Maybe too much of a good thing?
When the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors on June 19 in what was quite possibly the tensest NBA Finals Game 7 in recent memory, Cleveland went nuts. This was the city’s first victory in 52 years—not just for basketball, but for any sport.
The drought had officially ended. But as the crowd around Quicken Loans Arena celebrated in streams of confetti and champagne, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority descended into a quiet panic.
At first, they faced the impending onslaught of starved Cleveland fans with optimism. The night before the parade, Greater Cleve RTA tweeted out:
Coming down for the parade tomorrow? TAKE THE RAPID! Many streets closed & traffic will be delayed. Rail service will run frequently!— Greater Cleve RTA (@GCRTA) June 21, 2016
The chipper attitude did not last. On a typical weekday, the GCRTA moves around 200,000 passengers through the city. Wednesday, June 22, was not a typical weekday. Over one million Greater Clevelandites descended upon the transit system. They had traveled far and wide for just a glimpse of King James; some of them would not even see the edge of the crowd.
On Greater Cleve RTA Twitter, frustration set in. One disgruntled passenger tweeted that the promise for increased rapid service had not been borne out. Below, the agency’s despondent reply:
.@msv807 we know we are failing you. We hate that we not living up to your expectations. I am soo sorry. we are trying to serve everyone— Greater Cleve RTA (@GCRTA) June 22, 2016
But that was just the beginning. As crowds and temperatures soared before the parade’s 11 a.m. start time, complaints of delays and irate drivers flooded the agency’s feed. And even transit authorities have a breaking point.
At one point, the GCRTA fired shots at the state of Ohio’s infrastructure budgeting:
.@therealmaleRN yes it is disappointing. It is also very disappointing the state of ohio only spends 63 cents per capita on public transit— Greater Cleve RTA (@GCRTA) June 22, 2016
But mostly, the tone that Cleveland Transit settled on was one of empathy and transparency (perhaps they have been taking cues from Bay Area Rapid Transit):
.@therealmaleRN I'm very sorry. i mean it. I want to attend the parade too. I can't. we want everyone to get to celebrate today!— Greater Cleve RTA (@GCRTA) June 22, 2016
It wasn’t so long ago that the city of Cleveland seemed stuck in an economic downturn, with empty houses, evaporated jobs, and a dwindling population. The transit system was, if anything, underburdened. But lately, the city’s been turning around; CityLab previously reported that young people are moving back into Cleveland, and the RTA is in the midst of a five-year system overhaul.
And now, the Cavs have a championship.
So while fans' tempers might have spiked toward their trains and trolleys on this momentous day, in the end, compassion won out. “Not your fault,” one Clevelander tweeted at the RTA. “I have NEVER seen these numbers of people.”
And another fan just said thanks. When you’ve waited 52 years for a victory, there’s room to be magnanimous.