What's your sign, dude?

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let me start off by saying that I was one of your riders on Easter Sunday morning on Cleveland’s RTA light rail line from Green to Tower City. I wanted to compliment you on your handling of our two-car articulated train. It was as smooth as silk. Well done. Too bad there were not more people on board, but, hey, it was a holiday and a Sunday morning, so I’m sure it’s sparse on a day like that. Car 826 was impressive, a sporty job built in Italy in 1981 to whisk your fellow Clevelanders around in. Ok, it doesn’t have the same allure as a Lamborghini, but it gets the job done. As a first-time RTA rider, I was impressed.

Now that we’ve gotten those pleasantries out of the way, I wanted to make an observation about your car. You sure do have a lot of signs in it, and around it too. OK, I know you didn’t put them there personally, and I know Cleveland RTA is not unusual among transit agencies that bombard riders with signs, but they sure do stand out in a way that’s not inviting. I noticed the first one while I was waiting on your car to depart. A nice round sign cautioned me to look both ways before crossing the tracks. That’s always good advice; you know how careless we Americans are; we could walk right out in front of 40-tons of light rail car and smack, be gone in a skinny second. It was a bit damp outside, so I went and sat in y our car, and as I did, I began to notice the other signs on the doors, and on the ceilings. One told me I was being watched electronically. Dang, I knew I should have gotten a haircut last week. Another said that unnecessary talk with you was out of the question (I guess necessary talk is ok, but how do you definite one from another?). The further I studied the interior, I realized that it is one cautionary note after another. Yes, there are a few ads – the one for Kent State University sure was nice -- but all of those placards were just one “don’t do this, don’t do that” downer after another. I know you need the one that tells me not to eat or smoke on the train and to plug in my earphones when I’m listening to music, but do you really need the one for the code of conduct or that tells me, step by step, how to file a complaint if I feel I’ve been discriminated against?

I guess these are all signs of the times we live in, for sure. Some of your riders probably don’t behave well and need a sign to remind them what’s expected of them. I guess I just needed to feel like someone was really glad I was on your train. I mean, where’s the “welcome on board” sign? My friends Craig and Pete, who rode with me, and I figure you could save a lot of money on signs if you just painted one on the outside of the car in 6-foot high letters: “Go away!” Ok, I’m just kidding about that, but do you really need to be so negative in so many places?

Despite the barrage of signs, I enjoyed my ride anyway. Your cars are clean, bright, and easy to ride. The neighborhoods are incredible. Oh, and if you’re wondering how I knew your name, it was easy: there was a sign in the car with your first name and a number behind it that, I guess, means something to someone somewhere. Maybe there should be a sign to explain that too.

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