The U-route

U-shaped Route Neighborhoods

The U-route Will:

  • Create one of the busiest and most used Modern Streetcar Systems in the United States.
  • Carry between 6-7 million riders per year on the U-Route.
  • Reduce operating costs by up to 54% on both transit corridors
  • Eliminates 568 or 56% of buses from Downtown Cleveland every weekday.
  • Greatly simplifies Transit in downtown, and the City of Cleveland as a whole.
  • Creates opportunities for improved transit service in Cleveland neighborhoods .

The U-route represents a streetcar network that would consist of two corridors one a western corridor on Pearl/west 25th street from downtown to State Road in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood,  and an eastern Corridor Broadway Ave. From downtown to  Harvard Rd. in Slavic village.  We chose these route because of the density of bus traffic on routes, and the capacity for high capacity premium transit to improve service on these corridors and to free up resources for service improvements on the entire transit system.  These routes aren’t simply about improving service on their corridors but improve service on all the routes that feed into those corridor today allowing the expansion of bus services in Cleveland.

We propose that two streetcar routes could replace the 13 bus routes that use Broadway Avenue and West 25th St./ Pearl Roads in Cleveland to improve service quality, reduce congestion in Ohio City, parts of downtown, and increase transit ridership.  For the region the flexibility of streetcars provide an opportunity for further rail expansion to areas like Beachwood, Lakewood and the Chagrin Highlands at a much lower cost than traditional light rail or heavy Rail. The concept is simple; replacing 7 routes that currently crowd into a single corridor that creates massive congestion, and the operation of up to 34 buses per hour at rush hour, the 13 routes that currently operate on both corridors had 11.2 million boarding’s in 2011.


As the charts above show you can see the ridership of people on these corridors each year. We estimate that their could be up to a 54% reduction in operating costs on those routes, because the highest costs per-mile are the portions in and around downtown Cleveland. We estimate that with the streetcar system GCRTA would save $19 million in operating cost and spend $11 million to operate the streetcar system for a net $8 million in savings. In total there are no other routes in the city where the streetcar could generate a large reduction in operating costs for transit. With these savings GCRTA would be able to enhance service, expand the transit network or use the surplus to reduce fares.

downtonw with streetcar

In addition  to the operational Savings our plan would Reduce the number of Local RTA buses in downtown Cleveland by 56%, or 568 buses would be replaced by 180 streetcars per day. This reducion would benefit everyone in downtown by reducing the sometimes Chaotic impact of these vehicles on downtown Cleveland replacing the map below with a simple streetcar loop with existing buses traffic would continue to use Superior Ave as they do today.

Current RTA Map of Downtown Cleveland

downtonw without streetcar

Our Proposed Streetcar Loop


We propose the system to be built in five phases of Construction, with each Phase building upon each previous Phase.

Phase 1: Market Square to Cleveland State University

Phase I-OC to STJTC

Phase 2: Cleveland State University to Cuyahoga Community College Metro Campus

Phase II-STJTC to TRi-c

Phase 3: Downtown Loop

Phase 3- loop

Phase 4: Pearl Streetcar: Market Square to Old Brooklyn

Phase IV-pearl

Phase 5: Broadway Streetcar: Tri-C Metro Campus to Harvard Ave.

phase V- broadway

Estimated cost for segments:

$479.7 million

Route Segment Phase 1: Market Square to CSU Phase 2: STJ to Tri-C Phase 3: Downtown Loop Phase 4: Market Square to Old brooklyn Phase 5: Tri-C to Harvard Ave. Totals
Track miles 5.34 1.93 5.18 6.58 7.64 26.67
 Total Construction Costs   $ 115,269,850  $37,308,732  $ 90,134,139  $110,542,137  $ 126,425,044  $ 479,679,901

Full cost breakdown in FTA Standardized Cost Category (SCC) format

View it here

8 thoughts on “The U-route

  1. Drew

    Any expressed interest in this idea from City or County officials? What are your next steps and thoughts for generating further traction with decision-makers?

    1. Marvin Ranaldson Post author

      Drew you have asked the Million dollar question, the questions of who is the right person to champion this project? what we want to do is build a constituency for Improved transit and by extension a Streetcar.

      right now the biggest obstical is the public’s apathy towards transit, and GCRTA’s public Oppositon to streetcars.

  2. Kyle

    What about a maintenance yard? I don’t see any plan in here for the daily storage and maintenance on the streetcars. Will a connection be made to the current rail yard near E55th? If so, how? Or will another dedicated maintenance facility be constructed?

    1. Marvin Ranaldson Post author

      that is a good question, I am assuming the vehicle would be serviced at the Central rail facility, via connections at West 25th st and Scranton Ave. and a connection at East 34th st.

    1. Marvin Ranaldson Post author

      We would love to see the Lower level of the briges used for streetcars again. it would allow for faster service to downtown.

  3. Michael

    This seems like a pretty legit idea, but I have a few questions.

    1. I’m still confused about if this will be owned and operated by the RTA or not.
    2. Has there been any success in persuading city officials?
    3. Will this project be payed through taxes or private money?
    4. If the streetcars are successful, will the project be extended to serving most areas of the city of Cleveland like in the 1930’s (Residential, Industrial, Retail), and eventually to the suburbs?
    5. Will modern streetcars be used or historic streetcars?

    Please answer in order 1-5.

    1. Marvin Ranaldson Post author

      Thank you for your Questions

      1. I’m still confused about if this will be owned and operated by the RTA or not.

      We don’t know how who will own or operate this system.
      there are basically 3 ways to operate a system like we are proposing.
      1) Transit agncy owns and operates the system (Tacoma, Wa)
      2) City owns and operates the system, can contract out the operations of the system to a transit agency of private operator (Cincinatti, Oh)
      3) A new corporation (non-profit) is formed to manage the system usually with financial support from other city and other agencies (Portland, OR)

      2. Has there been any success in persuading city officials?
      We have had some positive words from some stakeholders,and local officials, its too early for them to come out strongly for it YET.

      3. Will this project be payed through taxes or private money?

      The funding models is not yet determined.

      Our preferred model is a a federal grant to cover 50% of the capital costs with an additional local funding from NOACA, State and Local sources, with the majority of local support in the form of Tax increment financing (TIF) and Special improvement district (SID) where the increase in property values and economic development can be captured to pay for construction of the line. this is the model being used in Portland and Kansas City. I don’t want to see any new taxes outside of the corridors themselves.

      4. If the streetcars are successful, will the project be extended to serving most areas of the city of Cleveland like in the 1930′s (Residential, Industrial, Retail), and eventually to the suburbs?

      I’d like to see extensions to Lakewood, Parma, Euclid and Garfield Hts, the issue will be how much ridership could those routes generate and how receptive are those communities to helping to fund those extensions?

      5. Will modern streetcars be used or historic streetcars?

      We are proposing %100 Low floor Modern streetcars. they offer greater capacity, flexibility and reliability than historic streetcars. plus they would be ADA compliant, with near-level boarding from a 10 in curb, which if far less disruptive to the community.

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