New Bus Rapid Transit Service Will Almost Get You To IKEA in 2017, But Not Quite
When the news broke on Monday evening that Columbus would be getting an IKEA in 2017, there was much rejoicing by local fans of the store across every social media platform imaginable. The most frequently vocalized complaint about the news deals with the advance frustrations in the potential traffic congestion the store will bring to the Polaris area — an area already synonymous with suburban rush hour gridlock.
While Columbus isn’t likely to get a new light rail line installed in the next two years, a new transportation service from the Central Ohio Transit Authority is scheduled to make its debut in May 2017: Bus Rapid Transit. The COTA BRT (to be known as the CMAX) will be a 15-mile enhanced bus route that will run along the busy Cleveland Avenue corridor between Downtown Columbus and the Ohio Health Westerville Medical Campus, located on Polaris Parkway.
While that route has a planned stop at the intersection of Polaris Parkway and Cleveland Avenue, riders headed to IKEA from Downtown or Linden would still have a 1.5 mile hike to get to the front door of the IKEA building. That trek would include walking down a busy stretch of Polaris Parkway that has no sidewalks at this point in time.
Lisa Myers, Public & Media Relations Manager at COTA said that their organization just learned about the new IKEA development earlier this week, along with the general public.
“At this stage, we do not anticipate modifying the BRT alignment,” she explains. “We made a submission to the FTA last September, and we should learn how they’ve rated the project, based on our submission, in February. Therefore, modifying the alignment at this stage would cause delay to the project.”
The only other Polaris-area bus service existing today is the #29 Express, a weekday reverse-commute route that runs from Downtown to the Chase office complex twice in the early morning and makes the return trip twice in the evenings. A stop at 1900 Polaris Parkway would put commuters closer to IKEA with around a half-mile walk remaining, but that walk would take place on Orion Place, a street that also has no sidewalks, as well as intersections that feature the crosswalk-to-nowhere, a common sight found in many outer-edge suburban areas.
“We do plan to implement new bus service as a part of the Transit System Review that would provide 30 minute frequency seven days a week from the central business district in Columbus, north on High Street up to Polaris Parkway to the Polaris Fashion Mall, and east to connect into the BRT at Ohio Health,” added Myers. “That being said, we continually evaluate our service, as well as land use changes, and will be keeping an eye on this development. Service to new destinations is something we evaluate with each of our service changes three times a year.”
While limited transit access may not effect the majority of IKEA shoppers who plan to make large item and bulk purchases that aren’t ideal for bus commuting, the store is also expected to employ 300 new workers, who will have no choice other than to contribute to the daily traffic and parking problems if no transit service is available. The challenges presented by sprawling suburban work locations have been part of an ongoing conversation at COTA, and new service debuted in September to serve a similar function in the New Albany area.
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