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.

The Case for Mass Transit, Part 1

Posted by Columbus Transit On 7:51 PM
I have often underestimated anger about the use of public funds for public transportation. What I find particularly interesting is that in my view, it is exactly why humans created government in the first place: to embark on community oriented projects. Regardless, I guess someone must make the case for utilizing funds for public transportation. Utilizing the example of the Portland Streetcar, it is easy to see what the point of transportation is. Here are just a few facts that prove this point:
  • Ridership on the streetcar is 30% higher than ridership on a comparable Portland City bus line
  • Investment as a result of the streetcar totaled nearly $3,500,000,000 of development directly within the city's downtown area.
  • Within one block of the streetcar line, housing density in the area has jumped almost 60 percent
This information can be found here. These types of results showcase the numerous benefits of public transportation. That type of downtown development can be replicated in Columbus with an investment in public transportation.

The case for mass transit will continue to be published over the next several months as an ongoing series demonstrating the development opportunities associated with upgrades in mass transportation.

8 Response to "The Case for Mass Transit, Part 1"

  1. John Said,

    Do you think you could provide more detail about your first bullet point? How is that measured? Passengers per revenue service mile? Passengers per revenue service hour? Are you comparing the streetcar to one bus route in particular or the entire bus fleet?


  2. That is specifically comparing a streetcar to a comparable bus line.


  3. John Said,

    Has there been a bus line in Portland that was/is comparable to the streetcar to which you can make a valid comparison? You wrote, "Ridership on the [Portland] streetcar is 30% higher than ridership on Portland City buses," not that ridership on streetcars is higher than ridership on buses in general.

    Regardless of what you meant versus what you wrote, do you have a link to the source for that information? It could be useful for future reference.


  4. Bart Said,

    Unfortunately, the original post offers very sketchy details. You failed to mention that the streetcar is free to tide, therefore, increasing the burden upon taxpayers. It's easy to put people on transit when its fee, but someone has to pay the piper.

    Portland, however, is not exempt from today's economy - fare hikes and service cuts are currently being implemented.

    Regarding ridership, a simiar situation exists in Phoenix. Many people note that ridership is exceeding expectations, but no discussion mentions that neraly half the riders are riding for free, mainly through government agencies paying the full cost of transit passes for their employees. Again, someone eventually has to pay. How long can government continue this?

    Getting back to Portland, it has been well documented that development in the downtown area would have happened with or without the streetcar - the land is simply to valuable.

    If you are going to sell transit, you must do a better job than supporting your view, and be prepared to offer all the facts.


  5. Emar Tino Said,

    Congratulations on the blog and good luck. I hope you are successful in promoting transit and that you enjoy managing the blog.

    I also hope you have thick skin. It's easy to take a short paragraph and pick it apart for not including every detail necessary to analyze transit use: cost, ridership, mode shift, other economic factors such as the economy as a whole and non-transit related development investment, to name a few. You may find yourself with 2 types of followers: those who support transit (preaching to the choir), and those who don't and won't no matter what you say. I wish you luck in reaching the those who haven't decided how they feel and providing some information that helps them at least consider transit.

    Again, best of luck.


  6. Bart, while I see a conundrum in the anger over free ridership and then subsequent anger over fare hikes, I also see a few problems which need to be corrected.

    In fact, the streetcar is only free within a specific zone in order to encourage ridership and development there. Otherwise the streetcar fares can be found here:

    Secondly, if you would like to point out "sketchy details" despite the links provided in the CBT post, I would appreciate some links provided in your own post in order to create a real dialogue. I cannot respond to your claims of "well documented" cases if you do not provide links to the documentation.

    Thirdly, indeed it does cost money to build a streetcar in the same way that it costs money to build a highway which in most cases to not require tolls to utilize.

    I hope we can have a real discussion on these issues and I look forward to your reply.

    As to John, those numbers can be found in the following places:
    They can be found under the Community Impact toolbar under development slideshow on the site
    it can also be found here:

    Hope that helps.


  7. John Said,

    I can't find that information on the Portland Streetcar site, but the Tacoma site quotes the streetcar site as follows:

    "According to Portland Streetcar Inc. (PSi), "a streetcar attracts 30-50% more ridership than a comparable bus. It is thus plausible to assume an average 40% more ridership attracted to streetcar service. In other words, a comparable bus service would attract approximately 30% lower ridership."

    That's what I figured you meant, but it's quite a bit different than saying that the Portland Streetcar attracts 30% more riders than the Portland City buses.


  8. Bart Said,

    Hi CT,

    I'll be glad to provide some links supporting the view that development in Portland would have happen regardless of the streetcar. In fact, I've sat in the audience here in Columbus where speakers from Portland have even acknowledged this fact, although as expected, they do give some credit to streetcars.

    But before I do, do you really need this information to understand that the idea of no streetcar = no development is a farce? I truly hope common sense prevails more in your blogs, because Columbus has some very smart people who see right through a potential scam.

    Sorry I's one article for you to review:

    Among other things, note:

    "...the city (Portland) issued around $234 million worth of bonds to subsidize this district. These bonds would be repaid by the “incremental” property taxes paid by properties in the district, which means that other Portlanders would have to pay for the police, fire, library, schools, and other services used by occupants of the district. The city also added some federal grants to the pot.

    My point again, is don't twist a story. Free fares, massive grants and subsidies, these things all contributed more to development than simply a streetcar. To deny this is to make folly public transit.

    Unfortunately, you are caught between a rock and a hard place, In today's economy, trying to promote a heavily taxpayer subsidized concept is going to fly over like a led balloon.

    But hey - I do want to say thank you for listening to me and being interested in dialog. Please know that I actually favor transit, just not the wy it is structured, and the high costs necessary to operate it.

    Yes, freeways and roads have costs too, but when they are being used by 90% of the mode split, shared by truckers and EMT vehicles, they are a little easier to justify by the car supporters.


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