By Andrea Cordle
Last summer, the city of Grove City and COTA launched COTA Plus, a new on-demand transportation service. Earlier this month, city officials signed off on legislation to expand this program.
The city and COTA will share the cost equally for the expansion. The city’s portion of the cost, which was approved by council, is approximately $42,000. When the micro-transit program began in July 2019, it cost $360,000 to launch the first coverage zone. That cost was split between the city and COTA.
The COTA Plus program is similar to a ride sharing service but within a defined zone in the city. The first zone covered Mount Carmel Grove City, businesses in South Park and along State Route 665, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and the Grove City Park and Ride. With the expansion, the service will provide service within the corporation limits of the city.
“We want to expand the zone of service to improve access to jobs,” said Michael Loges, a senior economic development project manager with COTA.
The expanded zone now covers downtown Grove City, the South-Western Career Academy and retail areas, like Stringtown Road.
COTA Plus allows riders to travel within the designated zone from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Customers can request a ride using the COTA Plus mobile app or by calling COTA customer support at 614-308-4400, and a six-person vehicle, operated by a COTA driver, will respond and arrive within 15 minutes. Customers who book a trip with COTA Plus will not pay additional fare if connecting to a scheduled bus route. Those who book a trip point-to-point without using the traditional bus service, would pay a $3 fare.
According to COTA officials, since the pilot program began in July, there have been 903 accounts created and the service has offered 3,356 rides. The average pick-up time is seven minutes and the average ride time is just over seven minutes. The average trip distance is less than two miles.
COTA hopes to launch business or corporate accounts to help pay for the continued use of the program, said Loges.
Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage said Mount Carmel Grove City has already contributed $50,000 toward the service.
“We want to continue that,” said Stage. “We are asking employers to step up.”
According to Dan Havener, economic development manager of Grove City, the city and COTA will begin service to the expansion areas beginning April 15 and will monitor the service in the area during the remainder of the original agreement period on July 14 to determine the success of the expanded program.
In July, city officials and COTA will examine the pilot program and see if expansion is warranted at that time, into areas like the village of Urbancrest.
For more information on the COTA Plus program, visit COTA.com or grovecityohio.gov.