COTA Plans For The Future; Weighs Light-Rail Options

Oct 6, 2015

The Central Ohio Transit Authority plans to slowly roll out its new bus network during the next two years. The plan calls for more frequent buses downtown and a host of other changes.

But COTA also has long term plans to keep up with Central Ohio's growing population. COTA President Curtis Stitt says that could include a variety of options.

COTA is holding a series of public meetings on transportation options for the future.

The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Marilyn Smith: We called you today and you graciously stepped out of the conference that you're attending to talk about the next generation of transportation for central Ohio. From what I understand the population is expected to grow quite a lot in the next thirty or forty years. What is your vision for transportation? 

Curtis Stitt: Our vision for public transportation over the next thirty-five years is that COTA provides a service can keep pace with that growth. We will not be able to provide the same old service that we've been providing for the past forty-one years as the Central Ohio Transit Authority and keep pace with the growth that's anticipated for Columbus and central Ohio. So the next gen project is a project where today we are beginning to plan the system that will be able to keep pace with the growth and provide the type of public transportation that will be necessary as this community grows over the next thirty, thirty-five years. 

MS: Do you envision Light rail in that scenario?

CS: We are looking at high-capacity corridors throughout the Columbus, Central Ohio area. 

MS: And what do you mean by that? 

CS: Public transportation improvements that envision things like light rail, fully robust bus rapid transit, maybe street car, that provide greater capacity than running single busses on traditional fixed-route bus lines. And we are leaving the conclusions open for right now, and we are taking a look at all of the options that might be available to us and trying to match those options with the projected areas of growth in population and growth in jobs and to figure out which modes of public transportation might work best in those corridors where these high density or these high capacity transit options might be available.

MS: Have you gotten to the question of cost yet?

CS: Absolutely not because we don't know we're going to be costing. We haven't got to a point in this planning process that just began four or five months ago to a point where we can begin to estimate cost because we don't know what the modes will be at this point.

MS: You've asked members of the public to weigh in possible routes. Wouldn't it be just as beneficial perhaps to have people come up with creative ways to pay for increased transportation?

CS: Certainly looking at creative ways to pay for whether it's public transportation, roads and bridges, yeah that's something we could do. But also we've got to look at what we would propose for community specifically in terms of the types of service that we would provide. Certainly we'll be exploring as part of this effort creative ways to fund the construction, operation and maintenance of the service once we determine what that service might be.

MS: We've been hearing about the possibility of extended transportation options throughout central Ohio for a long time is this just wishful thinking or are you really onto something concrete?

CS: I hope it's not just wishful thinking. You know one of our responsibilities at COTA today is make sure that we're using the current resources that we have that we're providing the absolute best public transit service that we can today. But we also have a responsibility to plan for the future. So many people in our community call Columbus a twenty minute town meaning you get around from place to place anywhere in our community in twenty minutes, I don't know if that's literal. But they they refer to the ease of getting around in your car. Well perhaps with the growth that's anticipated in our community over the next thirty-five years we will not be a twenty minute town or forty minute town unless we plan now for the future of our comprehensive transportation system, and COTA's fulfilling its responsibility and planning now what the public transit component of that comprehensive transportation system should be.

MS: COTA president Curtis Stitt thank you so much for joining us.

CS: Thank you.