By Katelyn Sattler
A new initiative should help Hilltop residents with transportation.
Zach Sunderland, manager of COTA’s West Broad Street Corridor initiative, discussed the plan with the Greater Hilltop Area Commission.
Back in 2018, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) studied population growth in central Ohio and found that the population will be increasing by three million people by 2050.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) looked at the data and decided something needed to be done to help people get around central Ohio with the expected population influx.
The LinkUS Mobility Initiative is working on several high capacity bus rapid transit corridors – one along West Broad Street, one along East Main Street, and one to the Northwest.
LinkUS is a partnership with COTA, MORPC, the city of Columbus, and Franklin County.
Concerning West Broad Street, the route would go from Broad Street in Prairie Township to downtown. The part of Broad Street that goes through the Hilltop would see some changes.
Currently, the Line 10 bus picks up and drops off passengers at frequent stops every block or two, with a bus running every 10 to 15 minutes. Because of the frequent stops and other external factors, like traffic or construction, getting to a final destination can take a long time. It’s one of COTA’s higher ridership routes, and this corridor was identified as needing more robust transit based on a pre-COVID study. LinkUS wants to install high capacity Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines along West Broad Street to ease the traffic burden.
The BRT will have the middle lanes dedicated to bus traffic with signal priority along high ridership routes. Instead of having stops every 500 feet with a bus coming every 10 to15 minutes, the BRT system will have stations with safe places to wait and higher, level platforms which will help those with mobility challenges with wheelchairs or bicycles for getting on/getting off the bus every 1/2 to one mile. The locations of the stations are based on pre-Covid ridership.
“This is really like nothing that we have in central Ohio today,” said Sunderland.
For those who currently ride their bike to the bus stop, the buses have racks on the front to store bicycles while riding the bus. Sunderland said they are studying to determine how bikes will be stored on the BRT to avoid having passengers step on and off the ramp.
In mixed traffic, because there are more slow downs and less reliability, the buses will travel on the right side of the road with stations on the right side, as well.
Currently, buses are 40 feet long. The plan is to have large 60 foot possibly electric buses with an articulation in the middle.
The six BRT stops now planned along West Broad Street are at Georgesville Road, Wilson Road, Westgate Avenue, Hague Avenue, Eureka Avenue, and Whitethorne Avenue.
Commissioner Malik Moore asked, “As we look at where developments are coming, are these six stops going to be the places where stops need to be? I’m thinking of the Headstart as one place that’s probably going to be where large numbers of people begin to go. And as I look at our commercial district, if there’s going to be a Broad Street commercial district, it’s not going to be Hague, and it probably wouldn’t be Eureka. How dependent will we be on all of the work that goes to make those stops? And then we find out three years later, that’s not where the people are or need to be?”
“We have an economic development team at COTA working with the city very closely and making sure we sync up the development patterns in a way that we haven’t done before,” said Sunderland.
Sunderland also said there will be more formal opportunities for public engagement.
“For the program, we requested entry into the federal transit administration’s capital investment grant program, which we could receive up to 50 percent funding through the federal government,” said Sunderland.
LinkUS is currently in project development for the West Broad Street corridor. If all goes well, West Broad Street may have Bus Rapid Transit by 2027, with constructing beginning in 2024. While West Broad is under construction, Line 10 will still be running its regular schedule.
To find out more, go to LinkUSColumbus.com.