Columbus Prepares for a Dramatic Transit Makeover

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Streamlining and redesigning Columbus’s bus network could quadruple the number of frequent routes. Map: COTA

Columbus, Ohio, population 820,000, is technically America’s 15th largest city. But its transit system has never lived up to its big-city aspirations. The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) carries just 64,000 riders daily. By comparison, Cleveland’s Red Line, a single rail route, carries 26,000 people a day.

Now, like Houston, Columbus is considering a reorganization of its bus network that could go a long way toward making transit an appealing choice, even without securing any additional revenue. Network blog Transit Columbus reports that COTA is working with consultant Jarrett Walker on a big redesign of its service:

Although the final plan hasn’t been released, judging from the draft plan there are some big and exciting changes on the way.

First, and most exciting, more routes will run at least every 15 minutes! As of now, we only have 3 routes that run with such a high frequency, but under the proposed plan that will jump to 12. No only that, but they would also run at least every 15 minutes seven days a week. That’s right, weekends too.

If that’s not enough to get you excited

  • 10,752 more existing riders will be within 1/4 mile of 15 minute service
  • 17,176 more jobs are within a 1/4 mile of any service (+4.2%)
  • More than twice as many residents (116,000 more residents) get frequent service – that’s part of why ridership will grow (+103%)

Best of all: COTA can make these improvements without spending more money. All of the changes proposed will paid for out of the savings from eliminated meandering and unpopular routes and increasing system efficiency.

By making our bus system simpler, faster and easier to use we will be taking an important step towards making Columbus a transit-friendly city.

Pretty exciting stuff. How many other American cities can get more bang for their transit buck by re-imagining their bus networks like Columbus and Houston?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Economics of Place says that in order to spur growth in southeast Michigan, lawmakers need to prioritize transit. The Invisible Cyclist notes a shortcoming of new research on protected bike lanes: It lacks good survey data from people of color. And The Political Environment says Wisconsin lawmakers continue to take a scandalously permissive stance on drunk driving.