Solon’s industrial parks are known for their attractive landscaping and well-manicured, vast areas of lawn. Traveling on a long driveway past these picturesque views is pleasant for those in vehicles, but employees who use public transit often find their bus stops too far from their company’s entrance, particularly during Northeast Ohio’s cold, dark winter months.
A new 18-month pilot program, RTA ConnectWorks, is a public/private partnership between the City of Solon, Greater Cleveland RTA and SHARE Mobility, a technology company that solves complex transportation problems. RTA secured a $300,000 state grant to initiate the program. The Ohio Department of Transportation contributed to the funding. In place at the end of 2022, the program eliminates rider inconvenience and addresses more complicated issues of workforce mobility.
Major bus lines funnel into the Southgate Transit Center in Maple Heights. Now riders wishing to go to Solon can then board SHARE Mobility’s smaller, 14-passenger buses or vans that take them right to the door of their employer (and back) in one of the community’s industrial or retail areas.
Providing this last mile service helps Solon employers expand the areas from which they recruit and helps retain employees, according to Michael Martens, SHARE Mobility’s chief revenue officer. The opportunity also helps with the problem of spatial mismatch — when jobs are located in one area, but hourly workers live in another. Public transport helps to reduce vehicle emissions, too, and can save a commuter time, money and aggravation, he says.
“Solon has been a suburb based on autos and highways,” says Maribeth Feke, RTA’s director of programing and planning. “Public transit isn’t usually something that is normally on the public’s radar screen, but Solon’s mayor and his administration have stepped up to the plate and have been very forward about getting transit amenities like shelters and moving routes. They are making sure their employees and residents have good access to transit.”