Downtown Transit Pass Program

Most of us have had trouble finding parking in downtown at some point. This situation is a challenge in any vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood throughout the country. In downtown Columbus, two important factors are contributing to a significant parking crunch. The number of people driving to work alone has been increasing since the 1990’s. Columbus is second only to Indianapolis in the number of number of single-occupancy commuters. Secondly, the surge of development has taken up many surface parking lots previously used for daily commuting. With parking at peak demand, parking rates have increased as a result.

Experts are predicting the widespread use of autonomous vehicles in the future. Whether they arrive in five years or 15 years, experts agree autonomous vehicles are coming, and when they do, the demand for daytime parking in downtown will drop significantly. Few people, if any, want to build expensive parking garages if they won’t be needed in the future.

To address parking challenges, property owners in the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District (SID) are crafting a practical, innovative and inexpensive solution: a program that provides free, unlimited use of public transit for employees.

Proposed Transit Pass Program

In March, 2017, Capital Crossroads property owners petitioned Columbus City Council to levy an assessment to help pay for free, unlimited access bus passes for all employees in SID buildings to encourage a shift away from single car commuting to riding transit. The program requires the SID to secure matching funds. If Capital Crossroads is successful in its fundraising efforts, the program is slated to launch on June 1, 2018. It will serve more than 43,000 employees.

Test Case

In 2015, Capital Crossroads ran a pilot program the made free bus passes available to more than 800 employees at four downtown employers. The pilot, funded by a grant from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, showed promising results in affecting the commuting habits of downtown workers.

Within three months, the reported use of transit for commuting to work went up from 6.4% to 12.2%. If the same results occur with all 43,000 employees in the SID, it would free up approximately 2,500 parking spaces, or the equivalent of four parking garages, by shifting drivers to transit.

An additional benefit, providing a free bus pass would improve access to jobs in downtown for low-wage earners who disproportionately feel the impact of expensive parking. Nearly 20% of the downtown workforce earns less than Franklin County’s living wage.

For More Information

For more information or to get newsletter updates, please contact Kacey Brankamp, Director of Strategic Initiatives at (614) 591-4504 or by e-mail.

Project Partners and Supporters

We graciously recognize and thank our partners and supporters:

  • Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
  • City of Columbus
  • Central Ohio Transit Authority
  • Franklin County
  • The Columbus Foundation
  • MACBEA Foundation
  • PNC Bank
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Key Bank

In the News

New Owner Plans Renovation of Historic Broad Street Buildings – Columbus Underground, May 15, 2017

Is a parking shortage pinching Downtown growth? – Columbus Dispatch, May 11, 2017

Downtown program gives workers bus rides in hopes of freeing up parking spaces – Columbus Business First, April 7, 2017

Columbus Shows What Free Bus Passes Can Do for Ridership – Next City, March 20, 2017

Capital Crossroads Working Towards Free Bus Pass Program for Downtown Workers – Columbus Underground, March 19, 2017

Every Worker in Downtown Columbus Could Have a Free Bus Pass Coming Their Way – Planetizen, March 15, 2017

Columbus May Offer Free Transit Passes to All Downtown Workers -Streetsblog, March 13, 2017

Building owners might subsidize free bus passes for 40,000 Downtown workers – Columbus Dispatch, March 12, 2017