Momentum: Issue #24
COTA Plus Pilot Provides More Transit Access to Jobs, Health Care
On July 15, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus Ohio, launched its first microtransit service to meet an increasing need for a first/last mile solution in a growing community.
COTA Plus was developed through a public-private partnership with Grove City, a municipality just southwest of Columbus. The mobility option is operating as a one-year pilot and offers customers point-to-point service at an affordable fare or connects COTA riders to fixed route service for free.
COTA Plus is an on-demand, app-based rideshare service that can book multiple passengers heading in the same direction into a shared vehicle. It operates either as a point-to-point rideshare service or as a connection to or from a COTA bus line. Operators are COTA employees, who receive best-in-class training and are subject to background checks upon hiring.
“There is increased demand for greater mobility options across many of our Central Ohio communities, including Grove City,” said Joanna M. Pinkerton, President/CEO of COTA and ITS America board member. “COTA Plus was designed with input from multiple stakeholders, including city and area businesses, who have identified mobility challenges as a barrier to employment, healthcare, and education. We are proud to pilot this innovative service under the unique COTA Plus brand and to work with public and private entities in the future to solve mobility challenges.”
Customers can book trips on their smartphone through the COTA Plus app. After booking a trip, a COTA Plus vehicle will arrive within 15 minutes. The trip must begin and end within the defined zone in Grove City.
Development for COTA Plus began in 2018 as a conversation between Grove City and COTA leaders, following an external stakeholder meeting on a first/last mile study. Grove City is experiencing an economic and developmental boom, and the need for additional public transit access is increasing every year.
“COTA and Grove City have a long history of working together and successfully addressing the ever-changing transportation needs of our growing community,” said Mayor Richard L. “Ike” Stage. “The COTA Plus program is an innovative and welcome pilot for our current mobility challenges, further illustrating the strength of our partnership.”
Grove City is an ideal location for this pilot project because of its burgeoning development. COTA already serves the city with standard and rush hour bus lines. However, Grove City is expanding farther south and east and farther away from COTA’s fixed routes. COTA Plus essentially extends the transit system’s fixed-route service by 5.5 square miles, closing the gaps through microtransit. The COTA Plus defined zone helps passengers get to job hubs such as Southpark Industrial Park and reach vital services such as the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and the new Mount Carmel Grove City Hospital.
“For many of our community members, lack of transportation is a major barrier to receiving essential medical care,” said Sean McKibben, president of Mount Carmel Grove City. “We are thankful for this new partnership with COTA and are excited to offer improved access to exceptional healthcare to the Grove City community.”
COTA Plus works to stay affordable for its passengers. Customers who book a trip with COTA Plus do not pay additional fare if connecting to fixed-route service. If a customer books a COTA Plus trip point-to-point without using COTA bus service, they pay a $3 fare.
COTA Plus is powered by Via, the leading provider and developer of on-demand public mobility applications.
“We are thrilled to partner with our innovative partners at COTA to bring Via’s technology to the Columbus area,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “The COTA Plus service shows how public transportation and technology can work together to make a city smarter. Grove City residents now have a comfortable, convenient, and affordable way to move around. This is truly a great example of a city embracing the future of mobility.”
Additional information about COTA Plus, including frequently asked questions can be found at COTA.com.
MEMBER CONNECTION: BETH KIGEL
Names: Beth Kigel
Title: Vice President, Intelligent Transportation and Emerging Mobility Solutions
Company: HNTB Corporation
Short Job description/Role Responsibility: Responsible for assisting transportation agencies, cities and regions in developing smart and connected infrastructure solutions.
#ITS Roles: As a Florida Transportation Commissioner from 2012 - 2019, I was the designated lead for emerging technologies policy and became a spokesperson for Florida’s advancements in Smart City and CAV implementations. I have had the honor of serving on the ITSWC Board of Directors since 2015 and currently serve as Chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Mobility Committee.
Accomplishments: As a Chamber of Commerce Executive from 2012 - 2019, it was a pleasure to be able to articulate the economic development and quality of life benefits that can be achieved through intelligent mobility and big data. I was pleased to immerse and educate the Palm Beach North Region on Smart and Connected solutions. On June 3, the region, composed of 10 municipalities and unincorporated areas of northern Palm Beach County, completed its Smart and Connected Strategic Plan supported by a grant from the Florida Department of Opportunity.
I received the 2018 Leadership and Innovation Award, presented at the Florida Automated Vehicle Summit. I am a published author in the Florida Engineering Society Journal, contributing an article, “Florida’s Global Competitiveness: Where do Autonomous Vehicles Fit In?” in 2017.
What’s the future of #ITS look like to you? The future of #ITS is very exciting! In addition to the significant safety enhancements we will all experience, we will have intermodal options and applications on our smart devices that will truly enhance quality of life for all. People of all ages and socioeconomic sectors will have access, through mobility and other big data applications, to jobs, education and healthcare. I look forward to seeing what eVTOL / air taxis bring to urban mobility.
Favorite place to travel: I’ve done a lot of travel, so I really enjoy a staycation. However, there’s a beautiful place called Little Palm Island off the Florida Keys that’s great for r & r!
Hidden Talent: One little known fact is that I danced ballet for 18 years and still enjoy dancing today.
If you weren’t working in Transportation industry you would: Honestly, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.