Downtown & West Shore trolleys: Linking our great destinations
Improving downtown access
In recent years, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) explored the potential for new rail service, such as a Red Line rail extension to the south into Berea, and a Blue Line extension east into the Chagrin Highlands.
For several years, RTA has considered a plan to extend its Waterfront Line south from the Muni lot, down E. 17th Street and to the E. 34th Street Red Line stationcreating a downtown distribution loop for the Green/Blue/Waterfront lines.
But there might be a bolder and more exciting downtown rail alignment to consider.
Rather than distribute transit passengers through the sparsely developed E. 17th corridor, why not link a Waterfront Line extension from its current stop at E. 9th Street and the Shoreway to one of downtown Cleveland's most densely populated employment centersthe E. 9th Street corridor?
To help everyone visualize this concept, we created the top map (at right, click on it to enlarge) which shows the density of major employers downtown. The black stars show the location of employers with more than 100 workers. The dashed blue line is the quarter-mile station buffer (a 5-minute walk from a transit stop), and the outer boundary line is the half-mile buffer (10-minute walk).
As you can see, a short walk from E. 9th stops would reach a higher concentration of the largest downtown employersfar more than an E. 17th alignment. Maps of total jobs within a quarter mile are even more compelling. And, of course, an E. 9th transit line would give front door service to Jacobs Field while connecting it to North Coast Harbor's entertainment district.
Consider the possibilities of running rail down the center of E. 9th Street and maintaining one lane of traffic in each direction for local access. In contrast to the automobile-dominated street of today, the resulting experience would be a pedestrian-friendly boulevard that offers better service downtown and a connection to the lake. It would be extremely attractive for both daily commuters and special events visitors.
Distributing transit riders along E. 9th Street becomes especially attractive if it provides one-seat service to both the east and west sides of the county. To accomplish this, our leaders should consider developing a West Shore trolley that serves western Cleveland and Lakewood Greater Cleveland's most densely populated and transit-friendly communities.
On the second map (at right, click to enlarge), the red line and red dots indicate the existing RTA Red Line Rapid. The blue line and dots indicate the proposed West Shore Trolley line and stops.
The upcoming Innerbelt reconstruction and proposal to 'boulevard' the West Shoreway has raised concerns from residents about accessibility to downtown. But for relatively low cost, RTA could lease diesel rail cars and run them on the existing, lightly used freight tracks that run on the bluff over Edgewater Park, and through the neighborhoods between Detroit Avenue and Clifton Boulevard through Lakewood.
The West Shore trolley could first run as a demonstration project between the Westlake Park & Ride and the downtown Muni lot. It would provide a valuable commuting choice during road construction, whether the East 9th trolley service were ready yet or not.
But combining the West Shore and E. 9th trolley conceptsand linking them to the East side rail lineswould create powerful synergies. Imagine residents of Westlake, Lakewood and Rocky River boarding a train near their homes and stepping off at Jacobs Field. Or a resident of Shaker Square enjoying a one-seat trip to her finance job at E. 9th and Superior. Transit would immediately become more competitive as an alternative to driving downtown.
Local rail advocate shares alternative route
Ken Prendergast, of the Ohio Association of Railroad Passengers, shared his alternative vision for the West Shore Trolley which runs alongside the proposed West Shore Boulevard, heads south from the shore on W. 25th, over the Detroit-Superior Bridge's lower deck, and onto lightly traveled Frankfort/Rockwell Road to connect with the proposed downtown trolley.
While access and right of way issues arise in both cases, EcoCity sees great potential in tapping into the West Shoreway boulevard project which would provide better transit service and connectivity for Cleveland's Near West neighborhoods, Lakewood and Rocky River commuters.
In early 2004, ODOT approved $49.8 million to redesign the West Shoreway as a boulevard, including a bike path. Citizens interested in multiple modes of transit serving these dense areas of population can members of the city's lakefront planning committee and express support for a West Shore Trolley.
If you would like to comment on the West Shore Trolley concept, send a to EcoCity's Ryan McKenzie.