My Cleveland obnoxiousness knows no bounds. But if I had to pick one thing to complain about, it’s the lack of attention our public transportation system gets from the city’s residents. Long story short, Cleveland experienced text book suburban sprawl. It wasn’t too long before suburbanites became comfortable with having their car to transport them from their house to their job without having to interact with scary urban dwellers. Now having a car is almost expected in Cleveland. Hell, even I used to think it was a necessity, despite knowing of the existence of the Rapid (Cleveland’s rail) and bus system.
Over the years, I’ve grown to loathe driving. And I can’t imagine the black clouds spewing out the back of my car into the air can be good for the environment. Deny global warming all you want (even though you shouldn’t), but you can’t tell me nothing bad happens to the air we breathe when a car essentially takes a dump in it. Otherwise, feel free to stick your mouth around the muffler and breathe deep. See how that works out for ya. But I digress…
As I’ve grown to loathe all things driving, I’ve grown to love all things that allow me to sit and work/chat/dick-around-on-my-phone. That means I’ve grown to love public transportation. Chicago and I might have a tense relationship, but I do love their public transportation system. During my time there, I grew quite accustomed to the luxury of having a magic box take me to my destination at a cheap price. That’s right – luxury. In fact, I’ll argue that a “luxury car” is an oxymoron. Nothing is luxurious about a car. You have to work to operate it and take care of it like it’s a baby. Public transportation is closer to offering luxury, in my opinion.
And how about that! I digress again…
Back (and thrilled to be) in Cleveland, I decided to explore my public transit options. I’m going to be living downtown and have absolutely no desire to drive, unless it’s for a road trip or to Cuyahoga Valley National park. I also wanted to show my “big city” lady friend that you can, in fact, get around Cleveland without a car. With that in mind, I started mentally planning an “RTA Day.” It’s self-explanatory really. We’d traverse the beautiful land of Cleveland without using a car beyond getting to our starting point.
Side note: I was also inspired after tripping over to WTAM and hearing Cleveland’s Rush Limbaugh, Mike Trivisonno, say something along the lines of – I’d rather die than step foot on RTA – during a rant mocking people waiting for the bus on Public Square, seemingly bewildered by the fact that some people either don’t have a car or don’t want to freaking drive one. Google him. If he doesn’t scream “exburb stereotype,” I don’t know what does.
On Saturday, June 25th, we set off on our RTA adventure with nothing but our hopes and dreams and… (insert something inspiring).
As a current resident of an exburb, we had to being our trip with the dreaded automobile. Our first stop was at Latitude in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts district. Best. Brunch. Ever.
At this point, we could have ditched the car and grabbed the 26 bus on Detroit and taken it to W. 25th. But I planned on buying Courtney a dress at the Yellowcake pop-up shop, and didn’t want her to have to carry it around all day. If we lived downtown already, we’d just make a pit stop. So back in the car we went to park on Bridge Ave. in Ohio City. No. More. Driving.
First we stopped by the Ohio City Open Air Market. I made a pit stop there the previous weekend and knew it was a place to take my walkable streets/festival lovin’ lady.
After a quick stroll past various goods, we made our way toward Yellowcake – a pop-up shop with clothes designed by Valerie Mayen. The ladies might recognize her from Fashion Runway. We also met her the night before. Simply put- a truly awesome gal. She’s from Texas, went to design school in Cleveland before living in LA/Philly/NYC and coming back to Cleveland for virtually the same reasons I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Soooo basically what I’m saying is – GO BUY SOMETHING FROM HER!
Courtney settled on a cool black dress and some earrings. I was happy to contribute to the retail cause in Cleveland and look forward to her permanent shop in either Gordon Square or Ohio City. With that, we headed back to the car to drop off Courtney’s new goodies. Then it was off to Lorain and W. 25th where the Rapid Red Line station awaited our arrival.
Side Note Part Deux: Although I had a plan and smart phone that can track routes, I was praying to all the Gods there may be that we wouldn’t have to wait long. Chicago has pretty good response times, so the bar was already set high.
Purchasing an all day pass was quick and simple. In a matter of minutes we had our tickets in hand and were awaiting our train. Luckily, it wasn’t too long before one arrived. And with that, our RTA adventured finally began!
As I mostly expected, the ride was pretty freakin’ pleasant. We didn’t get mugged or bothered as I know some folks in the exburbs constantly worry about when going into the city, much less using public transit. The train also seemed to be in decent shape. And it was only a matter of minutes before we reached our first destination: Tower City in downtown Cleveland.
Apparently Cleveland Pride was going on, so we decided to make a quick stop to support gays – aka: The Gods of Gentrification – moving to Cleveland. Like a typical boyfriend, I didn’t listen to my wiser/better-half when she suggested I look up the hub of Pride. So we ended up walking from Tower City to Voinivich Park where all festivities were taking place. My bad. But walking’s good for you! Cars take away from that. Again – cars are evil.
We didn’t stick around Pride for too long. The parade was over at this point and had turned into a festival of sorts with a recommended $10 donation to enter. If we went, we would’ve had to make a day of it and scrap my RTA plans. So instead we screamed in jubilation to some passing cars, celebrating their pride and headed to the North Coast Rapid Station on E. 9th. This was the longest route of the day. The Waterfront line.
This line took us down to Browns stadium, to the Flats, Settler’s Landing, back to Tower City and a bunch of East Side stops before stopping in Shaker Square. The goal of this excursion was to show off an East Side neighborhood Courtney hadn’t been to (nor myself in an embarrassingly long time) that will be easy to get to once we move downtown. Not to mention PorchFest was going on in Larchmere – an awesomely walkable neighborhood with shops, bars and restaurants. First we did a quick walk around the Square, stopping in the Lake Erie Artists Gallery and Dewey’s Coffee.
I was happy to see how impressed Courtney was with this slice of Cleveland. We then made our way up N. Moreland to Larchmere to begin our PorchFest festivities.
PorchFest is essentially an opportunity for various musicians of a variety of genres to hop on their porch and play some tunes for passerbys. I particularly enjoyed the bluegrass sounds of Church of the Lazy Bastard.
After doing some shop-hopping, we decided to begin our drinking. After all, one of the benefits of public transit is that you can get embarrassingly sloshed and not worry about how you’ll get home!
Felice caught our eye on E. 126th and Larchmere. We sat on the patio outside while enjoying the perfect temperatures mixed with booze. My buddy Phil ended up joining us soon after. And as we were chatting, we noticed some purty fancy townhouses across the street where some residents were setting up for a barbeque. Nosey, I decided to head over and ask how they like living in the area. One was nice enough to give us a tour of his place and the roof deck. Courtney was fell in love. I just enjoyed being able to see the skyline from the roof. I think Courtney was more interested in the updated kitchen. Y’know… girly things.
We then began our minor trek back to Shaker Square for some drinks at Grotto – a wine bar on the Square. I don’t know anything about atmosphere, but this place seemed to have plenty of it. Outside we all got another drink and ordered a small pizza to tide us over before dinner. F-ing delicious.
Phil, who was not originally part of our RTA adventure, had driven over from his place downtown. He was nice enough to offer a drive back to downtown, but I was determined to continue RTA day, dammit! So we ended up having dinner at Michael’s diner, literally located on the Rapid stop. Good diner food all around. Even more convenient was being able to see departure times from the restaurant. So we finished our meal and headed out just as the train arrived. We didn’t have to get back to our car, worry about dents or scratches that inconsiderate douchebags might have left or whether or not we had enough gas in the tank. Nope. We just had to plop our butts on some comfy Rapid seats.
This time we made the transfer at Tower City to the Red Line to head back into Ohio City. Again, no complaints. No muggings, no panhandling and certainly no western style shootouts. Just a relaxing ride.
Back in Ohio City, we headed to the newly opened Market Garden Brewery and Distillery – a ginormous bar/restaurant on W. 25th. We had gone the night before for dinner, but wanted to try more of their booze. We couldn’t really drink the night before, because… wait for it… I had to drive! I’m drinking on RTA day, dammit!
The booze at Market Garden is great. Granted we haven’t sampled everything yet, but we’re certainly impressed by the selection. Not to mention the crowd that came out to support yet another fine establishment in Ohio City.
Our next stop was the Old Angle Tavern a few blocks north on W. 25th. Clevelanders were busy drinking and cheering on Team USA in the Gold Cup match against Mexico. Once we were close to finishing our Old Angle drinks, I pulled out my phone and checked the quickest route back downtown. The bus was just across the street, listed as departing. While I was ready to sit back and wait for the next one, Courtney was certain we could make it. So we slammed back what we had left and made for the exit. Sure enough, the bus was stopped across the street. We made it. And after a quick ride over the river, we were in the heart of downtown Cleveland.
And guess what! No muggings, fighting or Four Horsemen sightings!
For all intensive purposes, our RTA adventure had come to an end as we had planned to cab back to my car in Ohio City once we had enough of W. 6th (doesn’t take long for us). Courtney ended up driving, as I had enjoyed the drinking privileges that RTA adventures allow a wee bit too much.
The next day, we did a quick recap to my parents on our adventure. Courtney was sold on the Rapid. She found it convenient and was surprised how frequently it ran, to which I quipped, “They don’t call it the ‘Slow-pid!’”
Side Note Threequel: I make painfully lame jokes.
There’s no hiding I love rail. I was pissed beyond belief when Ohio decided to gave it’s 3-C corridor funds to New York state. It seems old turds don’t understand that young professional love public transit and can’t necessarily afford a car. But that’s another rant.
ANYWHO – There certainly are improvements that can be made with RTA. Tremont and Collinwood are two neighborhoods we skipped, because they’re not very well connected on the weekend. I’d also love to see more Rapid stops, even though I know that’s not realistic in today’s budget crunching society. But what I can do is encourage others to embrace the Rapid and RTA as a whole. That’s why I’m planning an RTA Bar Crawl.
What’s ‘RTA Bar Crawl?’” you ask? Basically we’ll all meet sometime on a Saturday in mid-August at a pre-determined location. Maps will be handed out detailing our route for the day. We’ll explore both the West and East sides of Cleveland proper using only public transportation, so we can embrace the biggest lesson I have come to learn since my love affair with rail and bus began. And that lesson is: You can drink and be environmentally friendly at the same time! Not to mention we’ll show off why you should live in Cleveland proper and ditch your automobile dependent exburb.
We’ll also be working on finding a charity to collaborate with. The goal is to get bars in the select neighborhoods we’ll be visiting to donate a certain percentage of proceeds to a charity. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below. I was thinking something where people can see the immediate effects.
Stay tuned for more updates on #RTABarCrawl. But it would just be super helpful if you could leave a comment saying whether or not you think you would attend such an event. In the meantime… Go have a drink and let the Rapid do the work!
Editor’s Note (That’s me… Joe): Courtney took infinitely better pictures than me, so I’ll look to update this post when she’s able to upload them.