The first regional express route without downtown as the destination is included as part of COTA’s proposed service changes for May, 2009. The Dispatch’s Getting Around transportation blog showed the following map for COTA’s new #66: There will be two trips to OSU in the morning and two back to Hilliard in the evening. Travel times vary slightly depending on which trip you take. I’ve done the math for you below:
- Hilliard Cemetery Rd Park & Ride to King & Cannon – 42 to 45 minutes
- Renner Rd Park & Ride to King & Cannon – 22 to 24 minutes
- King & Cannon to Hilliard Cemetery Rd Park & Ride – 38 to 42 mintues
- King & Cannon to Renner Rd Park & Ride – 20 to 23 minutes
The travel time from Renner Road is pretty quick. I’m less impressed with the travel time from the Cemetery Road Park & Ride, but when you consider that you don’t have to park your car or transfer to a CABS bus, it could be competitive with driving. I assume students can ride free on COTA’s express routes as well as local routes. That means it’s basically a free ride, which is hard to beat compared to the cost of gas and parking.
I expect this route to be very popular. I wouldn’t be surprised to see new OSU express routes from other sububs in the future. I’ve always argued that Columbus is a bi-nodal city. Downtown generates the most trips, but I suspect campus generates nearly as many. Campus is one of the only places in the city other than downtown where parking is relatively expensive. Yet, there is only one express route that serves campus, the #31 High Street Express. That makes campus a great market for transit expansion.
I would also argue that expanding service to campus is a good long-term strategy for COTA. Students are also more price-sensitive than most adults, probably less likely to own a car, and therefore may be more willing to ride transit to save some money. If they get used to using COTA for school trips, they may be more likely to keep using the system after graduation. They may even try to live somewhere with convenient bus service. This could lead to long-term ridership gains for COTA and more residents in Columbus’ central neighborhoods.
If this route is as popular as I think it will be, I would recommend that COTA consider splitting it into two routes eventually. Have one route go to the Renner Road lot via I-70 and I-670 and add a second route along Cemetery/Fishinger to the Kingsdale Park & Ride in Upper Arlington to Northwest Blvd to Lane Avenue. I’ve always preferred express routes that don’t waste a lot of time off of the freeway and I think most people want their express to be fast and time-competitive with driving. People don’t want to spend 20 minutes going south on Hilliard-Rome Road when their destination is straight east from the Cemetery Road parking lot. And if the passengers are going to drive to park and ride lots anyway, I don’t see why COTA wants to spend 20 minutes of labor costs driving them along Hilliard-Rome Road. Make the drivers take care of their own last mile transportation. They’re going to do it anyway.
The only other snag I see in this route is the limited schedule. A lot of students don’t have classes scheduled all day from 8 AM until 5 PM and they may be reluctant to sit around in the student union or wherever all day long. Hourly service could potentially make the route a lot more popular, but maybe it will be popular enough as is. Nevertheless, I think an hourly crosstown service along Fishinger, Northwest, and Lane like I suggested above could be a great route someday. Hats off to COTA for the service expansion and innovation.
Other highlights of the May service changes include more buses on the #1 and #10 routes, a return of the #12, an extension of the #11, a realignment of the #15, and several new route numbers assigned to reverse commute express trips. The new express routes include the following:
- #27 Brooksedge Express – Formerly #37 Westerville Express reverse commute trips
- #42 Johnstown Rd Express – Formerly #41 Gahanna Express reverse commute trips
- #48 Eastgreen Express – Formerly #45 Reynoldsburg Express reverse commute trips
- #62 Bethel Road Express – Formerly #61 Kenny Road Express reverse commute trips
- #65 South Park Express – Formerly #64 Grove City Express reverse commute trips