Central Ohio Mass transit plans abound


Three different long-range transportation plans are being developed that may impact Delaware County.

The city of Columbus is developing “Connect Columbus;” the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) is developing its “NextGen” plan; and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) is developing its “Metropolitan Transportation Plan.” The latter two plans are still seeking public input.

“You may not use public transportation, but it affects you indirectly,” said Delaware Area Transit Agency (DATA) executive director Denny Schooley at a Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce talk at SourcePoint on Thursday. Schooley said the area’s growth has led to changes in how the local 21-vehicle, 40-employee agency is being funded. DATA, founded in 1998 and providing 82,000 trips in 2015, recently conducted a survey to determine community needs.

The main speaker at the event was Chris Hermann, board member of Transit Columbus, a non-profit organization that “champions an integrated public transportation system for the people of central Ohio.” Hermann, citing a report called “insight2050,” said that Franklin and the six counties that surround it will grow from 1.8 million people currently to 2.3 million in 2050. This growth will put pressure on the region’s transportation needs.

“Columbus area commuters spent 40 hours stuck in traffic in 2011,” Hermann said, “and 83 percent of commuters travel alone.”

Hermann said the county needs to improve its housing options, and create more walk-able neighborhoods with mixed uses. He cited Bridge Street in Dublin and Grandview Yard in Grandview Heights as examples of new destination areas.

The Connect Columbus plan, which is expected to be released in June, is being described as a “multimodal thoroughfare plan,” said the city’s website. The plan “will define the future of transportation by providing the rules for alternative means of travel. A community that is more pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly is a more livable community.”

Hermann noted that Columbus has several alternative means of travel, such as COGO Bike Share, Car2Go, Uber, Cbus, and ECT Pedicabs.

COTA’s NextGen long-range transit plan estimates Delaware County will grow from 182,208 people in 2010 to 326,595 people in 2035, a 79 percent increase. As a result, among the plan’s recommendations is to “identify and construct park and ride facilities and provide express service between downtown” (Columbus) and “Polaris Parkway and Gemini Place, near Polaris Fashion Place and Towne Center.” The crosstown route would go into Delaware County, but remain in Columbus.

MORPC is considered a Metropolitan Planning Organization, Hermann said, meaning it receives federal funding for transportation projects in the Columbus area, which includes all of Delaware County. The 2016-2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan is underway, and if county projects are mentioned, they could also be eligible for funding.

Hermann concluded the talk by comparing costs of transportation. He said that a light rail project would cost $1 billion, and a street car system $100 million. “Ohio is 41st of the states in the amount it spends on public transport, 63 cents per person.”

He also noted that it costs almost $10,000 annually to own and operate a car, compared to $1,260 to ride a bus for a year, or $308 to bicycle for a year.

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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