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Transit Proposals Beginning to Generate Discussion

Brent Warren Brent Warren Transit Proposals Beginning to Generate DiscussionAll renderings/visuals via Connect Columbus.
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The city’s new Connect Columbus initiative got started last month with multiple “plan van” appearances around town and a series of meetings on the west side. Among the proposals and ideas discussed is a look at four different “premium transit” scenarios. Should Columbus pursue a straight-line light rail system like Salt Lake City, or a streetcar system meant to revitalize the urban core like Portland? How about the Charlotte model, in which a radial system connects different employment nodes to downtown via light rail and bus rapid transit?

“It’s a fundamental question we will have to work through in all of these meetings,” said Paul Moore, of project consultant Nelson Nygaard. “Looking at (individual streets) in isolation, we get a sense of opportunities, but transit works as a system. Showing how other places developed their premium transit is helpful in understanding how people want to connect, and how we can make those connections.”

“Any of them could work in Columbus,” he said, adding that feedback from the Connect Columbus process could also indicate that none of those strategies is supported by the community, in which case another approach would be developed.

The next opportunity for feedback will be June 1st through 4th at North Broadway United Methodist Church in Clintonville. Open sessions are being held during the day and presentations will be given on the first and last day. Representatives from Nelson Nygaard and from the City of Columbus will be on hand to present a wide range of new options and scenarios for getting around the northwest side (which for these meetings will include Clintonville, the University District and downtown).

Two additional sessions will be held later in the summer, one for northeast Columbus and the other for the south side. Residents from any part of Columbus are welcome to attend any of the meetings.

The west side meetings focussed mostly on issues specific to that side of town. Options were presented for West Broad Street, for example, that show how it could be redesigned to balance out the needs of its many users.


“A lot of cities have streets like this, streets that are doing a lot of the transportation work,” said Nelson. “Cars, transit, pedestrians… even bikes, frighteningly enough!”

Traffic counts show that much of Broad is wide enough that two lanes could be removed without a significant impact on car traffic. Renderings presented at the meeting show what the street would look like with dedicated bike lanes or a Bus Rapid Transit system running down the middle.

Development scenarios were also presented for some of the more accident and congestion-prone intersections in the area. At the corner of Harrisburg Pike and Mound Street, for example, a rendering shows a redesigned intersection and a more robust street network meant to alleviate the traffic problems.


“That’s one of the highest crash locations in the city,” said Nelson, adding that change is already coming to that area with the SPARC redevelopment of the former Cooper Stadium. “So in the future, do we widen it, or do we recognize that there might be redevelopment, and we could create alternative networks that could help to resolve some issues?”

“That’s what Connect Columbus does in general,” said Patti Austin, Planning and Operations Administrator for the Department of Public Service. “It gives us ideas and a plan for connections, so that as things redevelop, we are ahead of the curve.”

More information, including the full presentation from last month and details on upcoming public meetings, is available at www.columbus.gov/connectcolumbus.

COTA’s NextGen initiative also has meetings scheduled for the first week of June; in Westerville, Dublin and on the south side. More details at www.cota.com/nextgen.

All renderings/visuals via Connect Columbus.






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  • stephentszuter

    This is confusing. But I think I like it.

  • I agree the drawings are kind of confusing. I’m for any and all of it, including light rail, street cars, bus rapid transit and bike lanes. Just like in the body, it seems like you need some combination of light rail taking riders to main areas (like arteries take blood to tissues) and street cars, trolleys and/or busses taking riders to places in those main areas (like capillaries take the blood to cells within the tissues).

    • If the drawings are confusing, it’s because they’re conceptual slides from a very long presentation deck. I imagine they came with a lot of additional explanation and discussion in person. Stop by any of the upcoming public meetings for more info!


  • welkstar
  • c_odden

    A major theme of the initial Nelson/Nygaard presentation was dignified use of transit. That is, independent of any particular transportation technology or connectivity/throughput goal, use of transit shouldn’t be humiliating or dehumanizing. That is (at the risk of putting words in their mouths…): reconfigure bus stops with no seating crammed on a patch of hard-packed dirt on the edge of a 45mph artery; give nondrivers safer and more comfortable options for getting places; don’t make lower-cost transit methods subordinate to the individual automobile; facilitate interneighborhood connectivity, not just treating individual neighborhoods as separate/separable universes.

    OK, so there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about that, except that they’re approaching it from a higher level than a focus on light rail or any particular technology or implementation, AND with much-needed attention to transit equity. That makes me far more excited about their role in this process. I could care less whether downtown or les urbanes nouveaux (to coin a slur) get their dream transit configuration when poor neighborhoods, whose residents’ transit use is by necessity rather than *a lifestyle choice*, stand in mud and slush waiting for infrequent bus lines (shame they’re not consulting on the COTA plan!).

    • Polis

      Nelson\Nygaard is consulting on the COTA plan.

  • c_odden

    “could care less” is unnecessarily harsh — rather, “care a little less about prioritizing additional transit options for those who currently have a better transit situation than the bulk of the city,” is probably more appropriate/accurate.

  • dcariens

    Columbus needs to move on urban rail transit, both streetcar and light rail. There have been so many good plans–they have come and gone. Rail transit stimulates development–look at Portland and Charlotte. Why Columbus business leaders turn a deaf ear to the subject is beyond me. They are missing a great opportunity–and it will never get cheaper. Saying it will cost too much is foolish–business leaders want to put it off until it is a vital necessity and then it will cost a lot more. I thought business leaders were visionaries interested in the solid development of the urban area in which they work and live–apparently not.

  • WilliamWallace1

    @dcariens – I agree wholeheartedly. WE NEED LIGHT RAIL. It’s been frustrating to listen to these wonderful plans gain steam, only to be abandoned. I understand we are talking about major infrastructure investment and it’s not an overnight decision, however these light-rail ideas have been floating since Coleman took office. I think one day Columbus’ brass will eventually have their hands forced, but I agree, it would be nice to see them actually be visionary here and jump at an opportunity instead of waiting for it to land in their lap….

  • Ray

    I liked the downtown shopping mall. All what was needed was a subway to connect it to the burbs and Ohio State. Dont forget Ohio is in a deep freeze for 6 months out of the year.

    • Columbus only gets maybe 2-3 months of cold weather (Dec-Feb) and even during those months we’ll get random days where it pops up to 50 degrees (and everyone busts out the shorts and tshirts for a day or two).

      Otherwise, the weather here is pretty much fine March-November.

  • dcariens

    Columbus has been on the verge of being a great city for some time. A rail mass transit system is a part of any major great city. Now is the time to start building. There was a plan for several downtown streetcar lines which made so much sense. Add to that a light rail line to Polaris and the north and you have the beginnings of the transit infrastructure the city needs. Ohio State wants it, the city government wants it, but Columbus business leaders sit on their hands. The Kasich-Koch opposition to rail transit is a major stumbling block. Too bad–Columbus’ potential is great, but it is being undercut by the people who are supposed to lead including the heads of major companies, state-level politicians, and outside oil interests.

  • The Arch City

    Yeah, yeah. It is all wonderful. Unfortunately I have been working on/watching/dealing with public transit plans for 20 years in this city and the whole damn thing is disheartening. Maybe if a confluence of younger people and people who are from another city/have traveled to cities with good transit can craft a compelling message to our tax averse electorate, we might have some hope. I am literally at the point where I am not sure I will every see a comprehensive multi-modal transit system in my lifetime, so I am hoping it happens for my 10 month old.

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