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.

High Speed Rail Funds Get A Boost

Posted by Columbus Transit On 12:55 PM 0 comments
It looks like President Obama's high-speed rail initiative has gained some support in congress. The President's original plan had $8 billion dollars in stimulus funding going towards high-speed rail. That money was approved with the passage of the stimulus bill. Obama further called for an additional $1 billion per year for the next five years. With such a large amount of funding at stake, cities, states, and regions around the country have stepped up in asking for over $102 billion dollars in proposed high-speed projects. In response, the House has stepped up to the plate. The House passed a bill which allocated an additional $4 billion dollars towards high-speed rail for one year as opposed to the $1 billion Obama requested for that year. While that number still needs to be debated and voted on in the Senate, it could mean an overall addition of $3 billion for high-speed rail. CBT will keep you updated as this bill moves through D.C. Check out the main article here.

Even COTA Feeling the Pressure

Posted by Columbus Transit On 12:41 PM 0 comments
The sour economy is finally hitting the Central Ohio Transit Authority. Funded by sales tax receipts, COTA is hurting in this recession. With less funding coming in, COTA is making some cuts. Those measures, outlined in Business First of Columbus, include a freeze on hiring and slimmed-down employee travel. Unlike other mass transit agencies around the state and country, however, COTA is not cutting services or raising fares. Smart planning on the part of the agency has helped to keep costs down while maintaining the level of service.

Connecting Columbus

Posted by Columbus Transit On 10:54 PM 0 comments
Columbus is a fantastic city full of lively districts, beautiful urban neighborhoods, and a hip urban feel. Citizens, tourists, and agencies can talk about our Arts District, Brewery District, or Arena District. We attract national attention with our massive University and cool Midwestern feel. Despite our multiple and successful areas, the city's downtown lags behind the surrounding areas in terms of development. While the up-and-coming housing projects are building hope for a renewed downtown, the connections between the city center and its surrounding areas need to be improved.

Columbus has many large population centers directly next to the downtown. The Short North and German village immediately come to mind. Despite these districts, the downtown does not attract huge crowds from these populations. Why? I believe one reason is the unsightly divides between our districts. Rather than flowing from one area of the city to the next, we have cut the downtown apart with highways and dead zones. Check out what I mean:
  1. High Street between Nationwide and Vine. While I briefly discussed the dead zone when discussing the green aspect of downtown, it deserves a second look. This area seems to be one of the most important to fully develop. As the gateway between Downtown, the Arena District, and the Short North, it is remarkably underdeveloped. Situated over roads and rail, there are no buildings to speak of, killing this section of high and locking pedestrians into their respective areas. While the Convention Center takes up some space, its high, often-windowless walls makes the walk boring.
  2. High Street between Fulton and Livingston. This overpass cuts the Brewery District and the German Village from Downtown. The loud, dead area stops free movement.
  3. Broad Street crossing I-71. This overpass is equally as unsightly.
  4. High Street in front of One Nationwide Plaza. Despite all Nationwide has given to the community, its home office hinders downtown development. The massive park out front is an asset during the day, but does not attract life at night. Rather than shops or buildings against the sidewalk, the park looks dark and menacing.
These dead zones stop movement. They keep the large populations around downtown from venturing into the city. There are some fantastic examples of how to repair this. The High Street cap over I-670 is a great way of connecting the convention center to the Short North, and that type of development should be duplicated across the city, especially to the overpasses that cut downtown apart.

There is a bright spot. The Dispatch published pictures (click see slideshow on the right of the page) showing ideas for how best to make Downtown walkable by developing in-fill and covering unsightly areas. The pictures below (including one before and after set) show some of their ideas. These type of developments could be the future of connecting downtown and pulling the surrounding areas into the city.

Governors Converge to Discuss High-Speed Rail

Posted by Columbus Transit On 1:52 PM 0 comments
With $8 billion in high speed rail funds on the line, Governors from across the Midwest are converging on Chicago to lobby for the proposed Midwest high speed rail network. The network, centering around Chicago, would include Columbus and the 3-C rail line. Ohio's Governor Ted Strickland is in attendance, boosting Ohio's profile as it lobbies for the funds; however, there is stiff competition from cities and states around the country. Nearly $102 billion dollars worth of proposals from 40 states have been submitted, with only $8 billion to give out. The Midwest plan does have some advantages: it includes several states working together (as opposed to the California plan) and this meeting should yield a Midwest high speed rail spokesperson (something Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been advocating). In his own words, “We’re going to consider proposals that are serious, proposals that have (some) kind of intermodality, a multistate regional approach, and even those that aren’t far along will be considered,” Mr. LaHood said. Even if all $8 billion was given out to the Midwest plan though, the entire vision may not be initially built. According to some reports, Ohio's portion of the network alone could total more than a billion dollars.

Ohio does have some things going for it. Ohio has been particularly hard-hit by the recession and should be a priority for stimulus dollars. Our Governor is fully on-board, attending the conference himself. And Ohio is a dense state with multiple urban centers meaning the rail line here would be able to serve more people. As events unfold, check out CBT for updates, and see the original stories from the Dispatch.

How $20 Gas Will Change Our Lives

Posted by Columbus Transit On 11:04 AM 0 comments
Check out one man's vision of how America will change as our oil reserves continue to dwindle. Sounds like a happy future to me! CBT

COTA Considers Text-Message Alerts

Posted by Columbus Transit On 2:41 PM 0 comments
Ever been standing at the bus stop wondering how long the wait is? If COTA gets its way, it will be implementing a new text-message system which will alert passengers as to how long the wait will be. You can text the inquiry to COTA which would return times for all the buses arriving at your stop. These types of improvements could vastly improve the quality of transportation offered by making transit more accessible, even for the occasional rider. This could be the first step towards marked, real-time arrival times at all stops. COTA would not be able to implement the system until after a bus-tracking upgrade is completed in 2011. The complete Dispatch story is available here.

Xing Columbus Reports a New Night Bus Route

Posted by Columbus Transit On 2:33 PM 0 comments
Xing Columbus is reporting that COTA has announced a new late night bus route which runs down High Street. Check out the post here.

New College Site Launched

Posted by Columbus Transit On 10:40 PM 0 comments
Yesterday, a new Columbus site opened which aims to provide a central location for college students looking to get out and about in Columbus. The site,, claims to be "the everything off campus guide," giving directions, advise, and recommendations for restaurants and clubs across different Columbus districts. The site is aimed at college students, with specific institutions such as The Ohio State University and even Denison University having personalized sections. If advertised correctly, this would be a great way to lure students away from the burbs and into the city. The site does have some great maps and directional tools for transportation into the city, although if I were to have my way, there would be a greater focus on public transit. Regardless, check it out, looks like it will be a great way to attract students, especially those further from the city center, into our great downtown.

AirTran's Wi-Fi

Posted by Columbus Transit On 9:19 PM 0 comments
AirTran has announced that it has completed installation of Wi-Fi on its fleet of aircraft. Airtran operates flights from Port Columbus to Atlanta, its main hub, as well as Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. So now you can read CBT while flying! Enjoy your travels!

Paying for Rail

Posted by Columbus Transit On 8:35 PM 1 comments
Today, the Dispatch announced Ohio's plan for how to fund the operation of an initial, 79 mph 3-C rail corridor. According to the article, the yearly operating budget will come from fees that restaurants and businesses pay to have their logo on the blue highway signs that mark off-ramps along the road system. The roughly $10 million raised each year should cover the costs. What that money is currently going towards is not discussed in the article.

The article went on to discuss Ohio's application for a high-speed rail line as part of a greater Chicago network. The entire network would expand from Cleveland to Kansas. Ohio's estimates claim that $1.53 billion would be needed for the construction of the line and purchase of vehicles. The line could be up-and-running as soon as 2016. The plan does face competition from California and New England plans. While other possible rail lines are shown in the White House's vision (at right), the Chicago hub, the California line, and the New England line look to be the most promising. The White House has committed $8 billion dollars in its economic stimulus bill towards high speed rail. Let's hope we see a chunk of that.

JetAmerica Shuts Down

Posted by Columbus Transit On 8:20 PM 0 comments
Columbus' relationship with Skybus ended when the discount airliner shut down; however, Skybus' owner made a second attempt to form a carrier. This second try, JetAmerica, has now also called it quits. According to a Dispatch article, JetAmerica, citing problems gaining access to Newark's tarmac, has terminated operations. While plans had been mentioned to make Columbus a hub again, it seems JetAmerica's attempt is over.

Could Cincinnati Derail Ohio's Plans?

Posted by Columbus Transit On 10:46 AM 46 comments
Cincinnati is poised to derail the state-wide and regional plans for intercity and high-speed rail through one organization's anti-rail tirade and another organization's lack of oversight.

Cincinnati has been planning for some time to build a streetcar loop through its downtown, but anti-transit and anti-tax groups have been gathering to defeat the proposal. COAST, Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, and Cincinnati's local chapter of the NAACP have teamed up to force a ballot question on the issue. The NAACP believes the money will be better used elsewhere in the city, while COAST is largely opposed to all government ventures of the type. Together, the two have successfully petitioned to get a charter amendment on the ballot, but if approved, the measure would have unintended consequences.

The NAACP and COAST's petition asks for a vote on ALL passenger rail initiatives within the city. That is, any time a passenger rail line is proposed, it must be approved by voters before it can be built. Rather than limiting the scope to the streetcar as was the NAACP's motive, COAST has made an underhanded attempt to require ballot approval on all passenger rail. If passed, this petition will mean that Cincinnati citizens will need to approve the 3-C Corridor and the Ohio Hub, pushing back the implementation of such plans for months. Given the nature of the stimulus bill which calls for swift ventures, a required ballot approval, which could delay the process by 10 to 12 months, could scuttle Ohio's attempt to be incorporated into a high-speed rail system. And that is even if voters approve the measure! If they were not to approve the plan, would a Columbus-Cleveland line still be effective? Or would the 3-C corridor be scrapped and any high speed rail terminate in Cleveland? Yet despite the sweeping consequences of the ballot measure, the groups rallying for it are billing it as a strictly streetcar-focused matter, confusing the public.

This ballot measure has consequences for almost every citizen of the state because we would all benefit from the implementation and economic benefits of high-speed rail and the federal dollars that come with it. Even some media outlets in the city opposed to the streetcar line have also come out in opposition to the ballot petition for its ability to hamper development. This is something CBT will watch closely. The vote will take place on the November 2009 ballot.

Scooter Parking

Posted by Columbus Transit On 9:20 AM 0 comments
Columbus Underground posted an update on the availability of parking for scooters in the city. The post claims new spaces for scooter and other two-wheeled vehicles brings the number of parking spots in the city to 25. Hopefully they are well-used. Check out the post here.

3-C Corridor Stations

Posted by Columbus Transit On 7:49 PM 3 comments

The 3-C Corridor is one of the most critical developments in Ohio's rail system in decades because it has the potential to change the public view of rail transit. If successful, the line could spark a massive reinvestment in our state's rail services. If a failure, the line could destroy the public perception of rail for decades more. For that reason, the planning of this initial line could be pivotal in seeing improved Amtrak service, light rail service, and commuter rail lines and care must be taken with such an important task. As such, today's Dispatch article outlining small town attempts to fit a station into their district poses a very real question to planners: where should stations be built? Should the service strictly be a Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnatti line? Should the rail stop in every small town? It seems planners would like something in between, but exactly where those stops are remains up in the air. At what point are more stops excessive? Should we trade a stop in Mansfield or Canton for a faster trip to Cleveland? I don't know but would love to know where readers think stops should be. Happy Planning! CBT

Back to the Future?

Posted by Columbus Transit On 12:03 AM 0 comments
Back in 1994 Columbus produced a study on the feasibility of a multimodal transportation terminal in the city. Such a terminal would connect automobile, rail, bus, foot, and bicycle traffic in a single place. Now 15 years later, no such terminal exists as had been planned; however, with the possible advent of intercity rail transit along Ohio's 3-C corridor, it may be time for the terminal to resurface. In a conversation with Stu Nicholson of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, Walker Evans on Columbus Underground found that the possible position for the station would be at Nationwide and High, the same place as the 1994 proposed terminal. Could this be the resurrection of a long-dead idea?

The plan in 1994 studied three different areas as a possibility for a multimodal terminal. The final consensus for placement was the open block at the corner of Nationwide and High. The block, the study claimed, was perfect for its convergence of public transportation (buses, taxis, express buses, possible light rail at that time, and intercity rail), the Short North Arts district, the North Market district, and the Central Business District. Today, the site remains empty and the popular Arena District sits next door as well as an expanded Convention Center. With the announcement of a possible convention center hotel as well, the multimodal terminal would work as a fantastic connector for the dead zone which breaks all of these districts from each other.

The study saw an express bus terminal entering and exiting from Front and High streets, as well as intercity rail entering on the tracks below the station, and normal bus routes stopping outside the terminal. Multiple pictures to the right show the original sketches for the proposed building. While the building would be a great addition for the city, the 1994 plan called for a massive glass wall along High Street. Perhaps with the construction of the Arena District and its primarily brick design, the plan should be manipulated to incorporate brick and fit into the district. Additionally, the plan called for an over-the-street bridge to connect to the convention center. The bridge, like the deconstructed one connecting the Lazarus Building to City Center, could become a wall between downtown and the Northern part of the city and should be phased out of the plan.

The building included office space, a large gathering space, a food court, and a massive multi-level tower which would connect all the forms of transportation. The building also contained plans for a temporary building for immediate use, and a permanent expansion. Overall, the building would still be well-used as a better transportation center for the city and its multiple districts and would act as a connector to help the development of the downtown.

Dayton Raises Transit Fees

Posted by Columbus Transit On 10:59 AM 0 comments
The Columbus Dispatch today reported that Dayton's transit authority was forced to raise its fees in order to meet budget shortfalls. The dispatch article says falling revenue from a city sales tax necessitated the 25 cent hike in price in order to help balance the budget. Despite such hikes in other cities, Columbus' bus system remains steady. The Dispatch piece can be found here.

Is Columbus Green Enough?

Posted by Columbus Transit On 9:48 PM 2 comments

The term 'green' has taken on a very different and more complex meaning than simply a color; however, here I am turning back to that original meaning. Is Columbus really green enough? Despite being a Tree City USA for the past 30 years, is Columbus actually gray? The first picture on the right shows a picture of downtown Columbus from Google Earth. The second picture shows a similar picture from Google Earth of the city of Portland, Oregon. This section of Portland is rife with trees.
This blog is meant as a transportation discussion for our city; however, the most basic form of transportation is walking. The success of the Arena District, the Short North, and even Easton Town Center is due to walkability. Does some of that walkability come from tree-lined streets and the ambiance they bring, and is there a lack of greenery downtown? The next picture at right is looking North on High Street towards the Short North. Trees dot that popular street. The fourth picture is from the same point looking South. The two show an obvious divide. Myself, when walking up the Short North, have felt that divide which has stopped me from continuing towards downtown. Perhaps a continuation of the heavy foliage into downtown could help spur the development to continue.

Census and Transit

Posted by Columbus Transit On 9:42 PM 8 comments

A few days ago the Census Bureau released some updated figures concerning the population of US cities. While Columbus continued to grow, it was surpassed by Austin, Texas and slipped from being the country's 15th largest city to the 16th. Columbus remains, however, the largest city in the country without a form of rail transit thanks to the completion of Phoenix's light rail line. But is there a correlation between our falling rank and our city's lack of a comprehensive plan for improving our cities transportation opportunities? Perhaps. CBT looked at the five fastest growing cities in the country (by percentage) with populations over 500,000 to analyze their rail transit systems:
  1. New Orleans - The fastest growing city in the country boasts three historic street car lines as well as Amtrak service.
  2. Fort Worth - Many of the population gainers this year came from Texas and Fort Worth lead the pack in percent population growth. The city is served by both an extremely popular commuter rail line and Amtrak.
  3. Atlanta - This city has an extensive rail system which includes subway, light rail, and Amtrak as well as plans for additional routes.
  4. Charlotte - The 18th largest city in the country has put together an extensive transit vision for 2030. Already having completed a light rail line, its study includes more lines for bus rapid transit and streetcars.
  5. Denver - Denver made the list this year as the 24th largest city in the country and one of the fastest growing cities. This city has catapulted itself into the ranks of rail with 6 light rail lines and an ambitious plan, approved by taxpayers, to complete multiple more lines.
In all, these examples represent Columbus's peers. Every city is served in some way by rail transit. That these cities, complete with multiple transit options, are also the fastest growing cities both points the way for Columbus and acts as a warning. Don't be left in the dust C-bus!