Downtown Concierge

Choosing Alternative Transportation, Part I


Downtown Matters Newsletter


Downtown Columbus

Like eating green veggies and running a 5K, choosing alternate transportation is something that's good for you (and the community), which people often find a daunting prospect. But when one talks to people who have made the switch, many of the obstacles seem to fall by the wayside.

Marc Conte, COTA Rider

Marc Conte rides COTA almost every day from his home in the Short North to his job downtown (full disclosure: Conte is Research Director for Capital Crossroads SID). Conte explained that although his job is a short drive from home, taking the bus is still faster and easier.

"The bus is already warm. I don't have to scrape my car. I don't have to deal with traffic or angry drivers. And I can catch up on email or listen to music," said Conte.

Conte admitted that in certain circumstances he will choose his car; for example, if here is something right after work to which he needs to drive. On those days, he goes ahead and drives and springs for parking.

"I figure with all the money I save on gas and wear on my car, one day of parking isn't a problem," he added. "I can drive when my schedule warrants it, but needing to drive is a departure from the norm for me."

Conte recognizes that some people are concerned about getting to meeting outside the office if they don't have a car, but noted that walking, taxis and new services such as Car2Go (a car sharing service) and CoGo Bike Share (a bike sharing service) can fill the gap on those days.

COTA offers a wide variety of routes, with frequent buses at rush hour and a number of express route options. Those interested in trying COTA out can consult with a COTA representative to determine the best route options.

Capital Crossroads has begun discussions with downtown businesses to help them increase usage of public transportation among their employees. Many businesses will offer paid or subsidized parking but not paid or subsidized COTA passes. Often the COTA passes are a less expensive option for the businesses, which can make it a win-win. IRS Regulation 132 benefits transit riders, who can deduct the cost of a transit pass from their pre-tax income. Capital Crossroads would also like to see businesses allow employees to try public transportation for a set period of time without losing their parking spot, so they have a fall-back position if the trial run doesn't work out.

"I know taking the bus isn't for everyone, but for some people, they just need to give it a try," added Conte. "Even if just a small percentage more took public transportation, it would ease traffic and parking congestion throughout downtown."

Once people become "bus riders," they often are true devotees. They form relationships with other riders, which has led to bus book clubs and even on-bus retirement parties.

Conte and Paul Westrick (who is featured in Choosing Alternative Transportation Part II) are just two of many who have adopted alternate modes of commuting downtown. There are so many options available to make it an appealing option. CCSID wants to do all it can to encourage this trend. The SID is meeting with human resource managers at various downtown companies to ensure they are aware of the breadth of commuting options available to downtown workers, as well as encouraging companies that offer a parking benefit to offer a comparable transit benefit. Companies are encouraged to reach out to the SID to have staff meet with HR managers or employees to review commuting options.