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COTA Approves Transit Plan, Starts Search for New Leader

Brent Warren Brent Warren COTA Approves Transit Plan, Starts Search for New LeaderPhoto by Nelson\Nygaard — Provided by COTA.
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The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) Board of Trustees accepted the final NextGen report at its meeting yesterday, approving a broad vision for the future of the region’s public transportation that includes recommendations for a series of “high capacity transit corridors.”

Exactly how that plan is implemented — and how strongly COTA pushes for options like light rail or a streetcar — will likely depend greatly on who is chosen to replace current President and CEO Curtis Stitt, who announced last spring that he will be retiring in September.

Emille Williams, COTA’s Vice President of Operations, was named to the position of Interim President/CEO, effective October 1. Williams brings a strong operations background to the position, having served as the Chief Engineering Officer for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia.

Emille Williams — Photo provided by COTA.

COTA also announced the formation of a selection committee, made up of board members and community leaders, to lead the search process and to solicit input from bus riders and other members of the public about what the priorities of the new leader should be.

In a press release, COTA said that the goal is to have the new President/CEO in place early in 2018.

The recommendations in the final NextGen plan are not that different than those of the draft version that was released in February. It features three main components – high capacity transit, smart mobility options, and enhanced bus service.

A map shows 14 corridors that could be upgraded, as well as what type of transit would work best for each corridor – enhanced buses (bus rapid transit), commuter rail, light rail, or streetcar.

The report makes the case for the high capacity corridors.

“While improvements to a local bus network can increase ridership, local bus service does not lead to transformative land use and economic development changes,” it reads. “Buses will also continue to get slower and less competitive as traffic congestion increases.”

The plan doesn’t, however, get into details about which line should be built first or how to go about funding any of the recommended corridors.

“Developing a network of high capacity transit service will require additional planning and consensus building to determine the order in which to implement corridors and how they will be funded,” the plan states, recommending the creation of a steering committee to “prioritize components of the NextGen Vision.”

For more information, visit www.cota.com/Projects/NextGen.aspx.

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