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COTA Ridership in 2019 Highest in 31 Years

Brent Warren Brent Warren COTA Ridership in 2019 Highest in 31 YearsPhoto by Brent Warren.
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The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) posted another year of steady ridership gains, with more total rides on the system in 2019 than during any year since 1988.

The positive trend line started after 2017, the year that COTA redesigned its bus network. In 2018, COTA rolled out two major initiatives – the CMAX line on Cleveland Avenue and the C-Pass program, which provides free bus passes to some Downtown workers. Last fall, COTA also began offering a pay-by-phone option for the first time.

Here are the ridership totals dating back to 2016, with the change from the previous year in parentheses:

2019 – 19,141,454 (+1.2%)
2018 – 18,913,789 (+2.8%)

2017 – 18,401,546 (-0.8%)
2016 – 18,549,436

“Every day more Central Ohioans are choosing one of COTA’s various services for their mobility needs,” said COTA President/CEO Joanna Pinkerton, in a statement. “COTA continues to see growth as customers are counting on us to connect them to jobs, education, health care and vital services within the growing Central Ohio economy.” 

The uptick in ridership comes at a time that many transit agencies nationwide are seeing declining numbers – a COTA press release stated that in 2018, COTA was only one of six transit systems (out of the top 30 markets), to see ridership growth.

Along with the overall ridership data, COTA also provided the first snapshot of its COTA Plus program, a microtransit pilot project launched last summer that provides service to several destinations in Grove City, like the new Mount Carmel hospital and the Mid-Ohio Food Collective. The program has provided a total of 2,800 rides over its first five months of operation.

COTA’s Board of Trustees recently voted to increase the frequency of several popular routes, a decision that will likely have a positive impact on future ridership totals. A COTA spokesperson also cited a new initiative focused on improving bus stops – over the next three years, 150 additional shelters will be built – as a response to ridership growth.

For more information, see www.cota.com.

Related Article – Never Built Columbus: Transit

Infographic courtesy of COTA.
A chart showing ridership totals and gas prices, from 2006 to 2016 – taken from COTA’s 2017 Short Range Transit Plan.
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