GOOD IDEAS: The challenges

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?
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 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.

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.

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


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


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

Cost: $10  (Free to TransitColumbus members)


Purchase Tickets Here:

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.

Bowl for Transit

Bowl For Transit-page-001Bowl for Transit!

Grab your team, compete for prizes and help Transit Columbus
bring first-class transit in Central Ohio

Saturday, October 26, 2013
2:00-5:00 p.m.

Columbus Square Bowling Palace
5707 Forest Hills Boulevard
Columbus, Ohio 43231
Accessible on COTA Routes 1, 27 & 37
Members: $15
Non-Members: $50
This gets you two games of bowling,
shoe rental and one beer/soft drink.
Bowl For Transit-page-002Non-members also become a founding member of
Transit Columbus which includes a free coffee at
Café Brioso, a big thank you and recognition as
a founding member on our website
and Facebook page, discounts on future events
and a better transit system in Central Ohio.
Donate online at or make your check payable to
Transit Columbus
1480 Dublin Road,
Columbus, Ohio 43215
RSVP to Seth Josolowitz by October 21 at 614-202-9214or


Taking transit to work? In Columbus, you probably can’t.

BrookingsColumbusOH-page-001According to the Brookings Institute only 34% of jobs in the Columbus region are accessible within 90 minutes by transit. So, if you don’t have a car and need to get to work, well, good luck.

You can see on the map that the urban core is well serviced. If you live in Hill Top for example and work at a coffee shop downtown you can buy a COTA monthly pass and let someone else do the driving. If you want a better paying job at a distribution center in the periphery though, you’d better start saving so you can make car payments.

So, for the 10% or so of Central Ohioans with no car, those of us whose cars are on their last legs, and folks who just prefer to avoid the stress and cost of driving, there’s a good chance your work options may be limited. For those with no cars and no other options, this inability to get to where the jobs are can have a profound negative impact on their quality of life.

Businesses are beginning to feel the pinch too. Some companies in areas without reliable transit access are having staffing problems, and though we won’t name names, we’ve heard that COTA’s decision to look into expanding service to New Albany is due to several large employers there having trouble retaining workers for lower wage jobs. The trouble seems to be that the workers they’d like to recruit just can’t get to work.

Fixing this problem will not only take improved transit service in Central Ohio, but also more strategic thinking from  businesses as they consider where to locate their facilities. Land in the suburbs may be cheap, but getting there isn’t.

Transit Columbus Mission

Transit Columbus champions an integrated public transportation system for the people of Central Ohio to improve the safety, health, environment and economic vitality of the entire Columbus region. Now is the time to better connect Central Ohio!

As Columbus celebrates its bicentennial, our region is on the verge of becoming one of the nation’s premiere metropolitan centers: home to top businesses, nationally-ranked education and research institutions, great neighborhoods, and international attractions, arts, sports and culture.

The missing piece is a truly diverse public transportation system that serves all of Central Ohio’s citizens, visitors and businesses.