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Airport Taskforce Calls for Multimodal Transit, Development District

Walker Evans Walker Evans Airport Taskforce Calls for Multimodal Transit, Development DistrictPhoto by Walker Evans.
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More direct flights. A multimodal transit hub. An economic development district. And sustainability.

Those are the four key recommendations announced this morning after a year-long study conducted by the JET Task Force — a group of stakeholders brought together to study potential enhancements to Port Columbus. While the group officially revealed these priorities today, work began months ago, which yielded last week’s news that Southwest Airlines would be adding new direct service to Boston and Oakland.

“We’ve had success with Southwest, and we need to replicate that with other airlines,” said Daniel Rosenthal, Chair of the JET Task Force and President of The Milestone Aviation Group. “Some air carriers understand Columbus better than others at the senior officer level. Telling the story of Columbus is going to continue to be really important.”

Rosenthal explained that city leaders in Austin, Texas pushed a similar initiative to “seed” direct flights to the Bay Area five years ago with public incentives, which has helped to spur growth in their startup economy.

“I really believe that’s where we are as a community,” he stated. “We’ll look back five years from now and see that this was a success.”

When the JET Task Force was first created, Mayor Michael B. Coleman tasked the group with exploring the feasibility of the creation of a Downtown-to-Airport light rail line that would better connect the Convention Center and surrounding hotels with Port Columbus. While that project is still on the table for the future, the group decided that bus service to a multimodal terminal would be a better short-term goal.

“It isn’t enough to just focus on air service,” said MORPC Executive Director and JET Task Force committee member William Murdock. “Service between Downtown and the Airport is an important cog in any transit system, and the time is right to look at how it fits into an overall regional picture.”

Murdock said that the Central Ohio Transit Authority is already exploring the creation of Downtown-to-Aiport bus service that could be implemented by 2016. Beyond that, the group recommends exploring financial options for additional transit services.

“We’re excited about what this shows us, but we need to figure out how to pay for things,” said Murdock. “We’ll be looking at some innovative financing options as well as state and federal funding.” 

A multimodal transit center at Port Columbus would be just one piece of a larger Economic Development District, which could mirror a model similar to the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC), which has led many Downtown development initiatives. A new development district would focus on marketing specific development sites located around the airport within the City of Columbus, City of Whitehall and City of Gahanna, targeting job sectors where growth and workforce development opportunities exist.

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The task force approved today’s findings, which included recommendations for the creation of subcommittees to continue to work on actionable items for future implementation.

For more information, visit columbus.gov/planning/jettaskforce/.

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