More transportation choices
Do you live in a location that's not well served by transit, so you're stuck behind the wheel to get to work, day in and day out? Joining the commuter herd gets old fast. But there's a solution out there for Northeast Ohioans: RIDESHARE! is a free 14-county ride-matching service to help commuters establish car-pools.
RIDESHARE! is coordinated by Greater Cleveland's regional transportation and environmental planning agency, NOACA (the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency). NOACA maintains a list of motorists who are seeking partners to share their ride to work. By sharing the driving and costs, car-poolers can save hundreds of dollars on gas, parking and other commuting expenses, as well as reduce highway congestion. They also have good company on the way to work.
NOACA coordinates a van-pooling program, too. Van-pools consist of seven to 15 commuters who share the cost of leasing and maintaining a van, plus parking and gasoline. One member of the group volunteers to drive the van and gets to ride free, while having unlimited use of the van on evenings and weekends. The Greater Cleveland area currently has seven van-pools operating.
One thing that discourages many people from considering car- or van-pool is the worry that they might get stuck at work without a car in an emergency. That's no problem with the RIDESHARE! program because commuters who participate in a car-pool or van-pool at least three times a week are eligible for the Guaranteed Ride Home program. The program covers 80 percent of the cost of a taxi ride home (up to a $60 maximum).
Contact NOACA to see if the car-pool or van-pool program meets your commuting needs. Or encourage your employer to call NOACA to arrange a presentation on car-pooling and van-pooling at your workplace.
Sometimes, despite all the car-free choices in Greater Cleveland, you need access to a car. Either you're going to places not well served by transit and too far away to bike, you're running a dozen errands to widespread locations, or you'll be coming home with lots of groceries and shopping treasures. If taking a taxi doesn't work well for you in those circumstances, you can always rent a car.
There are many car rental companies in the Greater Cleveland area, from the widely known national chains to small, locally owned companies with just a few cars. Car leasing and sales dealerships will also sometimes rent cars.
When renting a car, it's important to keep in mind a few questions about the rental company's policies.
How old do you have to be to rent a car? Many car rental companies will rent to people 21 years old and up, but some require the driver to be 25 years old. Of course, you will be asked to show your driver's license when renting a car.
What kind of insurance is required? What kind of insurance can be purchased through the car rental agency? Inquire about collision and/or damage insurance provided by the car rental company. Sometimes it's included in your rental fee, and sometimes it's not. If you already have auto insurance, ask your insurance agent how much coverage you will have in the event of an accident while using a rented car. Remember that when you rent, you'll be driving an unfamiliar car and often in unfamiliar areas. Accidents do happen.
Do you need a major credit card? Many car rental companies require an imprint of a major credit card (MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover, etc.) to rent a car. Some may permit a cash deposit.
How does the company charge renters for use of the car? Agencies can offer unlimited mileage, flat fees, a charge per mile, by the day, the week, or a combination of these options.
Are you expected to fill the gas tank before you return the car? Agencies often charge high prices for gallons of gas that you use but do not replaceread the fine print!
Also, you should always check the condition of the car before you leave the agency's parking lot with a rental. You may be charged for existing scratches and dents if you do not mention them to the rental agent before you drive away.
The best listing of car rentals is in the phone book's Yellow Pages, under "AutomobileRental and Leasing." The greatest concentration of these agencies are located at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and you can get to them easily by taking RTA's Red Line train to the airport and then hopping into the car rental agency shuttle bus.
Agencies located downtown or in some of the centrally located neighborhoods and suburbs are also usually accessible by transit. If you decide to rent from a place that isn't easy to get to, ask if the car can be dropped off at your residence or place of work. But be aware that this might involve an extra fee.
Need to get somewhere fast, at a late-night hour, from one area not well served by transit to another area not well served by transit, or with a group of people? Sometimes renting a car by the milethat is, taking a taxicabis your best choice. Cleveland isn't a taxicab city the way New York is, but there are several major taxicab services in the Greater Cleveland area, and arranging a ride is pretty straightforward.
All taxi companies charge a base fare, and then a set cost per 1/4 mile. Most taxi drivers lease their cars and are permitted to strike a deal for longer trips, off the meter. But you'll need to negotiate any off-the-meter trips with the driver, so you should only do so if you already have a good idea what the cost might be. Drivers of the larger mini-vans and full-sized vans also will deal with a full car of customers at one flat fee for short rides.
Taxis can be reserved by calling at the time you need transportation or up to a day or two ahead of time for specific trips (such as a ride to the airport). Call the dispatcher for details, and be sure to let them know if you need to be somewhere at a specific time (say, to catch a Greyhound bus). When you're on a set schedule, always give yourself plenty of time when calling for a taxi (at least couple of hours), especially if your trip does not originate from downtown Cleveland.
Taxis can also be flagged down on the street. But apart from downtown Cleveland, there are not a lot of empty cabs on the road, so don't rely on luck to find one when you need it. Look for recognized taxi stands at Hopkins Airport, in downtown Cleveland at all hotels, in the Flats, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, and at Jacobs Fields/Gund Arena. Not all taxis are available 24 hours a day, so call for individual details. See the box on the previous page for a list of the major companies. Please note that some of the companies only provide service to limited areas of the region.
Excellent water transportation is why Cleveland grew where it is. Commerce and industry demand speedy connections between the places where people make things and the places where people need them. In the nineteenth century, that meant water connections, and Moses Cleaveland (who founded the city in 1796) recognized the potential of this place situated along the shore of Lake Erie and at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. The city grew slowly during the first few decades of its existence, but once the Ohio & Erie Canal was completed, linking the industry of Cleveland to the Ohio River and thus the Mississippi, things took off at a dizzying pace in the mid-1800's.
The canal's heyday only lasted a few decades, however. Once railroads were built and later when car and truck transportation became cheap and convenient, the need for transportation by river, lake and canal declined. Unless you were shipping iron ore, coal or steel, you could find simpler and more direct routes overland.
Today, Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River are still served by commercial freighters, but water travel for most residents is strictly recreational. During the summer months, there are tourist and sightseeing trips of the lake and the river on the Goodtime III (located at North Coast Harbor next to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) and other commercial boats.
Also during the summer months, there is a convenient way of getting across the Cuyahoga River when you're in the Flats entertainment district. The Holy Moses Water Taxi ferries partiers and street roamers between the East and West Banks in the heart of the restaurant and bar district for $2 each way. The trip does not offer many thrills or chills, but it's an effective way to get from bar to bar without walking around to the nearest bridge at Center Street (but don't discount that optionit's a fascinating walk if you have the few minutes you need to make the trip on foot).
No, the title of this section isn't a joke. Walking is as much of a transportation option as buses, bikes and taxis. Certainly, you're not going to travel from Cleveland Heights to Lakewood on foot. But if you're living and/or working in Cleveland Heights or Lakewood, walking can be an excellent way of getting yourself from point A to point B.
Mostly, walking is just a good way to get around if you value the joy of being in a place more than the ability to get away from it as quickly as possible. Where streets are safe, speed limits are low, buildings come up to well-maintained sidewalks (instead of being hidden behind a sea of parking), where trees and greenery provide shade and scenery, where there is a good mix of residential and commercial uses, and pedestrians can see and be seen, walking is simply one of the great pleasures of life.
Fortunately, it's easy to be a pedestrian in Northeast Ohio because Cleveland, Akron and their older suburbs are "pedestrian-friendly" in many places, especially in the downtown areas and town squares. You can bet that in a city or village with a long history, walking is a good transportation option. Having been built at a time when few people owned cars, they were designed to a human scale that makes walking convenient and enjoyable.
Weather is an issue when you're on foot, and you want to have the right clothing to make walking comfortable. Make sure you have an umbrella if it's raining, a warm jacket, gloves, and boots if it's cold, and maybe even a cool drink if it's hot.
In downtown Cleveland, there are even places where you don't have to brave the elements to get from place to place on foot. Many passages cut through building lobbies, walkways and parking structures where pedestrians can escape the cold, rain, snow, or just enjoy a change of scenery. Some of the most popular shortcuts include the Euclid Arcade, the Old Arcade, and the Colonial Arcade, all of which cut through the middle of city blocks and connect major thoroughfares.