Businesses see benefit to micro-transit program

By Andrea Cordle
Southwest Editor

Amy Schakat, coordinator of career-technical education for the South-Western City Schools District, said employers are looking for skilled workers and the South-Western Career Academy has trained students who would fit the bill. There is just one barrier.

“That barrier is transportation,” said Schakat.

Schakat addressed Grove City Council at the May 6 meeting to show her support for a ride sharing pilot program proposed by COTA. Council had its first reading to appropriate $180,000 from the general fund for COTA’s proposed On-Demand Micro-Transit Service.

The micro-transit service would allow residents to use a mobile app or call to arrange for a COTA vehicle to pick them up either at home for a fee or from a COTA bus stop for free.

According to Elliott Doza, project manager for COTA, this program would be like Uber or Lyft, but within a defined zone. Zone one would cover Mount Carmel Grove City, businesses in South Park and along State Route 665, Mid-Ohio Foodbank and the Grove City Park and Ride.

“We chose Grove City because it is a growing community,” said Doza.

According to Doza, COTA would like to launch zone one in July. The service would operate seven days a week. On weekdays, the service would run from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends and holidays the service would run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This would be a one-year pilot program that would run from July 15, 2019 to July 14, 2020. The cost to launch zone one is estimated at $360,000 with Grove City and COTA splitting the cost. The cost would cover the service set-up, management, marketing and maintenance.

COTA also plans to launch a second zone, which would include the South-Western Career Academy, downtown Grove City, the village of Urbancrest and the Evans Senior Center. The cost to implement the second zone would be an additional $130,000.

Schakat said the school district offers 18 career technical programs and the students in those programs are ready to work.

“They just need transportation,” said Schakat. “This program would solve that problem.”

Jason Koma, with Mount Carmel Grove City, also addressed council and urged them to vote in favor of the micro-transit program.

“It is critical to provide access to the hospital,” said Koma. “It would help not only the employees, but also visitors.”

Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage said this pilot program could have an impact on all central Ohio. He also said the city’s administration had reached out to the employers that would benefit from this program to see if there was a willingness to share in the cost.

There are still questions regarding the micro-transit service.

“I do not know if this is cost effective,” said councilman Ted Berry, when Uber and Lyft offer the same service but cover the entire city and the city doesn’t have to spend $180,000.

The second reading and public hearing for the COTA pilot program proposal is scheduled for May 20. Council meetings begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 4035 Broadway.

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