The Central Ohio Transit Authority’s (COTA) total ridership in 2019 was 19,141,454 compared to 18,914,789 in 2018 — a 1.2% increase and a 4% increase since the agency’s Transit System Redesign in 2017. The increase in ridership also included growth across several COTA services, including a full year of C-pass, the employer-paid transit program in downtown Columbus.
COTA continues to see increases in ridership as the national trend shows declines in public transportation. For example in 2018, of the top 30 U.S. markets, COTA was only one of six transit systems that saw ridership growth.
In addition to overall ridership, COTA also saw increases in the following services:
- CMAX, COTA’s Bus Rapid Transit line from Westerville to downtown Columbus, experienced a 3.3% increase in ridership from 2018 to 2019.
- C-pass delivered more than 1,242,000 trips in 2019. Through a partnership with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, eligible downtown Columbus employees can get unlimited transit access at no cost to them. The cost is covered by property owners, their employer and MORPC. To date, 58% of downtown businesses participate in the C-pass program. Additionally, C-pass contributed to a 14% increase in ridership on rush hour lines.
- AirConnect recorded a 5.5% increase in ridership in 2019. AirConnect provides seven-day service between John Glenn Columbus International Airport and downtown Columbus hotels and the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
- COTA Mainstream also saw a 5% increase in service, delivering more than 305,000 trips to ADA customers. The launch of the pilot program Mainstream On-Demand helped provide more flexibility for customers by allowing them to book same-day service.
- COTA Plus launched in July 2019, providing microtransit service to a portion of Grove City. The first public microtransit service to be offered in Central Ohio’s history, in the first five months, COTA Plus delivered 2,800 passenger trips, connecting customers to high-capacity fixed-route transit, major job centers, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, and the new Mount Carmel Grove City Hospital. This year, COTA Plus plans to expand citywide in Grove City, and add service in three other Central Ohio communities.
In response to ridership growth, COTA is committed to enhancing services for all customers. In December 2019, COTA’s board approved investment to improve frequency on CMAX and four other lines where increased usage is causing occasional overcrowding. COTA is also investing in transit stop amenities and building 150 additional transit shelters in the next three years. Once completed, 70% of customer trips will originate from enhanced transit stop locations.