In May, COTA launched an innovative new public transit option: the free-to-ride CBUS circulator bus. CBUS buses loop through downtown, the Brewery District and the Short North at 10 to 15-minute intervals all week long. It's a convenient option for commuters, visitors and residents to get around.
"We are thrilled with the addition of the CBUS to options for public transportation downtown," said Cleve Ricksecker, Executive Director of Capital Crossroads SID and member of the COTA Board of Directors. "It really makes it easier for commuters to choose public transportation, freeing up parking, which grows ever more limited downtown."
CBUS joins CoGo Bike Share and car2go as options that make it easier for commuters to leave their cars at home. In the past, those who chose alternative transportation to commute downtown could find it difficult to get around downtown for meetings or other appointments during the day. Now, those commuters can hop on the CBUS, which is free, or pay a small fee to ride a CoGo bike or take a car2go smart car.
"The response to the CBUS has been fantastic," said Lisa Knapp, Public and Media Relations Manager for COTA. "We have a diverse ridership: downtown employees, residents, visitors from the suburbs, and visitors from out-of-town. As of the end of August, there have been over 189,000 CBUS trips."
Knapp explained that COTA looked at how circulator bus service worked in other cities and determined that the time was right for Columbus. As the city grows, strained parking space means that Columbus must be innovative with transportation options.
"Feedback indicates that the CBUS is being used by commuters to get to work, downtown workers to get around for meetings and lunches, and by visitors to get to conventions, dinners and to explore the city," added Knapp. "We even learned of a business meeting that was hosted right on the CBUS!"
Another factor that is encouraging increased public transportation use is businesses offering pre-tax public transportation benefits for their employees. COTA and Capital Crossroads urge businesses to offer transit benefits equal to any parking benefits they may offer. Ricksecker and Kelsie Marty, COTA Online Marketing Manager have met with a number of businesses to help them develop transit programs for their employees. COTA will also offer discounted passes for large groups.
One downtown business offering a pre-tax parking benefit program is Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease LLC. They take advantage of IRS Regulation 132, which allows businesses to deduct the cost of a transit pass from an employee's pre-tax income, which is a cost savings for the employee. According to Chet Eckler, Director of Facilities, more than 20 employees currently use this option.
Businesses interested in more information about how to encourage public transportation use are encouraged to contact Cleve Ricksecker at JCRicksecker@sidservices.com or Sherry Bump, Marketing Director, COTA at BumpSL@cota.com.