COTA proposes ride sharing program in Grove City

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By Andrea Cordle
Southwest Editor

COTA wants to get in on the ride sharing business and plans to start in Grove City.

Officials from COTA presented a proposal to Grove City Council regarding a micro transit pilot project.

“This is the future of transportation,” said Mike Bradley, chief development officer for COTA. “It fills the gap where our service does not go.”

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.

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 pick-up 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, they can arrange a smaller vehicle to take them the rest of the way to work for free.

COTA would use a six to eight passenger vehicle as the shuttle.

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.

According to Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage, the city has asked employers who would benefit from the pilot program to contribute financially. Grant funding will also be sought.

COTA has plans to launch zone two in Grove City 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.

Some council members had questions and concerns about the proposal.

“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.

Councilman Roby Schottke said many employers in the city have shift work and the service time would not support second shift workers.

COTA officials said the company would share performance data with the city and adjust service as needed.

COTA plans to host a public hearing from 6 to 7 p.m. May 8 at City Hall, 4035 Broadway, for residents who would like to learn more about the proposed program. Council is scheduled to have the first reading of the funding legislation for the program at its May 6 meeting. The second reading and public hearing is scheduled for May 20. Council meetings begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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