By Andrea Cordle
COTA wants to start its own ride sharing program and it is going to try it out in Grove City.
“This is a demonstration,” said Doug Arseneault, COTA’s public affairs administrator at the May 20 Grove City Council meeting. “This will serve as a complement to our established service.”
Council voted in favor of the service and approved legislation to set aside $180,000 to help fund the program.
The micro-transit program would be like Uber or Lyft, but within a defined city 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.
A resident could 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. For example, if a resident lives within the zone boundaries and works at Mount Carmel Grove City, that individual could schedule a ride from home to work for a fee of $3 or $4. If an individual rides a traditional COTA bus, and gets off at a stop in Grove City, that person could arrange a smaller vehicle to take them the rest of the way to work for free.
At a previous council meeting, a representative from Mount Carmel Grove City and the South-Western Career Academy spoke in favor of the pilot program saying the entities would benefit greatly from the program.
Even though council unanimously voted in favor of the program, some council members voiced concerns.
Councilman Ted Berry said this program would benefit local businesses more than the city and said he would be more apt to fully support the program is some of these businesses offered to contribute to the cost.
“I haven’t heard of any partnerships,” said Berry.
Arseneault said ideally the program would be fully privately funded.
“We (COTA) would love more private sector support,” said Arseneault, “but we have to show the private sector the way.”
The On-Demand Micro-Transit Service will run from July 15, 2019 to July 14, 2020. The cost to launch zone one is $360,000 with Grove City and COTA splitting the cost, hence the council’s appropriation of $180,000. The cost would cover the service set-up, management, marketing and maintenance.
If the implementation of zone one goes well, COTA will launch a second zone in Grove City that would include the South-Western Career Academy, downtown Grove City, the village of Urbancrest and the E.L. Evans Senior Center. The cost to implement the second zone would be an additional $130,000.
Councilman Roby Schottke asked if the zone could extend to cover businesses along or near State Route 104, like Manheim Ohio and the Grove City Methodist Hospital, both employers in the area.
COTA officials said the company would share performance data with the city and adjust service as needed.
The service will start operating on weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and eventually expand to weekends.
In other news, council approved the city’s employment contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1116, Ohio Council 8, AFL-CIO.
According to Chuck Boso, city administrator, this union includes 26 city workers including account clerks, account specialists and service technicians. The agreement will be in place through April 2022.
Per the contract agreement, union workers will receive a salary increase of 2.5 percent in 2019, 2 percent in 2020 and 2 percent in 2021. Boso said this increase totals $245,000.