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Public Transportation in Cuyahoga County, of which Cleveland is the county seat, is operated by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and consists of comprehensive bus service as well as four different train lines (Note: In Cleveland, the trains are called "Rapids," much like other cities have "L" "T," or "Metro" lines), two bus rapid transit lines (BRT), and four free-to-ride bus trolley lines downtown. Route information and maps can be found at the RTA website, where the home page contains a Google Transit search engine that can be used to find specific travel instructions incorporating the RTA system between a starting point and a destination using specific addresses. Note that the Red Line rail and Health Line bus rapids use a Proof of Payment honor system to facilitate faster rider flow; riders board without having their fare passes or tickets checked. RTA police randomly check for fare tickets and passes and those without them face violation fares or criminal prosecution.
Maps for the RTA can be found online and there is an app available for your smartphone that includes route information as well as mobile fares. Click here to download the RTA app.
The Red Line rapid, a heavy rail train like a subway, runs from the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport through Tower City Center downtown, into the University Circle arts and cultural district with two stations, one serves both Little Italy and University Circle's Uptown District (Little Italy-University Circle Station) and the other (Cedar-University Station) serves the East Campus of CWRU and connects with the free Circle Link shuttle (see discussion below). The Red Line then terminates in East Cleveland at the Louis Stokes-Windermere station with a large, free park-and-ride lot. The airport rail rapid station is conveniently located in the center of the lower level of the terminal (one level below baggage claim). There is a down escalator just opposite baggage carrousel #6, a staircase on the other side (beyond the Welcome Center), as well as an elevator opposite the down escalator that will take you right to the lower level. The rapid station is approximately 30 feet ahead on the left. It is fairly well marked and says "Train to Downtown." There are two ticket machines at the entrance of the station where riders can purchase single and mulit-ride tickets, as well as all-day passes prior to boarding the train.
Tower City/Public Square is Greater Cleveland's transportation hub. The Tower City Station is the only RTA station served by all four of RTA's rail lines. The Healthline bus rapid (see discussion below) can be accessed at Public Square north of Tower City at a station just across the street from the Tower City Public Square exit. Numerous bus lines also service Public Square and Tower City. As discussed below, Tower City, where the Horseshoe Casino is located, also is served by free downtown trolley bus lines. Tower City has an enclosed walkway to Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field.
Public Square just completed a significant redesign, and the bus lanes through the square on Superior Avenue have not yet reopened. There are still temporary bus stops (see links below). Free bus trolleys will continue to stop/idle on Public Square to the right of the Public Square entrance to the Horseshoe Casino, and the Healthline station will remain open directly across the exit from Tower City. See the following links for Public Square bus stops until further notice.
The Blue and Green rapids, light rail train lines, travel between Tower City and Shaker Square. From Shaker Square, they branch off. The Blue Line goes to Van Aken Boulevard and the intersection of Warrensville Road. The Green Line heads down Shaker Boulevard to Green Road near Beachwood. From the Shaker Green Road rapid station, the 94 bus arrives in about 10 minutes at Beachwood Place, part of northern Ohio's leading upscale shopping district that also includes the nearly adjacent Legacy Village. (The 32 bus also services Legacy Village and Beachwood Place from the Red Line University Circle station and runs more frequently than the 94 bus but it also is a 30-minute or more bus ride).
The Waterfront Lineis an extension of the Blue/Green lines and also begins at Tower City. From there, it travels along the east bank of the "Flats" (Cuyahoga River Valley, the eastern half of which currently is under redevelopment) and ends at the South Harbor station in the Lakefront Municipal Parking lot. It has stations at West 3rd St. (Browns Stadium) and North Coast (Great Lakes Science Center and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum) before ending at the Municipal Parking lot. The operating hours of the Waterfront Line are more limited than for the other rail lines, with service beginning later than on other rail lines and ending at about 10:30 p.m.
NOTE: That the Waterfront Line is lightly used, except on football game days. In some cases it may be quicker to walk between Tower City, R&R Hall of Fame, Brown's Stadium and the East Bank of the Flats. Also know that you may have to notify the train operator that you would like the train to stop at your station. Unless there is a passenger waiting at the station, the train may not stop. Most of these stations are completely unmanned, so finding an RTA employee to answer questions can be a challenge, but you can call the RTAnswerline: 216-621-9500, during regular business hours, Monday through Saturday. The Waterfront Line however is of great use in inclement weather or for those with mobility concerns. There also is a significant elevation change between downtown and the East Flats and Lakefront attractions; perhaps consider using the Waterfront Line for return trips if walking uphill is a concern.
Visitors using the Waterfront Line need to switch to the Red Line at Tower City to reach either the West 25th St. rapid station in the Market District to the west or the Little Italy/University Circle station to the east. Switching between different rail lines requires a separate fare purchase, unless the rider is using various passes, such as the all-day pass.
Downtown Cleveland is served by four trolley bus lines, all of which offer free service "with a smile!" Three of these trolley bus lines service Tower City and the adjacent Public Square. The NineTwelve trolley bus line runs along East 9th St. between the Lakefront Municipal Parking Lot and the Quicken Loans Arena parking garage. Trolley stops are marked by distinctive signs and the trolley buses have bells. The idle stop for the free bus trolleys serving Tower City and Public Square is to the left (by the Renaissance Hotel) as you exit Tower City at its Public Square entrance.
The B-Line Trolley serves Cleveland’s major business centers. It’s perfect for quick trips to important meetings in and around the State Office Building, Public Square and Tower City, the Cleveland Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation, Cleveland City Hall, the Federal Office Building (the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is about a 5-minute walk north on East 9th St. from the Federal Office Building). The B-Line operates from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
Like the B-Line, the E-Line operates on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The E-Line (Entertainment district) serves the Horseshoe Casino, Tower City and Public Square, the Warehouse District area and East 4th St. entertainment/dining districts, PlayhouseSquare, and Euclid Avenue out to Cleveland State University on E. 21st St. It also provides easy access to Progressive Field on East 9th St. and to Quicken Loans Arena by way of East 4th St. The E-line also serves the Stephanie Tubbs Jones (bus) Transit Center, which also is Cleveland's Megabus Station (see below).
The NineTwelve Line only operates during commuting hours, but would get a rider closer to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and other lakefront attractions than any other trolley service during weekdays. However, the B-Line's stop at Lakeside and East 9th St. is only a couple blocks from the Rock Hall.
On weekdays from 7-11 p.m., and on weekends from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., the C-Line trolley buses run an extensive 20-minute loop that connects downtown destinations such as the Horseshoe Casino, Tower City and Public Square, East 4th St. and Warehouse District entertainment/dining districts, Progressive Field, PlayhouseSquare and most downtown hotels.
Keep in mind that Cleveland's downtown is very compact and almost all walks between Tower City, hotels and attractions is 15-20 minutes or less, and that downtown generally is safe, especially during daylight hours, so it may be easier and faster to simply walk rather than wait for trolleys, depending upon the distance to be covered.
All trolley stops are marked by green signs listing the trolleys that serve those stops.
The 24/7 Healthline bus rapid transit line runs east and west along Euclid Avenue. The Healthline has dedicated lanes for its large, articulated buses and enclosed shelter stations, often in the street median. Healthline buses are capable of controlling traffic signals, so may not stop at traffic lights. The beginning of the line is at Public Square, where there is a station across the street from the exit of Tower City Center. The East 6th St. station is a very short walk from the East 4th St. entertainment/dining district and also provides a quick route to Quicken Loans Arena by East 4th St., the East 9th St. station is a short distance north of Progressive Field. The Healthline then continues through Playhouse Square, the Cleveland State University campus, the Cleveland Clinic campus, and University Circle and Case Western Reserve University (including University Hospitals), before ending at the Stokes-Windermere rapid rail line station. The Adelbert Station is best for University Circle attractions such as Severance Hall, the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Cornell Road station is closest to the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland and to Little Italy.
Transit Links Between Downtown, the West Side Market District and Ohio City
Cleveland visitors wishing to visit the West Side Market can take the Red Line rail rapid from the Tower City station one stop to the West 25th Red Line station, which is located across Lorain Blvd. from the market building, which is the focal point of the Ohio City neighborhood's market district.
All buses serving the Market District and the rest of Ohio City have two anchor bus stops dubbed the "Ohio City Connector." The downtown anchor stop is located at West 3rd and Superior Ave., just west of Public Square. The Ohio City anchor stop is located in front of the West Side Market on West 25th St. About 200 buses daily offer the ride between downtown and the West Side Market, an average of one every 7-8 minutes but less frequently after 7 p.m. Note that the latest buses returning from the Market District to downtown depart shortly after 11 p.m. The Red Line offers later service into the early morning from its W. 25th St. station, but is a few minutes longer (and more forlorn at night) walk from almost all locations in the Market District than the bus stop in front of the West Side Market.
Note: Megabus continues to operate from the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center. The Megabus stop for all arrivals and departures in Cleveland is located at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center at the intersection of East 22nd St and Prospect Avenue, at 2115 East 22nd Street. The buses will pick up in Lane A at Stop 3. Cars cannot enter the STJ Transit Center, but paid parking is available nearby and free parking for 15 minutes is available on Prospect.
The STJ Transit Center can be accessed from Tower City and other areas downtown by the free E-Line bus trolley (see above free bus trolley discussion) which operates Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Cleveland State LIne bus rapid line also provides direct service between Public Square and the STJ Transit Center from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from about 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays; it doesn't operate on Sundays. Other bus lines also serve the STJ Transit Center. The 24/7 Healthline bus rapid (see above discussion) operates on nearby Euclid Ave.
The Cleveland Greyhound station at E. 14th & Chester is a 15-minute walk from Tower City. During business hours (7 a.m. and 7 p.m.) on weekdays, you could take the free E-line bus trolley down Euclid Ave. to get a couple blocks from the Greyhound station. Evenings and weekends, the C-line free trolley line would get a Greyhound customer even closer to the station. Similarly, the 24/7 Healthline bus rapid would get a rider within a couple blocks of the Greyhound station.
Important Note to Google Maps Users headed to the Cleveland Clinic from the airport or downtown on the Rapid Red Line:
It is not recommend that anyone going the Cleveland Clinic from the west side/downtown use the Red Line for their entire journey; rather, take the Healthline, which is so much more convenient, despite the (very easy) transfer at Tower City from the Rapid to the Healthline. Google Maps' transit feature will often recommend taking the Red Line to the E. 105th/Quincy Station and then walking about .5-.7 mile to the Clinic campus. But unless you are traveling during daylight hours, with a group and are VERY comfortable in a very gritty, urban area, this option is not recommended, as the area just outside the Clinic is not particularly desirable.
Circle Link Bus Route (Case Western Reserve University campus, University Circle institutions & University Hospitals campus)
A variety of free transportation options are run by Case Western Reserve University. Most helpful for visitors is probably the Circle Link, which connects the University Circle area with the RTA Red Line Cedar-University Station. This free shuttle service runs every 23 minutes from 6:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and every 35 minutes from noon to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Holiday hours may vary. Click here for a description of all the shuttle services in this area or click here for a map.
Each trip requires a separate fare; there are no transfers unless the rider is using RTA passes or the 5-trip farecard, as described below. All-day RTA passes are available for the price of $5.50 and $2.75 for seniors (over 65 with a Medicare card) and children aged 6-12 and allow passage on all buses, trolleys and trains to all destinations. So if you plan on taking at least 3 bus or rail trips in a day, the all-day pass is a bargain (and more convenient). Children under age 6 ride free. In either case, a limit of three children per fare-paying adult applies. RTA's fare page is linked here. Exact change is required if paying when boarding the train or bus.
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