Changes to transit around Cleveland

My interest in photography as a way to document the world matured during my time in Cleveland, and as my time there comes to a close, I have begun to think about the change that occurred in my relatively short time here.

Railcar Renovations

My first experience with transit in Cleveland was in February 2015 as part of a campus visit to Case Western Reserve University. Some photos from that trip are available in my previous post explaining the evolution of my photography. One photo I didn’t include in there was the interior of the train:

Interior of the Red Line as of February 2015

That trip was the only time I ever rode where the interior looked like that, since the RTA undertook a refurbishment project on the entire Red Line fleet. Now, the interiors look like this:

Interior of the current Red Line fleet

I first experienced the new fleet when I did a prospective student visit after being admitted. I took the train back to the airport and experienced the renovated interior for the first time. It looks a lot nicer, with better-looking seats, brighter lights, an easier-to-clean floor, better color scheme, etc.

Little Italy Station

In early 2015 when I first visited Cleveland, the two stops near CWRU were Cedar-University and Euclid-East 120th. The latter would cease to exist before I returned, being replaced by the new Little Italy-University Circle station a block away later that year. Not long later, the original Euclid-East 120th Street station would be demolished.

Little Italy-University Circle Platform looking inbound 2
The platform at Little Italy
Little Italy entrance at night
The entrance to the station from Mayfield Road

Tower City Track Replacement

Starting around the time I came to CWRU, the RTA began replacing Track 8 (the main westbound track) at Tower City. The original track looked something like this:

Eastbound platform at Tower City looking west 1
Current eastbound track – the original westbound track also looked like this, with the trackbed paved over

For the time it took to replace the track during the first part of my freshman year, westbound trains were diverted to a non-revenue track separate from the main station. This temporary station had its own fare control and everything:

Entrance to temporary Tower City platform
Entrance to the temporary westbound Tower City station, August 2016
Turnstiles at temporary Tower City platform
Turnstiles at the temporary westbound station
Red/Waterfront temporary platform at Tower City 1
ADA ramp to the temporary Red Line platform
Red/Waterfront temporary platform at Tower City 3
Temporary westbound track from the platform

Eventually, late in 2016, the project was completed and the new westbound track completed, and service was restored to the main station for both directions. The new track used ballastless track, a major improvement over the original. Take a look:

Upgraded Red Line westbound track at Tower City
New westbound track! (December 2016)

Now, in early 2020, they’re performing similar work on the stub tracks on either side. Since both through tracks are still in service, service isn’t affected and trains simply don’t terminate directly at Tower City for the time being.

Track 10 construction work at Tower City
Tower City track 10 reconstruction, March 2020 [added on March 7, 2020 after original publication]


During the second half of 2016, the Warrensville-Shaker station on the Green Line was replaced. I don’t have any pictures of the original station, but I do have some pictures of the new one:

Outbound platform at Warrensville - Shaker
New track and platforms at Warrensville-Shaker, with the mini-high platforms not quite complete yet and landscaping remaining to be done, October 2016
Looking outbound at Warrensville-Shaker
New station, November 2016


In 2017, the RTA replaced the Lee-Shaker station. It was a basic median streetcar station on Shaker Boulevard, but was at a particularly high-traffic location and thus could use both a modernization and ADA accessibility. I actually was (according to Google Images) the first person to post pictures of the new station online.

Westbound shelter and wheelchair lift at Lee-Shaker
New shelter and mini-high platform at Lee-Shaker, September 2017
Eastbound Green Line train passing the westbound platform at Lee-Shaker
Eastbound train waiting to cross Lee Road


The Brookpark Station saw a complete replacement during my Freshman year. The station that existed in 2016 was a “temporary” station that had been in use for about ten years.

Old headhouse at Brookpark
Old headhouse at Brookpark, September 2016

I first came to Cleveland during the reconstruction process, so I saw the platform shortened so it only fit one car plus one door on the other car (before this construction project started, the platform could fit a full train). However, the platform was one of only three wooden platforms on the system (the others being East 79th and East 34th, and only East 79th is still wooden now). The headhouse also was on the opposite side of the westbound track from the island platform with no tunnel or bridge, requiring passengers to cross the track to access the platform.

Grade crossing and station house at Brookpark
Grade crossing at the old station
Looking eastbound from Brookpark
Old wooden platform

Throughout my freshman year, construction activity was going on. I was impatiently waiting for it to be done, constantly looking for press releases. I distinctly remember taking the train out to the airport very early in the morning with an operator who seemed like he had just started his shift and was very enthusiastic, and he said “Next stop: Brookpark! The new station is coming very soon, folks…” The time I was waiting for finally came around in April, when trains began stopping at the new platform. The new station was a much more modern station:

East headhouse at Brookpark after opening
New headhouse on the eastern side, April 2016
Looking away from headhouse at Brookpark
New platform
Brookpark west entrance and plaza
New entrance on the western side, which opened much later than the rest of the new station (photo taken September 2017)
Inside headhouse at Brookpark
Headhouse interior

In all, the new station looked much more modern and was more functional than the one it replaced. I was quite pleased with the new results. Interestingly, this removed the only grade crossing on the Red Line for a time, but another one would open later at East 34th Street (read on…)

East 34th Street

The East 34th Street station as I first remember it was a fairly outdated and run-down station. It was a simple island platform (with a low section for the Blue/Green lines and a high section for the Red Line) accessible by a single set of stairs from East 34th Street.

Red Line platform at East 34th
Red Line platform
East 34th entrance
The lone entrance from East 34th Street
Deterioration of the stairs at E. 34th
Worn-down concrete with exposed rebar on the stairs

My sophomore year, the renovation project began. I did my best to come down to the station when I had the chance so that I could document the change.

E. 34th stairs and construction, September 2017
The old stairs next to some pre-landscaping for the new ones
Future E. 34th stairs, September 2017
The groundwork for the new stairs begins
November 2017 Red Line platform progress at E. 34th
Foundation for the new Red Line platform
New stairs/ramp at East 34th Street, March 2018
The new stairs are on the way up
East 34th station platform, May 2018
Progress on the low platform for the Blue/Green lines and the entrance in May 2018
East 34th future entrance, May 2018
Progress on the new entrance, May 2018

Then, as I went back to North Carolina for the summer, work continued. I came back in the fall to see the work mostly completed:

East 34th Street from ramp turnaround
Overhead view of the new station, September 2018
Unfinished Red Line platform at East 34th Street, September 2018
Not-quite-finished Red Line platform, September 2018
Westbound track crossing at East 34th Street
After the removal of the Brookpark grade crossing the previous year, this one was added
New entrance to East 34th Street Station
The new entrance

The new station also looked much more modern and fresh, giving a nice upgrade to the Campus District. It was also renamed “Tri-C – Campus District” to reflect its proximity to Tri-C.

East 105th-Quincy

For a long time, East 105th-Quincy was known for only opening the front door of the front car of each train due to the platform being too short. Needless to say, this was a cause of a lot of confusion for riders not familiar with the situation and delays for everyone else. Riders in the second car had to go between cars if they wanted to get off, and the single door slowed everyone down.

E. 105th - Quincy platform looking inbound
The short platform (I’m standing at the end of the platform in this photo)
Inbound train at E. 105th - Quincy
A train too short for the platform it is serving

Beginning in late 2017, work began to lengthen the platform. Not only did they lengthen the platform, but they also opened a second entrance, maknig this one of only two stations in the entire system with two entrances, the other being West 65th-Lorain.

Platform extension at E. 105th-Quincy under construction
Concrete supports in place, October 2017
E. 105th-Quincy platform extension progress, May 2018
Metal framing, May 2018
E. 105th-Quincy platform, May 2018
…but the work still isn’t complete yet

As of September 2018, the platform had been lengthened to the point where a two car train could open all of its doors.

Overhead view of extended platform at East 105th - Quincy
The platform is getting longer, September 2018
Red Line train opening ALL DOORS at East 105th - Quincy
A train opening all of its doors, September 2018

However, that was only one part of the project. Next, the new entrance was to open in 2019.

E. 105th-Quincy entrance on E. 105th Street
New entrance on East 105th (the Opportunity Corridor), April 2019
Platform at E. 105th-Quincy, looking east
The new platform, now fully in service, April 2019

East 116th Street

East 116th Street also saw a major renovation, going from being a fairly old station similar to what East 34th originally was (especially the staircases) to another modern station.

Inbound platform at E. 116th
Original station, October 2016
Street entrance to E. 116th
Original entrance to East 116th Street

Then, the renovations began! The temporary station in place during the renovations consisted of two wooden platforms and a fairly basic entrance located further down the block to allow work on the new station to proceed unobstructed:

Train at temporary East 116th station
Temporary wooden platforms, May 2018
East 116th temporary entrance
Temporary entrance
Demolition at E. 116th
Demolition of the old station, May 2018

Then, the new station was built mostly over the summer, so I wasn’t able to document it. So, let’s jump to the big finish:

Inbound entrance to E. 116th Station
New entrance, May 2019
New entrance to East 116th Station
New entrance (including both sides)
Eastbound track at East 116th
New eastbound track, February 2020
Track and westbound platform at East 116th
New platforms

The new station, like the others, was a major improvement. It fit in nicely with the surrounding neighborhood, was ADA accessible, and was generally just much nicer-looking.

Blue Line renovations

I was notified on Wikipedia that the RTA was performing some upgrades for various stations on the Blue Line, so when I got the time and clear skies, I went out there to document the upgrades. The upgrades appeared to be new signage and shelters, with the platform structure itself remaining unchanged. The first station where I saw such upgrades was Avalon:

Shelter at Avalon looking outbound
New shelter at Avalon, November 2019
Shelter and sign at Avalon
New signage at Avalon

Final thoughts

A lot changed in four years, and I was glad to be here to document it. These renovations gave me exciting material for photography and always gave me an excuse to get out of University Circle for a while. They are in keeping with Cleveland’s city motto of “Progress and Prosperity” (even though one of the stations was in Shaker Heights) and helped modernize the city. It looks like I’ve seen the last major project that will be completed before I leave here in May, but I know there’s plenty of work going on in Chicago that I will be able to photograph as well.

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