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COTA’s Downtown Circulator Set to Begin Service May 5th

Brent Warren Brent Warren COTA’s Downtown Circulator Set to Begin Service May 5th
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The COTA Board of Trustees today approved plans for a free Downtown circulator bus. Starting May 5th, riders will be able to board one of the specially-branded buses and ride for free on a route that stretches from East 3rd Avenue in the Short North to West Sycamore Street in the Brewery District.

The free price is set through the end of the year at least, when COTA will re-evaluate and determine if there’s a need to start charging for the service. COTA has expressed interest in seeking business sponsors to cover some of the cost of the line’s operation.

Josh Lapp of local advocacy group Transit Columbus applauded the news;

“The Downtown Circulator service will be a great opportunity to both introduce new riders to transit and enhance connectivity between our Downtown neighborhoods,” he said. “The service will be of great use to residents, employees, and visitors alike and will help to mitigate parking woes in the Short North. We hope this is another step towards putting Columbus on the path of more fast, frequent and fixed services.”

Marty Stutz of COTA said that the branding and color scheme of the buses will be introduced closer to the launch of the service, although a name has been selected – “CBUS”.

Buses along the route will run every 10 minutes during the day Monday through Thursday, and every 15 minutes in the evenings (from 7pm to 9pm). On Fridays and Saturdays, service would continue until midnight and on Sundays buses would run every 15 minutes from 10:30am to 6pm.

For more updates and discussion of the Downtown Circulator, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

Full Map Provided by COTA:

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  • Mike88

    This is fantastic and I live right by the northern most stop I can’t wait to hop this puppy all the time!

    • So do I ! I wonder why they chose to go It ville side and not Vic Ville side?

      • Probably easier to turn around making a northbound right rather than turning left across traffic.

  • ehill27

    This is a lot of bus traffic on the residential streets of E 2nd and E 3rd. This is this the first I’m hearing of this alignment. Did they even consult with the residents on these streets?

  • Do they need to consult with the residents on those streets? A bus going by is less noisy/disruptive than a large truck, semi or moving van. And I don’t think those are banned from the street. It will provide good access for those residents of Italian Village.

  • I share ehill27’s concerns. Love the project altogether but it is a challenge to avoid oncoming cars on 3rd especially, adding a bus route through there is going to be insanely difficult. Why not 5th ave?

  • ehill27

    The disruption level is debatable. That point aside, large trucks, semis or moving vans aren’t running down those two streets at 10 min intervals, or anywhere close to that frequency. 3rd in particular probably averages less than zero semis per week.

    This is a major utilization change without any warning. I won’t be surprised if homeowners object when they hear the good news.

  • anillo

    It seems more logical to consult with the city or a traffic engineer than residents of the street. They could do 5th ave but they’ll still need another street to turn back on to get to High. Maybe they figure since it’s only a few blocks on each street it won’t be too disruptive. Buses certainly drive on smaller streets in other cities, so I imagine they’ll make it work.

  • ehill27 said: “I won’t be surprised if homeowners object when they hear the good news.”


  • Buses go past our house all day long, we are on 3 bus routes that head into downtown and 2 that head east. I will say, in the past seven years, I still always notice. We are near a stop sign and the buses most often let out a ‘SIGH’ when they stop, the natural gas buses are louder. And some of the buses have the announcements at a very loud volume at times.

    It is most annoying the earliest in the morning and the latest in the evening. And in the warmer months when I enjoy the windows being open.

    But I will also say, I enjoy having the access to these routes, and will rejoice when my stop on Spring St returns.

    Perhaps the residents on 2nd and 3rd should be given lifetime bus passes. ;)

    I think this is a great idea, and I will be a rider.

    But, has parking on 2nd and 3rd been thought about? I think there are going to be people who work downtown and have been either paying for monthly bus pass, or who pay to park downtown and instead will be parking up the free parking at both ends and using this free circulator to get downtown to their job.

    Maybe not that many. But maybe some, and SN has parking issues already.

  • columbusmike

    I’m sure after a few months of service, they may tweak the route based on the community and rider feedback. I would definitely let COTA know of your concerns/praises/etc. so they can best serve Columbus.

  • joshlapp

    I lived on 4th Street directly across from a COTA/CABS stop for 3 years. The CABS bus came every 8 minutes. I never was bothered by the CABS bus (or COTA), in fact it was a great amenity that I used daily. The only bus I noticed above any other noise was the CCS Buses which make ungodly loud noises.

    I live very close to the new route and am very excited to have access to this new route especially in conjunction with the real time tracking. This route will be quick, convenient and easy to track. Hopefully it is just one more reason for SN residents and visitors to get out of their cars.

  • DISCLAIMER – I KNOW I’M GONNA GET BOOED OUT OF THE ROOM WITH THIS POST, but something tells me that if COTA had picked 5th Ave as its “turn around” street, some on this blog board would find that to be a problem and the discussion would then turn into “why 5th ave.? why not 8th? or Hudson?” i mean… come on people – must everything be turned into debbie downer? I can only imagine how quickly the discussion will be derailed when COTA presents the branding/colors/font for the circulator, LOL… some folks just might need therapy!

  • ToddAnders

    You’ll never be booed as long as you support public transit; and oh yea, any other political item Walker and the 50 or so active users of the board support as well.

  • ehill27

    Anne makes a good point about parking. I also wonder if COTA factored the cost of lost monthly passes into the cost of running this line?

    SN must have one of the highest concentrations of downtown-bound commuters. I suspect most will stop buying passes, not to mention the potential influx of park-and-ride folks.

  • surber17

    I need to find the article from a couple years ago, butto me this is really step one to better rapid transit (be that an articulated bus, street car, etc.) and the article clearly showed how property values shot up on the route. So I will be more than fine to live on this bus route.

  • joshlapp

    @ehill27 & @anne COTA has put quite a bit of time and thought into this route, I’m sure that they looked at all the pros and cons, as well as all the feedback they received from the communities. The extension to 3rd Ave was something that a lot of folks asked for to help relieve Short North parking issues. At the end of the day the Pros will very likely out way the Cons for COTA and the community.

  • @tudor1610 – No, that’s a good point. Many on FB responded to this story with “It’s a shame it doesn’t go to X destination”. But the truth is… it’s not going to go everywhere, especially not in phase one.

  • Achekov

    CBUS is kind of similar to CABS, the Campus Area Bus Service, isn’t it? I guess it is fortunate the services don’t overlap, although I don’t see why they wouldn’t add the Gateway garage to the mix.

  • UrbanPlanner2112

    Gateway is too far from downtown for a “Downtown Circulator”. They’d have to add extra vehicles to keep the 10 minute intervals.

    I actually like the proposal so far. If I had one comment it would be that for me, personally, the circulator would be more useful if it went down 3rd and back up High, as opposed to up Front St. Since most of the businesses I patronize downtown are east of High St.

    But then thinking about that further, I’d have to ride it all the way up to 5th avenue and back down again just to get over to 3rd, so that route would be more practical for people coming south to downtown and people coming south would have to go down to GV to get back over to High. It’s really too bad 3rd isn’t two-ways, because coming south on High and North on 3rd would be ideal.

  • chaserdanger

    I think the monthly pass thing is missing the point.

    The circulator is to drive interest in people taking the bus and getting to and around downtown.

    People in the SN or Brewery District that work downtown may realize its easier to just take the free CBUS than regular bus.

    The more people that ride this the greater chance businesses will step up for sponsorship. More businesses that sponsor more money comes in and it doesnt matter how many “lost” monthly passes there are.

    The idea is to drive interest, not revenue.

  • Eugene_C

    It’s about time. I’m really looking forward to the possibility of restarting the lunch trips up to North Market with friends and coworkers. We haven’t really had any since the trolley bus was discontinued.

  • luckyparrot

    They have ordered 6 new 30′ CNG busses with 3 delivered already. I’ll get pics. The reduction of passes or fares is irrelevant. COTA’s farebox really has very little impact on the service. Federal grants and SALES TAX is what keeps the wheels on the bus rolling. The CBUS downtown circulator has a huge side benefit. The 10 year sales tax is up for renewal and COTA needs good publicity. Curtis Stitt has already said if the sales tax fails COTA will be forced to reduce from our current 900,000+ service hours to under 500,000 service hours. How different will your bus service look if service hours are cut in half?

  • I agree that the circulator is a great idea. I think it’s going to be awesome for visitors and make Downtown an easier place to get around. I like it.

  • ToddAnders

    @luckyparrot, I’d love to see the buses cut in half! Outside of the core, they ride 1/2 empty anyway.

    Oh, wait…You’re talking service hours. Yea, cut those too.

  • snowabode

    The bus seems very well timed. Watching downtown Columbus evolve, especially since the economic challenges in 2008, has been fascinating. Unlike those pretend success claims and campaigns of past decades, I notice that there’s a real sense of activity and interest as the number of people increases downtown. This route seems to be within two or three blocks of a thousand or more brand new apartments and condominiums. This could be a big deal.

  • luckyparrot


  • Eugene_C

    @luckyparrot said: “I’d love to see the buses cut in half! Outside of the core, they ride 1/2 empty anyway.”

    I see this argument a lot but what people forget is that it’s perfectly normal for buses to empty out as they get to the end of their lines. In the evening, they start full, and empty out as they get farther out from the core. In the morning it’s the opposite, they start out empty and fill up as they move in toward downtown. Unless it’s a non-stop express.

  • luckyparrot

    I Didn’t say that

  • Anyone interested was free to attend the public meeting – It was publicized openly. Plenty of open seats. https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/t31/1237279_10151644422053920_1881496432_o.jpg

  • GVguy

    Posted on another thread, but relevant here also…

    I understand this new route largely replicates the Night Owl route, but if one was starting from scratch with it and truly wanted to feature and provide access to GV, the route would involve Third St. Ideally, when heading south on High, it would head east on Livingston just after downtown then south on Third before heading west on Whittier to find its way north on Front. This would make a great deal more sense if the city was trying to feature and provide access to one of its great neighborhoods. I’m certain the local businesses would support the additional tourism as well.

    Note: I live on 3rd and absolutely love the idea of better mass transit downtown, so I even support the idea of more busses on my street so long as they provide people with more options for getting around besides a car.

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