COTA Levy Renewal Gets Overwhelming Support
Columbus voters are favoring the 0.25 percent tax renewal for COTA services. Roughly 73 percent of voters came out in support of the levy with 27 percent voting against.
This will be the second time this tax is passed. Voters approved the levy originally in 2006, adding to the 0.25 percent permanent tax approved in 1999. Columbus Underground sat down with COTA CEO Curtis Stitt to learn how the money has been used and will continue to be used. Stitt said if they levy didn’t pass, Columbusites could expect longer wait times, fewer routes, and halted progress in planning for the million-person population surge expected by 2050.
Since it was voted for a decade ago they’ve added more routes and buses, bringing wait times down from over an hour to 15 minutes in some cases. They established partnerships with cities and townships to create the GREAT (Groveport Rickenbacker Employee Access Transit), which brings commuters directly to industrial and corporate parks, eliminating the need to walk a mile to get to work. Their foundational services increased by 80 percent since 2006, and in the past two years they’ve consistently transported 19 million passengers.
Stitt promised further improvements after the levy passes, including further distancing from the inconvenient hub-and-spoke transportation model by adding transfer points outside of downtown. The CMAX rapid transit, technological advances to get buses through stoplights, and a complete compressed natural gas-fueled fleet are some of the plans in the works, said Stitt. COTA plans on getting even more tech-savvy as well; the transit app will refresh more often and the fare payment system will include a “smart card.” COTA users will also be able to utilize an access barcode on their smart phones rather than having to remember to carry ones in their pockets. More plans, specifically those involving the projected population increase, will be laid out in the next year.