VIEWS: 10 PAGES: 7 CATEGORY: Engineering & Energy POSTED ON: 6/1/2010
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COVER STORY BACK to BASICS I I had a lot of people question my sanity when I told them I was heading to Cleveland for an upcoming cover story. The fact is that Cleveland could easily be transit’s best kept secret. I’ve been to cities touted for their transit systems and still had to spend hun- dreds of dollars for a taxi just to and from the airport. What most of those naysayers don’t know is that Cleveland is brimming with transit options — bus, rail, sub- way, BRT RTV. That last one you may not recognize. Greater Cleveland Re- gional Transit Authority (GCRTA) CEO Joe Calabrese refuses to call the Euclid Avenue line by the more familiar bus rapid transit name, instead preferring Rapid Transit Vehicles. “I do not call them buses,” Calabrese says. “Buses shouldn’t cost $900,000.” It’s this no-nonsense approach that Calabrese brings to every part of his system. He prefers to be involved in most aspects, including leading the tour of a transit magazine editor per- sonally. This approach fits his transit background perfectly. DIVING IN Emerging from graduate school in 1975, Calabrese faced an uncertain time with skyrocketing oil prices and a call for more public transit invest- by Fred Jandt ment. Presented with opportunities with Mobil Oil or the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (CNYRTA), he saw transit as the fu- Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s CEO ture, but he had no experience. So he Joe Calabrese makes transit work in this blue-collar dove into the deep end. “I knew nothing about public tran- town by focusing on the basics. sit,” Calabrese says. “I said I would love to come and work for you and he wanted me to re- ally head up his labor relations and the training department. But I said 10 April/May 2010 • MassTransit • www.MassTransitmag.com you know I really wanted to learn the industry first. So he gave me six months to learn the industry.” So Calabrese began what is likely the first version of Undercover Boss. “I got enrolled undercover through the bus driver training program for 30 days. I drove for 30 days. I then went into the maintenance department. I worked as a mechanic, as a servicer as a hostler. I worked in the parts room. I Cleveland’s Health Line features what Joe Calabrese calls ‘Rapid Transit Vehicles,’ the first of their kind in worked as a dispatcher. I worked on the the United States. Photo by Steve Bitto. radio. I worked as a station master and a number of things,” Calabrese says. “And then I said OK, now I think I’m “Myself and a friend had
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