Guest Blog | Transportation is personal: Car2Go a critical thread to the fabric of our urban city

Guest Blog | Transportation is personal: Car2Go a critical thread to the fabric of our urban city

Car2Go, the premiere ridesharing service in our city, announced on May 24th, 2018 that they are shutting down Columbus operations today (May 31st, 2018). With 32,000 subscribers utilizing the service, some making it their primary mode of transportation such as myself, this came unexpectedly to many in our city. Car2Go continued to expand coverage and upgraded its entire fleet of vehicles in 2017, leading users to believe that the ride-sharing business was thriving.

The Dispatch cited that one reason Car2Go gave for exiting the city was slow adoption. On the heels of Columbus receiving the Smart Cities grant, the departure of Car2Go should not be something overlooked by other innovative companies and the city alike.

The article also shared comments from officials who said Car2Go would be missed but that they didn’t consider losing it a blow to the city’s efforts to encourage drivers to shift to other modes of transportation through its Smart Columbus initiative. This could not be further disconnected from the reality of progressive transit enthusiasts such as myself. Early adopters are key to the success of shifting a city’s transit culture. Car2go was that flagship program, existing well before Smart Columbus. It introduced people who live, work, and play in our city’s core a flexible alternative to using their own cars that would otherwise be clogging up our freeways, parking lots, and downtown streets.

As a person who prides herself on not being a car owner, this announcement with only 7 days notice before services end is devastating and will impact my adoption decisions with other private companies. I loved the need Car2Go fulfilled, but now I see more than ever why public mass transit is so critical. COTA, our public mass transit authority, would have never been allowed to do make such radical changes that impact residents with just 7 days notice.

If the city chooses to move forward with future with public-private transit partnerships, it is critical that the residents they serve do not get overlooked. It’s known that innovative transit models may not be sustainable long-term, but the city should do more to ensure a gradual phase-out agreement is in place before the partnership is solidified, should a venture be found unsuccessful.

If the city and its partners want us as residents to shift our lifestyles, it also must understand that abruptly revoked services such as this one will create a significant adverse effect on the lifestyles we were encouraged to adopt. Our lifestyles are built around these modalities. Many of us who do not own cars are now scrambling to find down payments to re-purchase a car by today or find other cost and time-effective methods to make it to our places of work, pick up groceries, and other daily tasks.

Transportation is personal. It is the most basic way residents connect. Transit options must be dependable for effective adoption to take place. When an entire modality abruptly ends, it creates a missing thread in our city’s transit culture and leaves users sideswiped and less willing to trust future private alternatives that can be pulled out from under us without advanced notice or a single public hearing.

Brooke Wojdynski is owner of Verve Creative and a Short North resident.

Will COTA stick to its plan?

By now you have probably heard of COTA’s “TSR” plan, also know as Transit System Review or more recently Redesign that we endorsed earlier this year. Since the formation of COTA in the 1970s, the core system has in many ways, changed very little. This despite monumental shifts in population and development in the Columbus region. Enter TSR, a forward thinking initiative by COTA to comprehensively examine and rethink the design and function of its system.

 

Current Network

(Current Network)

Current Frequent Network

(Current Frequent Network)

Currently the system functions mainly as a hub and spoke network, with all major, frequent lines running through downtown. The results of the TSR study have major implications for how the entire system may work in the future. The study provides an opportunity to vastly improve mobility in Columbus by massively expanding the network of so called ‘frequent’ lines that run every 15 minutes or better. That is if COTA sticks to its plan.

 

Current TSR Plan Network

(Most Recent TSR Network Proposal)

 

A major redesign such as COTA’s has few precedents around the country (Houston recently revamped its system). We do know that in order to expand the frequent network, redundant and low ridership lines will be consolidated, rolled back, or cut. Despite the difficulty of some of these changes the new system will be more efficient, frequent, and will better serve a larger number of riders and provide better overall service. There are however a number of major reductions to the frequent network that was proposed as part of the initial study.

 

Current TSR Plan Frequent

(Most Recent Frequent Network Proposal)

TSR Report Frequent copy

(Original Frequent Network Proposal, Circled Areas Indicate Removed Frequent Service)

 

The images above show a comparison between what was originally proposed as part of the study and what the most recent proposal from COTA looks like. While still a vast improvement in frequent service, the Northwest side and the Near East Side have both seen major routes downgraded to less frequent service in the most recent plan. The frequent routes in the Northwest would have served an area densely populated with demographic groups that are conducive to transit: a large immigrant community, students, and young professionals. The Near East Side route would have served a dense area while also providing a major transfer point that would eliminate unneeded trips through Downtown.

 

TSR Report Frequent with Density

(Original Frequent Network Proposal, Circled Areas Indicate Removed Frequent Service, Density Of Population Shown With One Dot Equaling One Person)

These changes call into question COTA’s commitment to fully implement the TSR study which was originally projected to increase ridership by 10% two years after implementation. With full implementation of the TSR scheduled to take place in May of 2017, there is still time for changes to the plan, both positive and negative. COTA has taken proactive first steps with the TSR to create a more useful, accessible, and efficient transit system and Transit Columbus applauds that effort. Its now time for COTA to ensure success by fully implementing the TSR plan so that one morning, in May 2017, Columbus wakes up to a vastly improved and efficient transit system.

Implementing the TSR changes are one of many of the recommendations of our MoveUs Vision, that seeks to move Columbus towards a multi-modal future. 

MoveUs Slider

 

Petition Link-01

Priorities and Vision

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It’s time to move the conversation forward, Columbus.

Insight 2050, CBUS, UBER, COGO, Car2go, Connect Columbus, TSR, JET Task Force, and COTA Next Gen: all new projects, and in some cases new words, that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. This, combined with strong neighborhoods, record development and new city leadership, is creating new vision.

Much of the vision we can already see: retail downstairs, residents upstairs, shade trees, sidewalk cafes. This is, smartly, a city self-consciously reinventing itself for the 21st century. And we are well on our way to this vision. It’s already happening. A click onto Columbus Underground’s development page will show countless examples.

This is no more little big town. We’re grown up. The Columbus landscape is changing… its people are changing…its generations are changing…its neighborhoods are coming alive.  We are at a tipping point: of WHO WE WERE- and WHO WE WILL BE.

And it’s decision time.

These are scary, expensive, and difficult decisions. They can also be exciting, groundbreaking and transformational. If we are going to invest in new modes of transportation, we’re going to have to think creatively and differently about funding streams.

But let’s not get ourselves worked up into a “funding tizzy” (although there will come a time for that conversation). But the truth is- we’ll figure it out. Money follows a City’s priorities and vision.

So let’s talk priorities and vision.  Let’s talk about the City we want to be, and how we build it.

-Elissa Schneider

Chair, Transit Columbus

Jaywalking, Street Designing and Walkability in Columbus

Maybe you heard from several news reports, that last week the Columbus Division of Police has begun stepped up enforcement to crack down on jaywalkers and drivers who are not properly yielding to pedestrians. However positive the intent may have been, the tone of the coverage, as well as several quotes from the CPD raised some eyebrows both locally and nationally. For example:

“It’s not just enough to be legally correct in your actions as a pedestrian. You need to give yourself every advantage which includes wearing bright, reflective clothing…” said one.

 

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(Google Streetview from 4th Street in Columbus)

If you read these as misguided or as anti-pedestrian you aren’t the only one. As an advocate for walkability and better transportation, reading this, I’m reminded that now is the time to shift the Columbus conversation. It’s easy to catch the light rail or high-speed rail fever, but walkability is just as urgent, if not more, in Columbus.

Sidewalks aren’t sexy, yet 50-60% of Columbus remains without them. Crosswalks aren’t in the news, but all too often they’re ignored by drivers and unmarked for pedestrians. Jaywalkers are coming under enhanced enforcement, but how often are they just responding to unsafe, auto-centric road designs?

You may not ride a bus, you may hate getting on a bike, but one thing you can’t escape is the pedestrian experience. We all deserve a safe way to cross the street, a smooth sidewalk for our feet, or a safe ramp for our wheel chair. Light rail may be long term, but we can build a sidewalk in a week; we can paint a crosswalk in a day.

You’ll soon see a rollout of our MoveUs campaign, aimed at improving multi-modal transportation in our city. The recommendations cover a broad list of topics, but perhaps none are as impactful to every citizen as those aimed at improving experience of pedestrians in Columbus.

Let’s make our streets safe for you and I, and our kids, and our neighbors, and our parents, and our grandparents. Walkability is fundamental to our health and our long-term success as a city. Lets walk with swagger.

Joshua Lapp is the Vice-Chair of Transit Columbus and a Columbus resident

This Place Is

IMG_1723-1There is a spot on streets where art, creativity, safety, walkability and neighborhood identity intersect: the crosswalk. This summer Transit Columbus teamed up with Wild Goose Creative, other community groups, and neighborhood activists in the SoHud, Old North Columbus, and Glen Echo neighborhoods to begin a campaign to implement the city’s first creative crosswalks.

IMG_1629Thanks to generous funding from the Create Columbus Commission, our consortium of groups is embarking on a campaign that seeks to go beyond crosswalks. We’re asking residents, businesses, and all those who care about the neighborhood to tell us what living here, working here, or just passing through means to them. Our “This Place Is” initiative is gathering the story of the neighborhood to pass on to artists who will then integrate that story into the crosswalks.

The result of “This Place Is” will not only be interesting art; the creative crosswalks will bolster pedestrian visibility, safety, and improve neighborhood identity, all while creating a meaningful addition to an often overlooked area. By approaching pedestrian safety and walkability through the lens of art and neighborhood pride we hope “This Place Is” plants a seed that grows throughout Columbus.

To learn more about “This Place Is” visit: www.ThisPlaceIs.org 

2015 to 2050

Its a pivotal time for multimodal transportation in Columbus and Central Ohio. Our city and region are the center of population growth for Ohio. Moving forward we must think comprehensively about how our transportation system will accommodate an additional 500,000 residents and 300,000 jobs that the insight2050 report has predicted our region will add by 2050. Multiple planning efforts are underway to address these issues and more work will follow.

As advocates for a better connected region, we at Transit Columbus believe it is important that our current and future elected officials address these issues. We also believe its our duty to elevate multimodal transportation issues so that the public can be well informed when choosing their future leaders. It is therefore, with great pleasure that we are releasing our Multimodal Transportation Voter Guide for the 2015 Columbus Primary Election.

This is just the first step. As the 2015 Columbus Municipal Election progresses towards November we intend to ensure that multimodal transportation is a defining feature of the campaign. No less than the future of our city and its citizens is at stake.

Joshua Lapp, Transit Columbus Vice-Chair and Columbus resident.

 

Another Stop on the Idea Line

The 2014 State of the City Address by outgoing Mayor Micheal Coleman was an exciting one for transit advocates like us at Transit Columbus. In his address, Mayor Coleman asked the question, among other things, of whether or not rail might be the answer to connect Port Columbus with Downtown. This spurred our organization to convene a studio of OSU students to study the topic. They recently presented their final report and the results are exciting.

The team of OSU students and professor/planner Chad Gibson analysed potential lines in order to understand what would be the most useful, impactful, and economically sound. Their recommendations included two lines: First, a north/south line from Old North Columbus to German Village via High Street costing $335 million; Second an east/west line connecting Downtown and Port Columbus via Broad Street costing $406 million.

Columbus is transitioning to a prosperous world-class city. We are competing with not just our neighboring cities for jobs, talent, and investment but with the likes of New York and Philadelphia. Transit investment is a paramount to our future, and a piece of the puzzle we still collectively need to solve.

This report is a piece of the transit vision for the future. It’s a beginning, a place to start. Its now time for our civic leaders, both current and future, to take the next steps to advance the future of transit in Columbus.

Link to full Report:

http://issuu.com/columbusrailtoday/docs/columbusrailtoday

Op/Ed: Bring it Columbus

Bring it Columbus

Columbus lost the bid for the Democratic National Convention, but we gained so much more. We better know who we are. We put ourselves out there, with the big boys and girls, to be judged. For, maybe the first time, as a city, we said “Hi, World. Pick us, choose us, and love us.” We did it because collectively, as a community, we believe in ourselves. We think we have a lot to offer, and we do. We would have been amazing hosts.

We are on our way to becoming a world class city. We know it. We believe we can get there. The community, humanity, openness and yes swagger, the Democratic National Convention Committee witnessed on their visit is real. The hardships, the grit, and the uneasiness we minimized are also real.

We still have far too many of our neighbors struggling with poverty, and were not yet connected in the ways we should be. Our people are still trying to figure out better ways to navigate this City. We have gaps. Many of us feel it. We know we don’t offer the kinds of transportation options that enable everyone in our community to thrive. We’ve come a long way in the last few years as far as transit options. Still we know we need more choices to bring the very best to Columbus.

These are things we should have moved on a decade ago. We should have talked more. We know this. We were young. We made priorities. We got really good at many things, creating a bustling downtown core and amazing neighborhoods among them.

And so, it’s time. Let’s concentrate on us now. The Democratic National Convention didn’t choose us, and that’s okay. We know who we are and who we want to be. We can become a better connected Columbus. Let’s be it. Bring it Columbus.

Elissa Schneider, Transit Columbus Chair and Columbus resident.

TransitColumbus Endorses COTA Changes

As originally published on ColumbusUnderground.com TransitColumbus is proud to announce our endorsement of the proposed changes coming out of COTA’s Transit System Review process. Head over to ColumbusUnderground for our opinion piece or read our statement below:

Transit Columbus strongly supports the transit system review (TSR) redesign process being developed by the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) that will streamline and improve service. These changes will provide the best coverage for the largest amount of Central Ohioans possible. COTA has the ability to vastly improve access, reliability, frequency, and ridership by revamping the current system to become simplified and efficient; all this with no additional taxpayer funding. We acknowledge that change is hard, and there will be some growing pains as a result of these changes. However, the end result will be a vast improvement for greatest number of people possible.

The core idea of the scenario proposed by consultant team including Jarret Walker (of the blog Human Transit), is to expand the network of services that run every 15 minutes or better all day — so that more people have service that is highly useful.  The plan creates higher-frequency, better-connected service that is projected to increase ridership by 10% within two years.

Currently only three routes provide high frequency service; under the new scenario more than 10 routes will have service that runs every 15 minutes or better. The plan also proposes to extend better service to suburban job centers in places such as Rickenbacker, New Albany and Dublin, and will realign less effective service to improve ridership and connectivity to jobs, while less productive routes will be discontinued.

Transit Columbus believes this is a better way for COTA to do business. It maximizes existing resources, creates better service and generates more ridership revenue without an increase in fares or local taxes. COTA has spent the past decade listening carefully to the public and making incremental changes and adjustments to improve service.  It’s time for the central Ohio community to embrace the transformative changes COTA is considering.

We can continue to do more of the same and make small incremental changes to improve service, or we can revisit the entire system and consider a new, better way of doing things. Current projections add around 500,000 people to the region by 2050; that’s more than the populations of the cities of Cincinnati and Dayton combined. As a City we must embrace the possibilities and opportunities this creates. A new way of moving our people is one critical way must prepare for the future Columbus.

The proposed plan would be the largest modification for COTA in 40 years and will give central Ohio a solid foundation for the future. As a region we must embrace a better connected Columbus, and it starts with the TSR scenario developed by COTA and its consultant team.