Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority HealthLine
For years the city of Cleveland debated how to best connect two major employment areas along Euclid Avenue. In the late 1990s, the term bus rapid transit began gaining familiarity and understanding. All it took was a trade mission trip to Curibta, Brazil, by former Ohio governor George Voinovich. After seeing the BRT system in Curibta he "called back to his colleagues in Northeast Ohio and said this might be the solution for Euclid Avenue. That was the genesis of the project," says Joseph Calabrese, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority CEO.
GCRT went through the Federal New Starts process to obtain funding and the full funding grant was signed in 2004 and construction started shortly there after. "The system was opened in October 2008 on time and on budget," Calabrese says.
The total project is 9.4 miles on three different streets. The main BRT corridor on Euclide Avenue, Cleveland's "Main Street," is about 7.5 miles. There are 64 stations along the corridor and 21 rapid transit vehicles, which GCRT refers to as RTVs, were purchased for the project. "The goal was to reduce travel time from what was 48 minutes on the No. 6 bus line to what we modeled as 28 minutes on the BRT system," Calabrese says. "One of our goals was to increase ridership. The civic goal, the community goal and the business goal was to encourage economic development and investment along the corridor. Last we stopped counting, investments have totaled more than $4 billion since we broke ground. Ridership is up more than 50 percent."
Ridership is far exceeding estimates and Calabrese says that the whole project has exceeded all expectations – ridership, economic development, effect on community, etc.
Through the majority of the Euclid Avenue Corridor the HealthLine runs on exclusive transit lanes in the median. "We designed the system as one would design a light rail system, with possibly the only exception being the vehicles are being run on rubber tires instead of the rail," Calabrese says.
The stations, again in the median, are either center platform stations boarding the vehicle on the left side or side platform stations still in the median boarding passengers on the right side of the vehicle. The vehicle is 63-ft. long, has doors on both sides, three doors on the right and two doors on the left.
"Even the vehicle was designed like a rail car would be in terms of the door configuration. We engineered into the system level platforms and precision docking, so like a rail system the vehicles pull into the station so it's a quick on and off, no steps at all, minimal gaps," explains Calabrese. It has "all the technology that the most modern light rail system would have, including real time information, traffic signal authorization and off board fare collection."
The speed limit on the exclusive BRT lane is 35 mph, compared to the legal speed limit on the adjacent auto lanes which is 25 mph. The HealthLine has reduced the number of stops from roughly 100 to 64. "So it stops less, and when it stops, it's for a shorter duration because of the technology we built into the level platforms and precision docking, and things such as that," Calabrese says.
The HealthLine uses a signal priority system that is GPS based, as is the real-time information. A precision docking system was built into the vehicle, which Calabrese describes as a combination of mechanical and electronic, a radar-like detection system that advices the operators how close to the curb they are as they're pulling in.
As one of the earlier adopters of BRT, GCRTA worked with New Flyer to develop the hybrid electric compulsion vehicle. "It's a very rail-like loading feature, right down to the same horn or the same bell as our light rail vehicles," Calabrese says.