Curtis Stitt's Retirement Marks Two Decades Of Transformation At COTA

Sep 28, 2017

For the last 18 years, Curtis Stitt has helped lead the Central Ohio Transit Authority in adapting to new technologies and a changing city. But Friday marks his retirement from the organization.

When Stitt started at COTA, it looked very different, and not just because most vehicles were gas-powered vehicles and iPhones didn't exist.

"I think we have taken a system that really just focused on getting people from A to B, to a system that focuses on people's needs," Stitt says.

Stitt took a job in COTA's legal department in 1999. He was named president and CEO of the transit authority in 2012.

Stitt says that since 2006, COTA has increased its service from 625,000 hours to 1.2 million hours and redesigned its routes with a new focus on where people live and work today. He says it's a big change from COTA's last route system, which was designed in 1970 and didn't predict the growth in areas like New Albany and Polaris.

"The city has [expanded] outward, toward the outer belt, even though the downtown is undergoing a transformation right now, a lot of the jobs that were focused in and located in downtown are no longer located in downtown," Stitt says. 

In 2004, COTA had about 14 million riders a year. Now, for the past three years, that number is closer to 18 million.

"Communities realize that public transit is important and made it public transit, and began to subsidize the costs of transit operations," Stitt says. "That's why we're able to maintain our fairs at $2 per trip because our community understands the importance of public transit."

Stitt's tenure also saw the creation of the NextGen vision, the AirConnect shuttle to the airport, and the addition of free public WiFi on all buses.

As for the (far off) possibility of a Columbus Hyperloop project, Stitt says it's "just another example of how we're limited only by the limits we put on our imagination."