Transit Columbus

Advocates for a Better-Connected Columbus Region

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Check out our video for GOOD IDEAS Columbus

We hope to see you April 22, 5:00 p.m. at Seventh Son for GOOD IDEAS Columbus

 

GOOD IDEAS: The challenges

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We asked six community leaders in Columbus to come up with a challenge for our young professional design teams to solve and they delivered! Walking, biking, rail, bus and accessibility are all covered. We can’t wait to see the ideas our design teams come up with.

Commissioner Marilyn Brown: How can we help make the urban core areas more friendly and accessible to pedestrians (including those with disabilities), increase pedestrian safety when jaywalking is necessary (because of handicap ramps or because of where a bus stops), and increase compliance of pedestrians with traffic laws?

Mayor Michael Coleman: Provide a long range vision for alternative transit in Columbus.  Provide target milestones for 5, 10 and 20 year marks.

Betsy Pandora: With such an abundance of non-auto resources, what can be done to get the Short North Arts district’s three core users [residents, employees/business owners, and visitors] out of their cars and accessing the transit options already available to them? And, if the existing resources truly aren’t enough to encourage any or all of the district’s core users to hang up the car keys, what resources are needed to convince them to do so?

Brent Simonds: How can Columbus prioritize mobility issues for pedestrians, individuals with disabilities and transit riders during times when moderate to heavy snows restrict/prohibit access to many areas of the city (and thus jobs, services, shopping and school) that otherwise would be accessible with clear streets/sidewalks and ramps?

Dawn Tyler Lee: How do we encourage economic development/site selection for new (and existing) businesses in those areas of our community that:
1) Need job opportunities and have large populations of people needing work and
2.) Already have access to transportation (and especially public transit)?
How can we make redevelopment where we already have infrastructure more attractive than development in farther our sprawl where infrastructure needs to be built?
And/or
What are some innovative ways to sell a lifestyle choice that requires less driving, less travel time commuting and promotes the use of alternative transportation?
How can we “package” the use of public transit to appeal to entire segment of the population that never considered it? And, do we need to repackage the community to do so?
Might we consider tax policies that are based on the actual cost of providing services?

Mark Wagenbrenner: How can fixed guideway transit be introduced to the High Street Corridor so that it is:
1. Successful and impactful
2. A demonstrative example for Columbus/Central Ohio
3. Potentially connected to a larger system

Transportation needs a boost in Columbus

In the past six to eight months, transportation demand and behavior has made a remarkable shift: New bike- and car-sharing options have sprung up through CoGo and Car2Go respectively; more than 5,400 people of have signed a petition in support of the return of passenger rail to Columbus; and, more than 100 voluntarily have become involved in activities related to “designing” the transportation system of the future for central Ohio.

And now Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman has raised the critical issue of the need to treat Port Columbus as a center for ground as well as air transportation, potentially even serviced via passenger rail.

In part, these shifts respond to an obvious deficiency of public transit and mobility options for this metropolitan area of nearly 2 million people, an area that continues to lag the rest of the nation in terms of options.

A report and map of all of the new major transit projects starting in the U.S., reported by the online publication the Transport Politic, showed nearly every major metropolitan area in the nation has a major public-transit project in progress, but Columbus, the 15th largest city and 31st largest metropolitan region, remains off the map.

Even auto-oriented cities such as Detroit and Cincinnati are moving forward with the construction of streetcars, and the completion of an upgrade of existing passenger rail service between Detroit and Chicago to a speed of 110 mph for most of the route is about two years out.

Granted, the Central Ohio Transit Authority is growing, and the level of service and ridership both are steadily increasing and have been for nearly eight years. In addition to the new car- and bike-sharing options that have sprung up, the local organization Transit Columbus gained more than 5,400 signatures on a Change.org petition that inquired about interest in a passenger rail line from Columbus to Chicago.

Yet we have a long way to go, and the stakes are high. For a metropolitan region of this size, the public-transit and other mobility options remain significantly deficient compared to Columbus’ peer cities. Central Ohio also remains the largest metropolitan region on the U.S. map that lacks any type of transportation by passenger rail.

Nearly all metropolitan regions of our size, and even smaller, offer multiple modes including light rail, streetcars, intercity passenger trains and/or commuter trains that connect suburban communities to the central cities and major employment centers. A number of cities also have developed higher-volume and more-efficient bus rapid-transit systems. The Columbus area has none of these options, although COTA is working on a bus rapid-transit plan for Columbus’ Cleveland Avenue corridor that could be operable within a few years.

Also at stake are our region’s millennials: the population now in their late teens through mid-30s who are delaying or skipping the option of getting drivers licenses and buying cars and instead are demanding other alternatives, such as world-class public transit, walkable communities and infrastructure that accommodates bicycling for transportation as well as recreation.

Three years ago, local young professionals responded in a survey that Columbus is a great place to live for their age group, but that the lack of transportation options is the largest deficiency among those attributes and one of the most important to these future leaders of our community. Unfortunately, many already have departed or may yet leave to become leaders and contributors to other places such Portland, Denver, Chicago and Charlotte because these cities offer these amenities not found in Columbus.

Locally and statewide, a growing older-adult population will face mobility issues as driving becomes increasingly challenging and perhaps less desirable. Columbus also bid for a major national political-party convention in 2016, and yet Experience Columbus and other organizations have indicated that convention visitors here have said that Columbus does not have the multi-modal, interconnected transportation options they would expect or are accustomed to in a city this large.

Thus for these and so many other reasons, the time has come —– and in fact is long overdue — for political, corporate and civic leaders to come to terms with the value and importance of better public transportation to central Ohio’s future. Our leaders need to support the advancement of the transportation system we need now, and for the future, if our community is to remain a vibrant and relevant urban region of the future.

Eric Davies is the board chairman of Transit Columbus.

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2014/03/03/transportation-needs-a-boost-in-columbus.html

The Score (part one)

This is the first of a 3 part series focusing on the walkable population of Columbus: What it is, how to improve it, and how it relates to transit.

We’ve all heard this argument: “Columbus is a car city” and in many ways the argument is correct. In a proactive mission to ensure growth in the second half of the 20th Century city leader’s annexed vast swaths of land which was developed into mostly car dependent neighborhoods. This has led to Columbus’ current situation, being both the geographic and population leader in Ohio, while maintaining its place as the 3rd Largest metro in our state (for the next few years anyway).

All this annexation and sprawling development may give the impression therefore that we’re a car city. For around 500,000 Columbusites who live in car dependent areas it’s true. For the nearly 233,000 of us who do live in walkable areas life is much less car centric. Though the City of Columbus itself contains more car dependent residents than the other 2Cs the amount of walkable residents also compares favorably with both Cincy (around 80,000 more) and Cleveland (around 80,000 less) as well as other comparable cities (the cities below are the same ones from the Benchmarking Columbus report found here).

**City

Total Walkable

Very Walkable

Somewhat Walkable

Rank

Portland

492369

216963

275406

1

Milwaukee

416082

200920

215162

2

Cleveland

313638

52831

260807

3

Minneapolis

313429

149728

163701

4

Columbus

232751

90611

142140

5

Austin

202682

65539

137143

6

Cincinnati

145569

42944

102625

7

Kansas City

138710

81213

57497

8

Louisville

124610

33623

90987

9

Jacksonville

79269

6373

72896

10

Nashville

44134

5898

38236

11

Charlotte

43449

16959

26490

12

Raleigh

27097

6431

20666

13

Indianpolis

21445

5289

16156

14

What do these numbers and stats tell us? They tell us that Columbus is doing well in terms of cultivating residents in walkable neighborhoods but also that we have much room to grow. All the cities above us (Portland, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Minneapolis) are known for their urbanity or livability. Columbus should focus on improving walkability in marginally walkable neighborhoods, going the extra mile where the walkable population is concentrated and should encourage population gains in established walkable areas. We need to lead on this issue so that we can be an example to the rest of the country, rather than a follower.

Some of the walking friendly changes to our neighborhoods are simple. Some are complex and time consuming. All are worth the time and investment. Improving walkability isn’t about forcing folks out of their cars but rather giving everyone an option. It’s no coincidence that most of the top neighborhoods for walkability are also some of the most expensive neighborhoods in Columbus (check out the full list here). Walkability is desirable. Even if most of your trips are accomplished by driving, having the option to walk is still important. Let’s extend that option to more of our friends and neighbors. Check back on Friday to see how we can do that.

**Data above is derived from Walkscore.com. To view the full data for Columbus and all the cities included please click here.

GOOD IDEAS Columbus

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Join us for GOOD IDEAS Columbus, an innovative program that brings together creative and motivated young people with community leaders to solve pressing issues in Central Ohio. We are bringing Columbus’ brightest young minds; designers, architects, engineers, students and artists, and pairing them with some of the most important community leaders to work on real problems affecting transportation in our city. Six design teams of people under the age of 40 will each be paired with a community leader. The leader will ask their team to solve a problem relating to transportation in Columbus. On April 22 the creative teams will present their ideas in a fun-filled night with food, drink and entertainment.

Community Leaders

Commissioner Marilyn Brown, Franklin County Commissioner & MORPC Board Chair
Mayor Michael B. Coleman,  Mayor of Columbus
Betsy Pandora, Executive Director at the Short North Alliance
Dawn Tyler Lee, Sr. VP of Community Impact at United Way Central Ohio & COTA Board Chair
Brent Simonds, Development Director at Cycling for All
Mark Wagenbrenner, President at Wagenbrenner Development

 

Columbus against the world

Well, maybe not the world, but the University of Cincinnati released a study comparing public transportation in 12 peer cities, including Columbus. So, how are we doing?

When compared with peer cities that have a range of transit options including rail and/or bus rapid transit we sadly don’t compare too well in any category. We rank #11 in rides per capita, beating only Indianapolis, and #9 in operational efficiency (how much of every dollar spent we get back at the fare box).

When it comes to the five cities that have bus-only systems things start getting a bit better. We rank #2 in both operational efficiency and service capacity, losing out only to Cincinnati. The other good news is that Columbus is improving every year in both of these categories. COTA it seems is stepping up to the challenge and constantly improving our system.

The take away from this study seems to be that having rail and bus rapid transit greatly increases both ridership and operational efficiency for transit systems. It’s ironic that often times people balk at the cost of rail, but in the long run it ends up making the system as a whole both more popular and cost effective. Of the top five cities for operational efficiency, four of them have rail systems. Of the worse five cities for operational efficiency, four of them have bus-only systems.

What’s missing from this picture?

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The Urban Land Institute’s Columbus chapter published this map of cities with rail and/or bus rapid transit systems in existence or under constructions in their Columbus 2050 report. Sadly, the center of Ohio looks a bit empty….

 

Design Your Transit

Design Your Transit-01

 

As part of of Design Week[s] join TransitColumbus for a fun night of designing a transit system that will meet the needs for our growing and changing city!

We’ll spend some time examining transit systems around the world, what the changing landscape of Columbus looks like, then we’ll all unleash our inner transit planner in an innovative and participatory design session. The result will be a vision of the future of transit in Columbus, and the beginning of our push to enhance transit throughtout the region (Hint: There will be more to come!)

Location: Homeport, 562 E Main Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215

Time: 5:30-8:30

Bring:

  •  A Smart Phone, Tablet, or Laptop
  •  A vision to improve transit in Columbus

Transportation:

  • COTA Line #2
  • CoGo Station at Topiary Park
  • Parking Available
Refreshments and Snacks provided!

Cost: $10  (Free to TransitColumbus members)

 

Purchase Tickets Here:

Moving soon? A majority of Americans say transit matters when selecting a home

Every year the Urban Land Institute issues a survey on Americans’ housing preferences,014-001 and this year’s was quite interesting. So, what do the people want? It seems they want mixed-use communities, walkability and public transit. Considering the nearly daily news articles heralding the “return of Downtown” or proclaiming that “we’ve passed peak driving” this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Just look around Columbus and you can see dense, mixed-use developments mushrooming up all over the city. It’s a sight to behold.

The wonderful thing though was how many diverse demographics supported transit. Baby boomers, Generation Y, city-dwellers, those with post-graduate 012-001degrees and those making under $50,000 a year are just some of the demographics that ranked transit has a high priority. This helps explain why transit has been performing well in elections recently (in 2012 79% of transit initiatives won at the ballot box). We knew the support had to be coming from some where. It seems though, the support is coming from almost everywhere.

The question is, could something win at the ballot box in Central Ohio? We’ve got Baby boomers, Millenials, city-dwellers and a great university minting new masters degrees by the minute, so something tells me transit might have a chance. Perhaps it’s time to dust off Mayor Coleman’s 2006 streetcar plan, or COTA’s 2009 light rail plan, or, come up with something new and give it a go.

GPS tracking for COTA? It’s coming….

A screen shot from NYC's bus-tracking system

A screen shot from NYC’s bus-tracking system

Today is a day to rejoice. COTA has announced that starting early in 2014 people will be able to see their bus’ actual location in real-time using a GPS tracking system. So now when you’re hanging out in a cafe waiting for the twice hourly #18 to go back home you can keep an eye on your phone and time your dash to the bus stop perfectly. I wonder, will there be an app, or integration with Google maps? The easier transit gets to use the more people will use it, so we applaud another smart improvement from COTA.

For more info check out this week’s Transportation Insider column. There’s also a good bit about Millenials and transportation choice.

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/10/07/cota-users-will-get-gps-updates-on-buses.html