Transportation roundup: COTA service discounts, scooter-free parks and more

The Central Ohio Transit Authority has not resolved its driver shortage issue, which could mean further service cuts this fall. COTA officials outlined the potential cuts — including frequency reductions on 11 different lines and temporarily halting service on all lines during peak hours — at two public meetings held in May.

However, COTA spokesman Jeff Pullin told Columbus Underground that rush-hour service was no longer at risk of being cut.

“It’s off the table anymore,” he said. “In future meetings… we recommend [the rush hour lines] remain unchanged for the time being.

The potential frequency reductions are significant, however, and would mean longer wait times for buses on some of COTA’s busiest routes, including lines 1, 2, 8, 10 and the CMAX.

Pullin said COTA is stepping up recruiting efforts this summer in a bid to avoid the worst of the cuts. Some of the changes made include:

  • Increased training wage for new operators from $15.50 to $17.50 per hour (after training, wage increases to $21.10 per hour).
  • Offer hiring incentives ranging from $2,000 to $2,500.
  • Offer a bonus to COTA employees who refer a person who becomes an operator.
  • Work with other organizations to organize hiring and recruiting events.
  • Launch of an advertising campaign on traditional and social media to recruit new recruits.

The final service changes, which would take effect on September 5, will be announced by COTA at public meetings on August 18 and 23.

The next meetings outlining potential service reductions are scheduled for Thursday June 9 and Tuesday June 14 – more information is available at cota.com.

Scooters prohibited in certain parks

The number of “no go zones” for scooters in Columbus has increased in recent weeks. Users can no longer drive or park devices in several popular public spaces around the city, including Goodale Park, Schiller Park, Franklin Park and Columbus Commons.

Scooter companies – Columbus’ lineup currently includes Lime, Bird, Spin and LINK – are able to set up geo-fenced areas where it’s impossible to speed up devices or complete a ride. They have done so at the request of the city on several occasions over the past few years.

Last September, the city worked with scooter companies to restrict scooter use in the Short North, and North High Street between Goodale Street and Fifth Avenue remains a no-go zone.

In the fall of 2020, scooters were banned from the Scioto Mile and Scioto Audubon Metro Park, and in the summer of 2020 scooter access was closed citywide for more than a week after police said protesters threw the devices at officers.

Free CoGo Subscriptions

The City of Columbus is working with CoGo operator Lyft to distribute 5,000 free subscriptions to the bike-sharing service.

“CoGo Bike Share is a convenient and affordable way to get around, whether you’re commuting to work or riding a bike for fun,” Chet Ridenour, Lyft’s senior director for CoGo operations, said in a statement. “Lyft is partnering with the City of Columbus, area businesses, and neighborhood groups to expand access to Columbus’s bike-share system.”

More than 40 local organizations – community groups, civic associations, affordable housing providers and others – have signed up since April to help distribute the annual subscriptions, which include unlimited 45-minute rides on traditional bikes and discounts on rides by electric bike.

Some of the groups distributing the promotional codes needed to redeem the free memberships include the King Arts Complex, Community Development for All, the University District Organization, and Simply Living.

The city has committed up to $1 million a year to subsidize CoGo and encourage more people to ride bikes, according to Lyft.

The number of trips taken on CoGo rebounded in 2020 and 2021, after a few years of declining ridership.

Motivate, the company that operated CoGo since its inception in 2013, was acquired by Lyft in 2018 (the city of Columbus owns the bikes and stations and made the initial investment in the system).

For more information, visit cogobikeshare.com.

Further reading:

LinkUs leaders on the new transit plan and the case for a sales tax hike to pay for it

Pilot program to provide free bus rides to workers in Short North, other

Bonny J. Streater