Smart City grant doesn’t include light rail option, Transit Columbus says it should


Columbus is a growing city. Estimates show the city could be adding a million more people by 2050.

The question is how do all those people get from point A to point B without adding more cars on the road?

There's CoGo, the bike sharing system to get you around downtown, and there's COTA if you like taking the bus.

But if you're dreaming about light rail to transport you from one end of downtown to other or beyond, keep dreaming.

Other cities similar in size to Columbus are jumping on the light rail movement. Josh Lapp of Transit Columbus said if other cities can do it, so can Columbus.

“Salt Lake City is a perfect example. Even in a conservative part of the country, light rail has really been successful there,” he said.

As Columbus' population grows, the city is looking to other ways to get people moving. COTA will launch a high-speed bus line in 2018.

Those buses will get traffic light priority in order to make fewer stops.

The Mid-Ohio Planning Commission said light rail isn't an option for now.

“We want to make sure that light rail is included in those plans because those plans will determine the future of transportation of the city,” Lapp said.

His group’s petition hopes to sway city leaders.

“We've already had upwards of 2,500 signatures in the matter of a week,” he said.

While there's plenty of debate on whether light rail is right for Columbus, both side agrees something needs to be done.

Columbus snagged the Smart City $40 million prize from the U.S. Department of Transpiration to use data and technology to reshape the city’s transportation system.

The city said it will focus on the Linden neighborhood by using autonomous shuttles. Other options around the city include electric cars, real time traffic and parking apps and a single smartphone app to pay for all transportation modes.

Department of Public Service Director Jennifer L. Gallagher issued the following statement about Transit Columbus' petition:

We applaud Transit Columbus' advocacy for multi-modal transportation approaches.

SmartColumbus will focus on strategies outlined in the city's winning application that incorporates multi modal approaches.

The vision and parameters for the city's application were set by the US Department of Transportation.

The city looks forward to a discussion of additional mass transit options in the region, but it will be a separate discussion from SmartColumbus.