COLUMBUS, Ohio — The coronavirus pandemic has many people working from home, while many others are either furloughed or without a job.
But while commuting is down in some areas, public transportation remains essential, which is what led the Central Ohio Transit Authority to think outside the box in finding a solution.
“Through public transportation, you’re going to have access to jobs, you’re going to have access to health care, you’re going to have access to grocery stores and you’re going to have access to care for others and that’s really what mobility provides,” said Jeff Pullin, public and media relations manager for COTA.
COTA ridership is lower because of the pandemic in areas like northeast Franklin County, Pullin said.
“There’s still people in this community that need transportation despite the fact that ridership is low,” he added.
To address the transportation needs in northeast Franklin County, COTA partnered with Via, a public mobility solutions innovator, to launch COTA/Plus Bus On-Demand.
The new service is a first-of-its-kind in the United States, Pullin said, adding that the only other full-time bus-on-demand service in North America is located in Canada.
Similar to the micro-transit COTA Plus model used in Grove City and Westerville, the COTA/Plus On-Demand service allows riders in northeast Columbus, Gahanna and New Albany to hail a bus to their nearest stop through the COTA/Plus smartphone app.
The service will connect them to other COTA lines and major hubs like Mount Carmel health centers, Easton, the New Albany Business Park and John Glenn Columbus International Airport.
“Think about this,” Pullin said. “If you live in a neighborhood that has no public transportation and you’re looking for a job, you’re only going to be able to look for a job in your neighborhood where you can walk. But if we can provide you with a solution like this that connects you to a fixed route, you now have access to jobs all across the city.”
The new service also saves COTA resources, Pullin added.
“In order to provide fixed route service, we would have about eight to 12 buses on this route every day but we’re only going to be picking up a handful of people,” he said. “Now we’re able to put three in this community and still provide transportation faster because it’s coming directly to you, when you need it.”
Pullin tells 10TV the COTA/Plus Bus On-Demand service will help them keep track of how people need transit in that area of town, until they’re able to bring a transit line back when commuting picks up once again.
“You know, we’re not only providing buses,” Pullin said. “We’re providing a literal pathway to opportunity.”
Read more about COTA/Plus Bus-On-Demand and how to access it by clicking here.