The intersection of Broad & High is commonly referred to as the “crossroads” of our city, and has always been a busy commuter destination for all forms of transportation. These corners will soon become a little bit more accommodating to bus commuters as two new covered shelters will be added for passengers headed northbound on High Street and westbound on Broad Street.
“We’re also making it a priority to upgrade the rest of the shelters along High Street through Downtown,” said Beth Berkemer, Public and Media Relations Manager at The Central Ohio Transit Authority.
The announcement of these new bus shelters comes hot on the heels of the proposal for a new Downtown Transit Center as a part of the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan. In our recent interview with Keith Myers, Principal at MSI (the firm tapped as project managers for the 2010 Plan), some of the impetus for the Transit Center came from the lack of bus infrastructure currently located at Broad & High.
“We started on this project back during the winter and we were driving up and down High Street and we’d see people sitting out at Broad & High waiting on that cold stone wall,” explained Myers in the interview. “The Statehouse won’t let COTA put in a bus shelter there and instead people huddle inside the parking garage stairwell until 6pm when they lock that and push everyone back out into the cold. We say that bus riders aren’t second class citizens, but we sure as hell treat them that way. At some point it becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I don’t see why riding the bus has to be an awful experience where you’ve got to transfer at Broad & High be out in the cold or rain or snow for 15 minutes waiting. It doesn’t seem like the best system.”
Berkemer stated that the new Statehouse bus shelters are not a reactionary project following the Transit Station proposal.
“We’ve actually been discussing these two bus shelters at the Statehouse for about a year,” she said. “They just recently came to fruition.”
Broad and High serves as the busiest transfer point for COTA, as 16 of the 19 local routes meet here, including the busiest lines, the #1, #2 and #10. Additionally, 21 of the 40 express routes serving outlying areas in Central Ohio also converge at Broad & High for a total of 37 bus routes coming and going at this intersection.
“We don’t have a capacity estimate for how many people will be able to sit or stand inside these two new shelters,” said Berkemer. “But the one on High Street will be twice the size of the one on Broad Street.”
Planners at MSI don’t believe that these two new bus shelters will negate the need for moving forward with pursuing a larger Transit Center project.
“The new bus shelters proposed at the Statehouse are a great and needed addition that is not in conflict with the Downtown Plan,” said Chris Hermann, Director of Planning at MSI Design. “We still need bus stops on High Street, and we need nicer and more accessible ones than the parking garage stairwells at the Statehouse.”
“Our concern with the current bus transit system Downtown is the reliance on High Street as a designated Transit Mall,” Hermann continued. “The Downtown Plan recommends continued bus stops along High Street, but not the reservation of the curb lane for only buses. This lane would change to allow on-street parking as well as bus stops, similar to what exists in the Short North. Likewise, transfers would occur at a new, close-by Transit Center: similar to what has been successfully done in many of our peer cities such as Charlotte and Nashville, to name a few.”
When asked about the Downtown Transit Center, Berkemer stated that COTA hasn’t officially taken a stance on the idea yet.
“We’re in a process of studying it and listening to conversations about the Transit Center idea,” she said. “It seems that diverting transit service away from key destinations and key bus stops won’t necessarily be an improvement for our current customers or potential customers. COTA is currently reviewing all Downtown bus operations including the future impact of the 70/71 freeway improvements, and the potential future access to the proposed 3C Rail station or potential light rail or streetcar lines.”
“We’re constantly monitoring usage in all of our different service areas,” continued Berkemer. “It’s a gradual process that takes time. Our priority right now is on these two Statehouse bus shelters because right now we have none at that location.”
The two shelters will feature a new design that offer aesthetic improvements to compliment the historic Statehouse location. Copper roofs, rain gutters, new light fixtures and detailed wrought iron metalwork will help the new shelters stand out.
“The Ohio Statehouse is thrilled that COTA is working to construct the two bus shelters for transit riders; many of whom work on Capitol Square,” said Gregg Dodd, Deputy Director for Communication at the Ohio Statehouse. “The bus shelters have been designed to compliment the 1860s Greek Revival Statehouse and will positively add to our city’s urban landscape.”
No formal construction timeline has been laid out for the new shelters.
“We hope to have these installed sometime this year,” said Berkemer. “And we’re always looking for feedback on bus shelter improvements. Call or email us and every comment made is recorded and sent on to our planning department. We’re always happy to get community input.”