With the recent advent of COTA’s first non-CBD based express route, I was inspired to post one of my ideas for additional service expansion to campus. My suggestion is to take advantage of the seven existing express routes that currently pass by campus without stopping. The seven existing routes that use SR-315 and I-71 are listed below:
Express Routes on SR-315
- 30 Smoky Row Express – 3 AM trips and 3 PM trips from the far northwest side
- 60 Arlington Express – 2 AM trips and 2 PM trips from Henderson Road and Kingsdale in Upper Arlington
- 61 Kenny Road Express – 4 AM trips and 4 PM trips from the Carriage Place, Bethel Road, and Kenny Road
Express Routes on I-71
- 29 Polaris Express – 2 AM trips and 2 PM trips from Polaris Parkway
- 33 North Central Express – 2 AM trips and 2 PM trips from Westerville and Worthington-Galena Road
- 34 Karl Road Express – 3 AM trips and 3 PM trips from Karl Road in Northland area
- 36 Annehurst Express – 4 AM trips and 3 PM trips from Westerville
I’d like to see some – not all – of the trips on these routes stop at campus first before continuing downtown. I believe I have come up with a way to do that while adding only minimal travel time to express routes.
The buses would exit their respective freeways, drop off passengers at new bus stations adjacent to the entrance and exit ramps, and promptly re-enter the freeway to continue to downtown. The express buses on SR-315 would exit at Lane Avenue and buses on I-71 would drop passengers off at 17th Avenue. Other exits at Ackerman, Hudson, or 11th could also be considered.
The existing Lane Avenue interchange is far from pedestrian-friendly. I’d say it’s hostile to pedestrians. One the first things that are needed are sidewalks. I had to narrow lane widths slightly (12′ for outside lanes, 10′ for inside lanes) under SR-315 to create enough space to install even a minimum width sidewalk (6′). However, the sidewalks away from the viaducts are more generous in width (10′ minimum). I added high-visibility ladder-style crosswalks around the interchange. This will require a whole bunch of new accessible curb ramps, removing a small portion of the medians, and constructing a new island between right turners and through movements on the southbound exit ramp.
I removed the eastbound channelized right turn lane to create space for the bus station. This will have to be evaluated in a traffic model to make sure it doesn’t cause too many delays for right turners, but I expect it to be okay. I didn’t have to remove the channelized right turn lane in the westbound direction because there is no railroad viaduct taking up space on that side. Speaking of the railroad viaduct, this could be a great transfer facility for a commuter rail or light rail stop someday in the future.
I have designed this to facilitate transfers from southbound routes to eastbound routes and westbound routes to northbound routes. This assumes that most passengers will be coming from the north and going towards campus. A southbound passenger wishing to transfer to a westbound route would have a bit of a walk. I would be open to the idea of adding a second eastbound and westbound stop to reduce the distance these transfers must walk, but I’d like to get an estimate of how many people actually do it first.
Of course, both of the aforementioned freeway interchanges are a long walk from central campus, so a transfer to a local route would be needed. I don’t see this as a big deal, since many commuter students already drive their cars to west campus and then transfer to a CABS bus. CABS buses would be the likely candidate to pick up students from the COTA bus stations, but perhaps COTA could consider re-routing the #8, the #84, or starting a new route to provide the transfers.
Another benefit to consider is that that this could make a much nicer gateway to campus than the existing interchange. Getting off SR-315 is the first thing most people see, and the existing Lane Avenue is as incomplete as a street can be. No sidewalks. No bikes. No transit. Only cars, fast cars.
Probably the biggest problem with my plan – besides getting ODOT approval – is the issue of transfers. This would require some major service changes from COTA and CABS to get students to campus conveniently. As an alternative, I created a second plan that would drop passengers off near Woody Hayes Drive instead of Lane Avenue, but would still use the existing Lane Avenue exit ramps. There are already several CABS routes on Woody Hayes Drive, so it would only require adding new stops instead of re-routing the service.
One of the nice things about Woody Hayes Drive is that it already has sidewalks and lower speed traffic, so it’s a lot more pleasant than Lane Avenue for pedestrians and cyclists. Although it wouldn’t be required, direct access could be provided to Woody Hayes Drive as shown. This would make walking distances shorter for transfers and be a great asset during special events like football games. I haven’t done any analysis to make sure the elevation profile would work at this location, but with some retaining walls, I think it could.
Ultimately, I’d like to see more than a few trips on the existing express routes using this type of a facility. I’d like to see new express routes to Avery Road, Sawmill Road, and Bethel Road. I’d also like to see this concept applied to more diamond interchanges. That would create a concept I call Freeway Bus Rapid Transit, which I discuss in detail on my website. I’d love to hear your comments on this plan.