Regional transportation plan discussed in Grove City

By Andrea Cordle

Grove City Editor

According to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), one million new residents are expected to call central Ohio home by the year 2050.

More residents will mean a greater need for public transportation.

“We are expecting growth but not expecting much more roadway,” said Kelsey Ellingsen, the local government affairs director with COTA, at a recent Grove City Council meeting.

Ellingsen and Elliott Lewis, with MORPC, attended the council meeting to engage community stakeholders about the funding needed for future growth.

“Affordability of living in central Ohio is changing,” said Ellingsen. “We have seen a 45 percent increase in the cost of housing alone since 2020. If we want our neighbors to stay our neighbors, we have to think about how we arrest the growth and those costs.”

Ellingsen spoke about LinkUs, central Ohio’s comprehensive transportation initiative to help address growth, affordability, and opportunity gaps in the community. This program will create faster, more reliable public transportation through Bus Rapid Transit corridors, as well as safer and expanded bicycle and pedestrian paths.

“If we are going to implement LinkUs, we are going to make historic infrastructure investments,” said Ellingsen.

COTA has already planned to move forward with three corridors for the Bus Rapid Transit plan. One will run along West Broad Street from the downtown area, through the Hilltop, all the way to Prairie Township. The other two that have already been determined are East Main Street and a northwest corridor. COTA plans to choose two more corridors this summer.

According to COTA, with a Bus Rapid Transit system, customers would pay fares before getting on the vehicle and will no longer have to step up into the vehicle. The boarding platform will be level with the floor of the vehicle. This level boarding also allows riders to roll a bike right into the vehicle and stow it in an on-board bike rack. Once customers are safely inside, the doors close. Unlike noise pollution created by most vehicles, the buses will be electric and easy on the ears. Rapid transit vehicles will zip through the region in dedicated lanes with traffic signal priority, meaning public transit will have priority at intersections.

Ellingsen said this is part of an overall $8 billion revenue plan by 2050.

“That’s very significant,” she said.

COTA is currently funded by a 0.5 percent sales tax. The organization will be looking for federal grants as well as considering the placement of a levy on the ballot in November. Ellingsen said both Cleveland and Cincinnati have a sales tax of 1 percent for its public transportation system. Columbus would like to follow suit.

There are also plans to expand the COTA Plus service, with up to 16 new zones by 2050.

Grove City was COTA’s pilot partner for this program.

COTA Plus was launched as a pilot program in July 2019. The shuttle service provides customers on-demand rides via a mobile app. Like other rideshare services, COTA Plus transports customers from point A to point B. The service is delivered by COTA operators using a fleet of branded, ADA-accessible vehicles. This provides customers with access to jobs, healthcare and more.

“We love that Grove City brought this concept to life with us,” said Ellingsen.

In addition to the transportation aspect of the initiative, Lewis said MORPC is looking at a mobility initiative. He said most people cannot walk out their front door to a bus stop. They use sidewalks to get to that stop.

“If there is no sidewalk or it is crumbled, that makes it more difficult for people to access public transportation,” said Lewis.

According to Lewis, MORPC will be looking at 500 plus miles of safer and expanded bike and pedestrian paths throughout its coverage area. The organization is working with municipalities to identify local areas of concern.

For more information on central Ohio’s comprehensive transportation plan and LinkUs initiative, visit morpc.org/linkus.

 

 

 

 

 

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