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COTA Seeks Voter Support for Levy Renewal

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega COTA Seeks Voter Support for Levy RenewalPhoto via COTA.
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Curtis Stitt, CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), made it pretty clear: vote down their 10-year 0.25 percent sales tax that’s up for renewal this year, and see services shrink to levels not seen in over a decade.

In a way, COTA’s own continual expansion of services has put them in this situation. Since the levy first passed in 2006, adding to the permanent 0.25 percent sales tax approved in 1999, they’ve increased their foundational services by 80 percent. They’ve come too far to be supportable on 0.25 percent, because their services have adapted to the 0.5 percent of total funding they’ve been getting. In the last 10 years they’ve grown their service hours to 1.1 million, which were at just over 600,000 before the last levy.

Stitt said the main focus of these COTA developments was to get more people to their jobs more easily. Part of that was starting an implementation of a cross-town service. Steering away from the traditional hub-and-spoke model of a lot of bus systems, a cross-town service eliminates Downtown as the main transfer points and creates others outside of the urban center.

The Groveport Rickenbacker Employee Access Transit (GREAT) shuttles employees to various businesses located in surrounding industrial parks rather than forcing employees to walk a mile or more to their jobs. It costs no extra to board if riders have a local pass for the COTA bus. The CBUS, designed for Downtown residents, employees and tourists, is another service offered for free.

They want to go further. The CMAX, a Bus Rapid Transit line that broke ground in August, would expedite travel along the Cleveland Avenue corridor. Along with fewer stops and signal preemption — changing red lights faster and holding green lights longer — it will move passengers along that road 20 percent faster, Stitt said.

“I think we can comfortably say we have both feet in the 21st century now,” he added.

But they want to go even further in planning for the future. Their NextGen project is geared toward transit planning for the extra million residents Columbus is expected to greet by 2050. While any long-term plan will need to be reevaluated and revised every three or five years, funding and preparation need to start now.

Stitt said he expects COTA’s service hours to continue their dramatic growth, even if a temporary plateau occurs in these years’ planning stages.

“We’re doing the responsible thing right now by engaging in the planning process, bringing in experts, our staff and a robust public involvement process that’ll yield this plan for the future,” he said. “How that ties into our current need to renew is, again, that foundational system is necessary. Without this foundation that’s provided by these two quarter-percent sales taxes, we won’t be able to build the system that we need for the future.”

For more information, visit www.cota.com/Company/Maintaining-Community-Support.

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  • JDS

    Every year it seems that COTA pulls the same bull about funding.

    • This is a 10 year levy tax renewal. So you’re just a little bit off by 9 years.

  • theadocj

    “I think we can comfortably say we have both feet in the 21st century now,” he added.

    LOL…Paying by exact change is so 21st century.

  • Chuck

    “vote down their 10-year 0.25 percent sales tax that’s up for renewal this year, and see services shrink to levels not seen in over a decade.”. Typical scare tactics from these large companies – what a joke. It may be a good time to tell COTA to figure out another way to make your plans work or move over so someone else can come in and develop the future transit plans for Columbus.

    • COTA is a public transit agency. No company is going to come in and do all they do for less.

      • Chuck

        What exactly do they do? Offer the cbus at no charge? No one is suggesting that someone come in and offer public transit for less but what I am suggesting is to cut the tax breaks from a failed or dated (in my opinion) system. COTA has been around since the 70’s and I believe that they failed to plan, which is why they are in the position they are in now.

        • Here’s the thing though… your opinion is wrong.

          Publicaly funded transit exists all over the country and the world. There’s nothing wrong with their setup.

          • Chuck

            Thanks Walker! Sorry you’re not sure what an opinion is but we can move on. The last time COTA asked for the .25% sales tax they said that it was to help develop for future transportation but I’m not seeing this development. COTA built additional facilities for their current system, they bought new busses and built new/updated bus shelters. Here we are again, another sales tax with another promise (opps – Can’t forget the threat). What’s also funny is how they get there additional sales tax and still raised rider fair in 2011. I don’t have a problem supporting COTA as long as I know they are moving forward with plans for a better transportation system that does not need as much support. Walker, Are there plans available to the public that will show how this .25% tax will help with future development? I’d love to see a business plan so that we follow their progress so when they ask for more in another 10 years we can see if they’ve held up their end of the bargain.

          • The article (above) provides a lot of detail on what has been expanded at COTA over the past 10 years. Perhaps you missed it, but it’s worth a re-read.

            You can have an opinion that the sky is green and the grass is blue, but your opinion would still be wrong.

            This levy renewal is not an ask for additional funds. It’s to continue to operate COTA at the level that it has grown into over the past decade, which is a big improvement over when you couldn’t catch a bus beyond 6PM on a Sunday.

            There’s a reason that COTA ridership is higher now that it has been in the past 30 years…

            http://www.columbusunderground.com/cota-ridership-at-highest-level-since-1986

          • Chuck

            Thanks for your input, Walker. When does it stop? What’s the point of a 10 year timeline if it turns into a 20 year, 30 year or 40 year? My biggest issue was the quote mentioned in the article above, Don’t threaten the people with scare tactics that the wheels were going to fall off (not literally) if this didn’t pass.. I’d like to see a 3rd party come in and asses whether they can accomplish their goals without additional taxes. I truly would love to go round and round with you on this (I really would) but you’re not seeing my point and I disagree with yours so I’m just going to move on. Even though I don’t agree with all the content in this article, I do enjoy the content of this site. For that, I thank you.

  • Columbusite

    Vote yes, people!

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