City Wants High-Tech Traffic Control

Posted by Columbus Transit On June - 28 - 2010

The City of Columbus wants to invest $36.8 million to purchase a high-tech system that would give traffic controllers direct access to coordinate traffic lights across the city. When traffic backs up because of an accident, congestion, or re-routing, traffic controllers could change lights with a flick of a switch to get cars moving more quickly through intersections.

COTA Offices Move Downtown

Posted by Columbus Transit On June - 28 - 2010

The Central Ohio Transit Authority moved its headquarters downtown recently into the newly remodeled building at 33 North High Street. The $13.6 million renovation of the 10-story downtown building includes a new customer-service counter where passengers can purchase tickets and extensive green features such as energy-saving lighting. COTA is in the process of applying for LEED Certification for the renovation. COTA will utilize seven of the 10 stories and will rent the other three out. Notably, the building does not include parking as COTA employees are expected to utilize the bus.

YPCOTA Kicks Off

Posted by Columbus Transit On June - 17 - 2010

Young Professionals Columbus and COTA have teamed up to encourage 'social transit' through a month-long initiative combining transit with social networking.

New Parking Meter Rates Coming

Posted by Columbus Transit On June - 17 - 2010

Crews are changing the parking meter prices and times on meters in the downtown and Short North area, as well as adding 400 new parking meters to previously free spaces. The changes come after a long debate about how best to up rates to help pay for the construction of a new convention center hotel. The original rate change, pulled from the funding plan for the shelved Columbus Streetcar initiative, upset business owners in the up-and-coming Gay Street area and downtown. A commission revised the plan which was approved and is now being implemented.

City Wants High-Tech Traffic Control

Posted by Columbus Transit On 11:51 AM 8 comments

The City of Columbus wants to invest $36.8 million to purchase a high-tech system that would give traffic controllers direct access to coordinate traffic lights across the city. When traffic backs up because of an accident, congestion, or re-routing, traffic controllers could change lights with a flick of a switch to get cars moving more quickly through intersections.

The system is already in place in parts of downtown Columbus, but the new investment would expand the area of control to places as far away as I-270. That would give operators much more control over the region's traffic patterns.

The new system would replace an aging 1970s traffic light network that could also take into account new forms of transportation. While currently bikers at some intersections have to wait for a vehicle to activate a signal, new sensors in the system could recognize two-wheeled travelers and switch the light for them as well.

The system will be implemented in phases meant to be complete by 2018. You can find more information here. A press release from the city can be downloaded here.

COTA Offices Move Downtown

Posted by Columbus Transit On 11:24 AM 0 comments

The Central Ohio Transit Authority moved its headquarters downtown recently into the newly remodeled building at 33 North High Street. The $13.6 million renovation of the 10-story downtown building includes a new customer-service counter where passengers can purchase tickets and extensive green features such as energy-saving lighting. COTA is in the process of applying for LEED Certification for the renovation. COTA will utilize seven of the 10 stories and will rent the other three out. Notably, the building does not include parking as COTA employees are expected to utilize the bus.

Check out Columbus Underground for some great pictures here and the Dispatch for their take here.

YPCOTA Kicks Off

Posted by Columbus Transit On 9:20 PM 0 comments

Young Professionals Columbus and COTA have teamed up to encourage 'social transit' through a month-long initiative combining transit with social networking. Information on the event can be found in the press release below as well as on the YPCOTA Facebook page.

YPCOTA Bus Challenge 2010 – Thursday, June 17-Thursday, July 15

“Ditch the keys. Ride the Bus.”

Will you take up the Challenge? Join locals from all backgrounds, trades, cultures, and neighborhoods in a social competition to see who can log the most trips made on central Ohio’s public transit system – the bus.

Reliable public transportation is vital in the growth of any city. That’s why Young Professionals of Columbus (YPC) and the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) have come together to create an event that will open eyes, change lifestyles and make the community a little bit “greener” – the YPCOTA Bus Challenge 2010!

If you’re a regular rider, this should be a walk in the park. If you’re a newbie – join the adventure and take that first step toward a transit lifestyle – jump on the bus! You don’t have to do it alone, bring your friends and make it a team affair.

You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to experience a fresh perspective on urban living, meet new people, attend great events and spontaneous meet-ups, race through scavenger hunts, win prizes and more...

Show off your adventures and upload your photos and videos to the YPCOTA’s Facebook page and Twitter account. We want to see and know it all! Tweet us up in real time. Send pictures and videos to our Facebook page of yourself and teammates living the transit life. Tell us all about it and let the world step into your shoes!

And, don’t forget to keep track of your competitors; their pics and Tweets should prove interesting and give you some great ideas.

For more information, and to join in the fun, search for the YPCOTA Facebook Fan Page.

Stay on top of what’s going on minute-to-minute by following us on Twitter @YPCOTA.

You wouldn’t want to miss out on the weekly meet-ups either!

Know what else? The Challenge is FREE!

Here’s some awards up for grabs:

1. YPCOTA BUS MASTER
2. Most artistic photo on the bus/bus stop
3. Funniest photo on the bus/bus stop
4. Most artistic video on the bus/bus stop
5. Funniest video on the bus/bus stop
6. Best group/team photo/video
7. Social Media Darling: Best comment/story/Tweet about adventures on the bus
8. YsPy Award (winner of the YPCOTA scavenger hunt)
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New Parking Meter Rates Coming

Posted by Columbus Transit On 10:50 AM 0 comments

Crews are changing the parking meter prices and times on meters in the downtown and Short North areas, as well as adding 400 new parking meters to previously free spaces. The changes come after a long debate about how best to up rates to help pay for the construction of a new convention center hotel. The original rate change, pulled from the funding plan for the shelved Columbus Streetcar initiative, upset business owners in the up-and-coming Gay Street area and downtown. A commission revised the plan which was approved and is now being implemented. The costs are as follows:

Half hour meters will cost 50 cents.
Two, three, and six hour meters will cost 75 cents per hour.
Twelve hour meters will cost 40 cents per hour.

Additionally, meters will mostly run until 10 p.m. The changes will raise around $2.1 million annually and will go into full affect by Labor Day.

New Statehouse Bus Shelters Approved

Posted by Columbus Transit On 10:38 AM 0 comments

The City Blog of the Columbus Dispatch announced that the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board has approved the construction of bus shelters on High and Broad in front of the Statehouse. The bus shelters will have architectural elements to help them blend with the historic structure. Currently, no bus shelters exist there and riders sit on the retaining wall in front of the Statehouse grounds or stand in the entrance to the underground parking garage. More information can be found here.

Mayor Unveils Sharrow: Sharrows vs. Bike Lanes

Posted by Columbus Transit On 5:22 PM 1 comments
Yesterday, Mayor Coleman unveiled the first of 189 icons that will be painted along High Street from Nationwide Boulevard to Morse Road to remind motorists to 'share the road' with bicyclists. The 'sharrows' are one part of a much broader strategy outlined in the 2008 Bicentennial Bikeways Plan to create the bicycling city of tomorrow right here in Columbus. The plan calls for an extensive mix of sharrows, bike lanes, and bike trails running throughout downtown and the greater region.

Before coming to Columbus, I had biked previously in only one city which also happened to be a worldwide center for biking: Copenhagen. Having lived there for four months, I traversed its many trails and bike lanes finding them safe, easy to navigate, and fun to use. For that reason it truly shocked me to return to the United States and encounter a fierce resistance among some urban cyclists to the construction of designated bike lanes on city streets on the basis that they made cyclists less safe.

Looking historically at the issue, Columbus' streets were not always the urban highways we see today. These pictures from High Street in 1914 show an astonishing number of pedestrians walking directly across the street with multiple modes of transit coexisting: horse and buggy, automobile, streetcar. That type of fluid mix slowly faded with the sorting of transit uses. The 1968 plan for Columbus called for transit modes to be grade-separated with the street reserved for the automobile while the pedestrian would be segregated to skywalks hung over the streets and even an elevated transit line. These recommendations heavily influenced the zooming, barren urban streets urbanists often detest.

In viewing the historic mix of uses on our city's streets, I can see an argument that sharrows on our city's streets may be better than bike lanes in an attempt to create that historic urban vitality. However, with the advancements of vehicles in the past century, the speed of cars makes me believe such sharrows would be dangerous themselves with cars flying by. At the very least, I know that fewer people will feel comfortable jumping onto their bikes to ride with the SUV next to them than in dedicated bike lanes. I know I did.

The safety concerns of cyclists about bike lanes create questions however. There are a number of ways in which such safety concerns arise. First, cyclists worry about the possibility of lanes which run between parallel-parked cars and the street. In hugging the wall of cars, cyclists risk a door opening in their way and running into it. Secondly, the more generalized idea that lanes will make cyclists less visible to cars, especially turning cars. These fears are highly justified and the safety of bikers should be a number one priority.

Such concerns are, though, a question of design rather than a referendum on bike lanes as a whole. After all, if the fear of running into an open door or being clipped by a right turning car meant all uses should be mixed on the street, then pedestrians should not walk on sidewalks but with traffic? That seems entirely silly. Imagine cars wading through crowds of people. Rather, appropriate signage and well marked cross-walks create a safer environment for pedestrians.

The design of bike lanes should follow similar conventions. To be clear, painting lines on the street should not be considered safe bike lanes. They must be more than that. Only with appropriate design can biking be safe. Consider for instance, lights specifically for bicyclists that would give them a few second head-start over cars in crossing an intersection. In Copenhagen, bike lanes were slightly raised above the level of the street but below the level of sidewalks. That gave a very physical separation from both vehicles and pedestrians that was also very visible. Also, by placing bike lanes far enough away from cars, they avoid the problem of open doors. What it comes down to is this: by creating better-designed bikeways, the problems of safety can be overcome. In overcoming those problems through greater investment in infrastructure you will encourage more riders. More riders creates more visibility. More visibility creates a safer environment. They build upon each other. This Berkley study supports this argument.

Then which is better, sharrow or bike lane? After that discussion it is pretty clear that I favor bike lanes; however, the sharrow plays an important role and the two need not be mutually exclusive. Not every street has the room to safely accomodate a bike lane (at least so long as we continue to favor the vehicle above all other forms of transit). When it is not safe to do so, a sharrow is the next best option. It is for that exact reason that the bicentennial bikeways plan for Columbus envisioned a mix of the two. Thus I applaud the implementation yesterday of the bike sharrow on High Street, and I hope the process of creating lanes and sharrows continues.

Cincinnati Votes to Fund Streetcar

Posted by Columbus Transit On 1:38 PM 1 comments

Yesterday, Cincinnati City Council approved funding $67 million for the construction of a downtown streetcar line. That money would cover two-thirds of the cost for construction of the line. The city hopes the federal or state government will step in to fund the remaining costs of the line through different grant programs. With assurances that construction could begin if federal dollars are added, the city is more likely to receive grants for the streetcar. For more information, a great blog devoted to the transit line can be found here.

While this website focuses on transit in Columbus, the Cincinnati Streetcar, if built, could have positive effects for the Capital. This would be the first modern streetcar built in the state and one of few in the country, yet would be just a short train ride away (pending construction of the 3C Corridor). That distance would allow people to experience the streetcar more easily. If built and designed well, of course, the streetcar system in Cincinnati could help make the case for further investments in transit throughout the state.

While funding seems to be a minor issue for the streetcar at the moment and a public vote has already been held on transit issues in the city, opponents of the streetcar are promising to push for a second public vote on the rail line.

Bike to Work Challenge!

Posted by Columbus Transit On 1:18 PM 0 comments

One thousand bikers have hit the streets over the course of the week as part of the annual Bike to Work Challenge. The program, brought by Yay Bikes!, encourages commuters to utilize biking to get to and from work. Companies create teams to see who can rack up the most cyclists during the event which runs from May 10 to May 20. The Bike to Work Challenge kicks off the summer season when people are more likely to ride to work and creates the 'critical mass' so often needed to get people out of their cars and onto alternative modes of transportation. For more information about the event, check out their website here. Have fun to all you bikers and keep up the bicyclist commute!

COTA Expands, Keeps Costs Down

Posted by Columbus Transit On 12:15 PM 0 comments

According to an article in today's Columbus Dispatch, ridership on the Central Ohio Transit Authority's buses continues to climb with increases in service while COTA holds its costs steady. From 2008-2009 COTA ridership grew by 9.4 percent at a time when many of Columbus' peer cities have reduced service and thus lowered ridership in the face of the recession. Because of that increase, COTA has brought its operating costs closer in line to other cities. Historically, COTA has paid up to 32 percent more for the same bus service compared to places like Indianapolis. Because COTA kept its operating budget low while expanding services, that percentage is now 18 percent.

The original Columbus Dispatch article can be found here.

Transit Advocacy Group Meetup

Posted by Columbus Transit On 4:49 PM 1 comments
A group of local Columbus transit advocates are planning a second 'meet up' to discuss initiatives and strategies for creating an citizens transit advocacy group. Other cities have had success with similar groups such as St. Louis' Citizens for Modern Transit. Columbus' group, ironically, has switched its name from CBus Rail to CBus Transit but despite the similarities in name, at this point, it is in no way connected to this blog. Regardless, the advocacy group invites anyone to attend.

Information about date and time can be found here.
The organization's website can be found here.

Columbus History: Streetcars

Posted by Columbus Transit On 1:53 PM 1 comments

While the recent Streetcar plan for Columbus may have seemed like a radical new step in the city's transportation infrastructure, it was actually taken largely from the past. For those of you who do not know, Columbus - like most cities in the United States - can trace its growth in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries to the expansion of its streetcar network.

Streetcars in Columbus first arrived in a non-motorized form. They were horse-drawn wagons riding rails embedded in the street. With the dawn of the electric trolley, Columbus quickly upgraded its fleet of vehicles, in four years moving completely to an electric system. Streetcars rumbled up and down the center of most Columbus streets including High, 4th, Summit, East Broad, Goodale, Parsons, and Cleveland. Run by private companies, these streetcar lines were often laid into open fields which those same companies would then develop with housing and retail. These lines encouraged retail corridor streets to follow them while encouraging housing further from the retail core. In many ways, streetcars encouraged the earliest generation of urban sprawl because they allowed the growth of urban neighborhoods beyond the city center.

While the workers on the streetcar system held a number of strikes, the most violent in Columbus' history happened in 1910. Hoping for higher wages and union recognition, the streetcar workers walked out on April 29. The Columbus Railway and Light Company brought in 450 strike breakers from Cleveland and violence ensued. 24 streetcars were destroyed over the course of the strike which calmed down only in July with the arrival of the National Guard and fully ended in October of that year. A historic marker is located on Long Street commemorating the event.

By 1914 the Columbus streetcar system had returned to full operation, and its lines were so popular that the company experimented with a double-decker streetcar. While the car had a greater capacity, its single door entrance actually made the process of entering and exiting equally as difficult and the car was scrapped.

With the coming of the bus, the streetcar system began a 'modernization' effort. The last Columbus streetcar ran in 1948.

Public Hearings on COTA Bus Stop Improvements

Posted by Columbus Transit On 6:28 PM 14 comments

COTA has scheduled two public hearings for input on its Bus Stop Improvement Project. The times and dates are listed below:

Friday, May 14
Rhodes State Office Tower
Lobby Hearing Room 30 E. Broad St., 43215
12-1 p.m.

Monday, May 24
Northwood-High Building Room 100 2231 N. High
6-7 p.m.

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