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COTA Unveils New Late Night Weekend Bus Route

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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One of the most frequently requested COTA upgrades on Columbus Underground would have to be the addition of a late night weekend bus route serving High Street that runs until the bars close down. It sounds like COTA has been listening to your requests.

On September 11th, COTA will be launching a new route (numbered appropriately as the #21) that will run a loop from the Clintonville area down High Street to the Arena District from 8pm to 3am on Friday an Saturday nights. Buses will run every 30 minutes.

The only thing the line needs now is a catchy nickname. Any suggestions?

Update (7/31/09) – The #21 bus route will officially run every 30 minutes from 8pm to 3am (previously reported as 7pm to 2:30am). The route will run from the Park of Roses to Downtown on High Street where it loop clockwise at Spring, Front, and Nationwide before heading northbound again. The new route will begin running on Friday, September 11th.

Update (8/24/09) – The #21 bus route is going to be starting service early, as requested by the SNBA. The first weekend of service will take place on September 4th and 5th, in time for Gallery Hop.

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40 Responses to COTA Unveils New Late Night Weekend Bus Route

  1. dyocco July 21, 2009 9:32 pm at 9:32 pm

    “The 21″?

  2. econJoe July 21, 2009 9:32 pm at 9:32 pm

    This is the best thing ever!  So many times have my friends and I thought, “Well, we’ll just take the #2 down, and walk back!”  only to find that we were too tired to make the trek and paid the $10 cab fare.

  3. somertimeoh
    somertimeoh July 21, 2009 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm

    Booze Bus

  4. Jason Powell
    jpizzow July 21, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm

    Took them long enough

  5. hivner1 July 21, 2009 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm

    +1 for Booze Bus.

    Very excited about this!!! Many years in the waiting…

  6. Walker Evans
    Walker July 21, 2009 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm

    It was either before my time, or before I was paying attention, but I believe COTA did something similar to this a few years ago, but canceled it due to low ridership.

    If you want to see this be a success, I’d recommend utilizing it, and making everyone you know aware that it exists! ;)

  7. Columbusite July 22, 2009 12:22 am at 12:22 am

    I just wish it went further south to, I dunno, the Brewery District? Maybe that’ll be a future extension, hmm? But what about the pedi-cabbers?

  8. joev
    joev July 22, 2009 7:14 am at 7:14 am

    +1 Columbusite. Why stop at the Arena District? I mean, it’s going all the way up to Clintonville.

  9. Walker Evans
    Walker July 22, 2009 7:55 am at 7:55 am

    How about we just run all bus lines later? ;) I’ll take late night service on the 6, 11, and 16.

  10. chivespa1
    chivespa1 July 22, 2009 8:40 am at 8:40 am

    Hmm. While Booze Bus seems appropriate I’m going to guess that, atleast the final bus out of the station, will be more like the Barf Barge.

  11. Emar Tino July 22, 2009 9:11 am at 9:11 am

    This is great news, and it doesn’t only benefit those who are about to ralph.  Of course anyone who has a few drinks should take advantage of this bus.  But more, anyone going to events at the Arena, Convention Center, the Wex, etc. can avoid the hassles of parking and not have to monitor the clock to catch that last #2 bus.
    I only hope that it runs frequently enough.  Nobody is going to wait at a bus-stop for 45 minutes.

  12. surber17 July 22, 2009 9:16 am at 9:16 am

    Two things:

    1.  Would be nice if this bus had something on it to make it stick out.  Ex. painted differently, maybe brighter colors or something

    2.  The only other piece that worries me is safety.  Put a bunch of drunk d-bags in a tight place and I’ll bank on at least one fight per night.

  13. joev
    joev July 22, 2009 9:20 am at 9:20 am


    If it’s the only bus running at night, doesn’t it already stick out?
    And believe me, drunk d-bags are still going to hop in their SUVs to drive home.

  14. surber17 July 22, 2009 9:34 am at 9:34 am

    Agreed on both, esp the d-bags … ha! 

  15. gramarye
    gramarye July 22, 2009 9:47 am at 9:47 am

    It’s hard to match supply and demand on routes like this.  I think it’d be great to have it go every 30 between 11:00 and 1:00 and then every 15 between 1:15 and 2:15 (which is when people start piling out of AD bars), but that’s probably unrealistic.  Also, with the last route canceled for low ridership, I think it’s probably safer for COTA to start with less frequent service and move up.  One bus can carry a decent number of people, even ones whose balance means they need more room.

    P.S. Idle curiosity … what is the maximum capacity of a single, typical COTA bus?

  16. Emar Tino July 22, 2009 9:58 am at 9:58 am

    I don’t think the route will be successful if the buses are infrequent.  Sure, it would be cheaper to run them once an hour, but 1. few people will use it as it just isn’t convenient, and 2. when special events let out, the one bus will be overrun, leaving patrons farther up the line to watch the full bus roll by without stopping.  That happened with the Blue Jacket games a few years ago.  In either event, it make for a failed-effort as people will not use a bus that is not convenient or reliable. 

    I think there are studies as to how long an average person is willing to wait for transit.  The bus time/frequency should be designed to succeeed at the outset.  If not, then #21 will not be expanded due to crowding, rather it will likely be scrapped for lack of ridership, despite demand.

  17. pixiecrinkle July 22, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am

    Hurray for more buses when I’ll actually use them!

  18. lifeontwowheels July 22, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am

    Considering that this will be pretty much the only route running this late those night, I don’t think COTA is going to have much of an issue getting frequency and capacity dialed in. 

    They have a pretty good fleet of buses available at that time to address any issues. Maybe keep a couple idling just off the route ready to go?

  19. jamesqua July 22, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am


    Good idea.  I propose this design

  20. johnwirtz July 22, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am

    A standard 40 foot bus typically has approximately 40 seats and can hold approximately 60 passengers including standees.

  21. JonMyers July 22, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am

    Good start. I hope this creates demand for more.

  22. The Grip July 22, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am



  23. Analogue Kid July 22, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am

    This is great but they NEED to publicize it to people. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to at OSU who say “gee I’d love to ride the bus but I have no idea where it goes or when it arrives”

  24. surber17 July 22, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm

    @Analogue Kid … that’s what I was getting at with my first concern above.  If they had a campaign with a slogan like “Look for the Bright Blue Bus to get you home at night” people would see it and know exactly where it was going.

  25. jamesqua July 22, 2009 1:11 pm at 1:11 pm

    Will the route include a taco bell drive-thru?

  26. askmrlee July 23, 2009 2:26 am at 2:26 am

    Love it. What is really needed is to have electronic signs or a mobile web service at the key bus shelters that tell you when the next bus is coming, like http://www.nextbus.org. Looks like they have it at Case Western. I realize that COTA has this realtime info on their website, but try to view this when you’re outside waiting for a bus.

  27. joev
    joev July 23, 2009 8:21 am at 8:21 am

    @jamesqua – It had better, because believe, me brother – you can not just walk up to one of those.

  28. DCist July 23, 2009 6:00 pm at 6:00 pm

    This sounds like it could turn into a bad night of “it sounded like a good idea at the time.” I like the idea of running it less often in the middle of the night and more often when people are leaving the bars. However, this is not exactly a cash city, so unless you are already a frequent bus rider with a pass (or a BuckID) the chances of some drunk girl with no pockets who blew all her cash on the $20 cover at Sugar bar having bus fare is slim to none. As for a name, I like the Booze Bus!

  29. JMUgrad04
    JMUgrad04 July 27, 2009 9:42 am at 9:42 am

    How about extended hours for the #5 bus to and from Grandview?  I take it all the time to Clippers games and/or dinner in the Short North.  I hope this really takes off!   

  30. CMH2579 July 29, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm

    Just heard the #21 will run 9PM-3AM FRI and SAT with 30 min headways.

  31. Walker Evans
    Walker July 29, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm

    That’s awesome if they are running it until 3am. Will make it a real possibility for service industry workers who usually don’t get off until after cleaning up after the bars close at 2:30am.

  32. corey.spring
    corey.spring July 30, 2009 3:09 pm at 3:09 pm

    The only other piece that worries me is safety. Put a bunch of drunk d-bags in a tight place and I’ll bank on at least one fight per night.

    That seems to already be my experience when I ride the #2, so I’ll take it.
    I really wish they would have had this when I was living in Clintonville – since COTA is free I would have saved a fortune on cabs during my college career.

  33. cmhcow
    cmhcow July 30, 2009 7:10 pm at 7:10 pm

    appropriate because you must be 21 to legally drink or because the last bus that ran a similar route/hours was the 20?

  34. Walker Evans
    Walker July 31, 2009 9:59 pm at 9:59 pm

    From a COTA press release:

    N. High St./Arena District (NEW Night Owl) #21 – Weekdays – Late Friday evening service is being added between downtown Columbus and the Park of Roses on N High St. Service will travel south on High St., west on Spring St., north on Front St., east on Nationwide Blvd. and north on High St. to the Park of Roses. Service will operate at 30 – minute frequencies from approximately 8 P.M. until 3 A.M.

    N. High St./Arena District (NEW Nigth Owl) #21 – Saturday – Late Saturday day evening service is being added between downtown Columbus and the Park of Roses on N High St. Service will travel south on High St., west on Spring St., north on Front St., east on Nationwide Blvd. and north on High St. to the Park of Roses. Service will operate at 30 – minute frequencies from approximately 8 P.M. until 3 A.M.

  35. Walker Evans
    Walker July 31, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm

    Also: All new seasonal service updates will take effect on Mon, Sept 7th, which means that this new route will begin on Friday, September 11th.

    Never forget… to take exchange change for fares!

  36. lifeontwowheels July 31, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm

    COTA would be smart to either allow bars on the route to sell single use passes or invest in some automatic fare machines strategically located along the route.

  37. Sandor17
    Sandor17 August 3, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm

    A module on public transit should be a session at OSU orientation!

    As a kid from the ‘burbs, I had no idea how to use my free COTA pass once I got to Columbus.  In my second year, I started driving for CABS on campus.  After a couple of weeks of learning how to read timetables,  I became a functional COTA rider.  I still prefer my bike, but the #5 and select #84s stop right at my front stoop, and I find them very useful. 

    +1 for extending service on the #5.  We don’t have the density out here for overnight service, but 10:30 seems early for a last weekend run to a neighborhood with so many young people.

  38. lifeontwowheels August 3, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm

    Not to rehash this, but it would help if OSU did more to promote other ways of getting around. Keep the majority of traffic on the edges of campus, restrict student usage and promote car share, COTA and cycling. 

    I hope this route gets used and helps COTA keep expanding into 21st century transit. 

  39. Walker Evans
    Walker August 5, 2009 8:50 pm at 8:50 pm

    Note from Ryan Manczak on Facebook:

    COTA is starting a New Bus Route #21 in September that runs along N High St, from the Park of Roses to the Arena District and runs Friday and Saturday from 8:00pm to 3:00am. This is a route to get people to and from entertainment in Columbus. The problem is that this route doesn’t yet have a good, catchy name, and our marketing department hasn’t determined one yet. Right now it’s called the N High/Arena District, so here’s my idea. COTA should call it the COLBERT BUS! The complete name being:

    Late night

    I need everyone’s input on this. Is this a good idea? Would you ride it? Would Stephen Colbert come to Columbus? This could actually happen, with your support!!

  40. Walker Evans
    Walker August 24, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm

    Update (8/24/09) – The #21 bus route is going to be starting service early, as requested by the SNBA. The first weekend of service will take place on September 4th and 5th, in time for Gallery Hop.

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