Columbus launches on-demand ride-share service

31st July 2019 Christopher Carey

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) has launched a one year on-demand micro-transit pilot programme that offers a point-to-point service to residents in Grove City, a suburb of Columbus.

The app-based COTA Plus, developed in partnership with Via, aims to provide commuters in the rapidly expanding suburb with a six-person ride-share shuttle within 15 minutes of ordering.

Development of the service comes after Columbus competed against 77 cities nationwide to win the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge in 2016 and was awarded US$50 million in funding.

The department tasked the city with reshaping its transportation system to become part of a fully integrated city that harnesses the power and potential of data, technology, and creativity to re-imagine how people and goods move throughout the city.

Mark Patton, Vice President of Smart Cities at the Columbus Partnership (a non-profit organisation consisting of 70 CEOs from Columbus’ leading businesses and institutions) told Cities Today: “This grant has opened all kinds of doors and launched us on this journey that doesn’t really have an end. You don’t wake up one day and say, okay, now that we’re smart, let’s stop–it’s a continual process.”

The service will cost US$3 per ride, and US$6 for a day pass, while connecting riders to fixed-route bus services for free.

It will operate Monday-Friday from 5.30am-8pm, and COTA says it will monitor the programme’s success to determine whether to add weekend hours.

Joanna Pinkerton, CEO at COTA, said the new service will specifically target residents who are struggling with access to mobility options, providing a link to healthcare, jobs and education.

If deemed successful, the programme will expand its area of service or potentially set up similar programmes in other parts of the city.

One-stop shop transport app

A new multi-modal app called Pivot is also due to be rolled out in August which will bring together a range of Columbus’ mobility providers in one place.

Patton added that while the backbone of mobility will remain the city’s bus service, other modes of transport will be available through the app, including e-scooter and docked bicycle services.

Last week COTA was awarded a US$2.6 million ‘Infrastructure for Rebuilding America’ grant from the US Department of Transportation, which will be used to fund its transition to diesel-free buses by 2025.

The funds, part of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Low or No Emission (Low-No) Programme, will help replace diesel buses with electric buses and also go toward infrastructure upgrades, such as electric charging stations.

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