership to Address Workers’ Last-Mile Gap

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is partnering with SHARE Mobility on a last-mile transportation solution for two suburban job centers where workers need better connections from transit to their destinations.

Passengers boarding an RTA train at an outdoor station in Cleveland, Ohio.
A Cleveland, Ohio, RTA train.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) is partnering with SHARE Mobility, a ride-hailing and transportation technology platform, and employers in two suburban areas to address the last-mile transit conundrum. The pilot project zeros in on hourly workers in the Solon and Bedford Heights communities, which are about 30 to 45 minutes outside of the city.

“GCRTA’s goal is connecting the community,” said Robert Fleig, a spokesman for GCRTA. “This particular project pilot seeks to address the mobility gap that impacts the ability of workers to get to jobs using public transit.”

Transit providers nationwide have been focusing on closing the gaps that exist between travelers’ final destinations and traditional transit stops. In many areas, on-demand scooters and bikes have filled this role, while others have turned to four-wheeled alternatives, like on-demand shuttles or ride-sharing.

“These are major job hubs where transit doesn’t get to the last mile,” echoed Ryan McManus, CEO of SHARE Mobility, which contracts with fleet providers to provide transportation for workers leaving a bus stop or other transit connection at the appropriate time to get them to jobs in the area. The rides are generally shared, similar to microtransit operations or even ride-hailing. SHARE Mobility’s digital platform is unique in its ability to allow riders to schedule trips well in advance.

“The big innovation that we’re trying to bring into transit, and into mobility, is this concept of scheduling and getting more rides to be booked in advance,” said McManus, adding the concept isn’t unlike paratransit operations. The trips can be scheduled up to six months in advance.

This advanced scheduling component, McManus added, allows for at least 30 percent more efficient operations than the way ride-hailing or even microtransit functions.

“Scheduling allows the high-frequency users of transit, or mobility as a service, to be able to plan ahead,” McManus said. “And then on the operations side there’s huge efficiency gains that allow us to reduce miles traveled, and put more people together in a vehicle.”

These sort of public-private partnerships aim to solve often specific and enduring mobility obstacles, as the industry struggles to achieve the same ridership levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership between Cleveland RTA and SHARE Mobility is aimed at helping hourly workers who may not always have access to transportation or are looking for ways to save on their monthly transportation costs.

“It will pick [workers] up at a stop, transport them to their workplace, and then pick them up, returning them to the GCRTA stop at the end of the shift,” said Fleig. “The route frequency will be based upon employer work schedules in this particular pilot.”

Ridership on the Cleveland RTA system was still down 39.5 percent in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the first quarter of 2020, according to the RTA’s management reports. However, ridership in Q1 2022 was up 16.1 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.

Nationally, transit ridership is now at 75 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to American Public Transportation Association (APTA) statistics.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.