HealthLine Pumps Life into Cleveland
Named the HealthLine by the Cleveland Clinic and the University Hospitals of Cleveland, the $200 million bus rapid transit system along Euclid Avenue has connected "Cleveland's top economic generators": downtown and University Circle. The fact that the HealthLine links the two commercial hubs is not the only reason why the project was recognized with an Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence in 2011; it has "generated the economic growth that many thought could only be achieved with rail--and at a fraction of the cost."
Part of the strategy to stimulate that growth was to design the bus system as if it were a rail line. This meant raised platforms on medians for level boarding, bus-only lanes, and fare collection outside of the bus. The stations themselves were designed by Robert P. Madison International Inc. to be prominent structures of glass and steel instead of the typical small sign on a street corner.
Even though there are fewer stops, the 24/7 schedule makes the HealthLine a reliable method of transportation, and ridership has grown to 15,100 people per day. Jason Hellendrung reports that the placement of the line in the middle of the street has opened up parking spaces along the sidewalk, helping streetfront businesses. Other encouraging results include the influx of companies along the formerly "downtrodden" parts of Euclid Avenue.
Since the bus project opened relatively recently, in 2008, the economic activity has been a welcome surprise. Michael Schipper, a Regional Transit Authority general manager, acknowledged that "We wouldn't have expected this type of thing until five or so years out."