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CoGo vs car2go vs Uber vs COTA

Brent Warren Brent Warren CoGo vs car2go vs Uber vs COTA
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With the recent launches of car2go (last week), Uber (last month), and CoGo (last summer), Columbus residents who don’t own a car (or simply want to depend less on the one they have), now have some new options available to them. With all of these new choices coming along at the same time, though, it can get a little confusing trying to figure out how they work and which one might be for you.

Below you’ll find the basics on each new service; how it works, where it goes, and what it costs. We also included some hypothetical users and trips to see how the different services stack up against each other. And, of course, we included COTA, the original transportation alternative in Columbus.


How it works – Sign out a bike from one of 30 solar-powered kiosks and ride to your destination. Day and annual passes are available, but any trip over 30 minutes costs extra, so pay attention to the map or mobile app that tells you where all the kiosks are located — you’ll want to return that bike sooner rather than later (the system is designed more for short trips than leisurely rides).

Where it goes – Stations are located Downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods, roughly from 2nd Avenue in the Short North to Schiller Park in German Village, and from COSI in Franklinton to Parsons Avenue in Olde Towne East.

What it costs – An annual membership is $75 and a 24-hour access pass is $6. Both include unlimited 30-minute trips, with each additional 30 minutes costing you $3.


How it works – Search online or use a mobile app to find one of the blue-and-white Smart Cars — they’re parked on-street throughout the service area. Reservations are not required but are available if you want to lock in a car at a certain time. Your member card gets you in the car, and you’re charged by the minute – no extra fees for gas, insurance or parking. When you reach your destination, you can either do a “stopover” (you’re charged for time, but no one else can take the car), or you can choose to end the trip (leave the keys in the car and use your card to swipe out).  All trips must end inside the service area. Charges are billed to your credit card.

Where it goes – A 30-square mile area including Downtown and spreading north to Morse Road (between 315 and Cleveland Ave) west into Franklinton (south of Broad), east to Nelson Road and south to Morrill and Frebis Avenues. A portion of the University District west of High Street is excluded, as is most of Italian Village — you can’t end a trip in either area.

What it costs – The registration fee is $35 and the per-minute charge is $0.38. The maximum charge for an hour is $13.99, for a day is $72.99. A per-mile charge of $0.45 kicks in after 150 miles.


How it works – Use the mobile app to request a car, and a licensed livery driver (probably in a Lincoln Town Car), will show up and take you to your destination, similar to a taxi service.

Where it goes – Anywhere inside I-270, as well as part of Westerville north of the outer belt.

What it costs – Base fare is $6, with a minimum charge of $12 and a $10 cancellation fee. Fare is calculated by the mile ($2.75 per mile above 11 mph) or by the minute ($0.65 per minute below 11 mph). Flat rates have been set for airport trips: $35 to or from German Village, the Short North, the Arena District or Downtown; $40 to or from campus, and $45 to or from Westerville.


How it works – Use the COTA website or google maps app to find the nearest bus stop and/or to plan your trip. Wait for the bus to arrive (real-time bus info will be available soon), hop on and pay your fare.

Where it goes – Throughout Columbus, with routes extending out as far as Polaris, New Albany, Grove City and Hilliard.

What it costs –
Bus fare is $2 per one-way local trip ($2.75 for express routes), with 1-day passes available for $4.50, 7-day passes for $25 and 31-day passes for $62. Paying on the bus is a cash-only process, but pre-paid passes can be purchased at a Downtown vending kiosk with a credit card.

Hypothetical scenarios

The work commute from the Short North to Downtown:

– CoGo stations only extend as far north as 2nd Avenue, but if there are stations close to your home and work, this is a good (though weather-dependent), option. You wouldn’t pay anything per-trip, assuming you took less than a half hour and paid for an annual membership.

– Using car2go, a five-minute trip from the corner of 2nd Avenue and High Street to Gay Street and High would cost just $1.90, but you might have to walk to the nearest car, and find an open on-street parking spot once arriving Downtown.

– Using Uber, the trip from 2nd to Gay would be super-quick, but would cost you about $12 (prices will vary and depend on availability, which should improve as they add cars to the service).

– On COTA, the 2, 5 and 8 lines will get you to up and down High Street to Downtown, with the 7 available on Neil Avenue and the 4 on 4th and Summit Streets. Google maps shows an 8 minute trip from 2nd to Gay, with frequent buses running during the rush-hour timeframe.

The shopping trip for a student living in University District:

– There aren’t any CoGo stations on campus yet, but if  you could find your own way to the Short North, you could use the bikes to travel around to different stores or to Downtown or German Village.

– The car2go service area doesn’t currently extend west of 315, so Lennox (one of the most popular student shopping destinations), might cost you a little more – you’d have to pay for your shopping time in addition to the six-minute travel time.

– The Uber website quotes a trip from 15th and High to the Lennox Target for $12-13.

– For the Lennox trip, the 82 line on COTA leaves from 12th and High and gets there in about 15 minutes. It runs every half hour.

The site-seeing trip to German Village for a visitor staying Downtown:

– On CoGo, a ride from the Downtown Hilton to Schiller Park would take about 20 minutes, and there are convenient stations – outside of the Convention Center and in Schiller Park. Visitors could purchase the $6 day passes, but would still have to pay extra for trips over 30 minutes.

– The ten-minute trip (depending on traffic) from the Hilton to Schiller Park would cost $3.80 using car2go. Both spots are in the service area, but the location of the cars is always changing, so check the website or app first.

– Uber quotes a $12-15 rate for the Hilton to Schiller trip.

– On COTA, routes number 8 and 7 both make the trip in 20 to 25 minutes.

The Final Word

As our hypothetic scenarios revealed, the four different options yield different results depending upon your situation, location and travel distance. These services mostly work best for shorter trips within the urban core of Columbus, as longer suburban commutes can turn costly or may not even been an option due to system restrictions. It’s also best to keep in mind in your specific travel purpose when selecting your travel method. If you’re going on a shopping spree, it might be tough to haul home on a bike — and multiple riders splitting an Uber fare can make that trip cheap, while a solo COTA ride might be more effective when traveling alone.

In the end, Columbus residents and visitors stand to benefit from having these wide range of choices and options available.

More info can be found at cota.com, cogobikeshare.com, columbus.car2go.com and uber.com/columbus.

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