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 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.
(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.
(Most Recent Frequent Network Proposal)
(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.
(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.