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Enrollment Now Open for Free Downtown Bus Pass Program

Brent Warren Brent Warren Enrollment Now Open for Free Downtown Bus Pass ProgramPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Eligible employers can start signing up for the Downtown C-Pass program on May 1, and employees can start using their free, unlimited bus passes starting June 1.

Any business, organization, or government entity that is located within the boundary of the program — with a few exceptions — is eligible to participate. It’s a district that extends roughly two blocks on either side of High Street; from Fulton Street to just north of Nationwide Boulevard (the Hyatt Regency Columbus is included).

Kacey Brankamp, who serves as the C-Pass program director for the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District — the property-owner supported organization that spearheaded the creation of the program — said that they’ve been visiting companies and giving presentations about how the program will work since March.

“There has been an enthusiastic response from employers; they’re eager to find ways to help their employees get to work with less stress and hassle, and provide an option that saves them money, too,” she said.

Cleve Ricksecker, Capital Crossroads Executive Director, said that they’ve attempted to reach out to all 1,200 employers within the Special Improvement District. Those efforts will ramp up after enrollment officially starts in May, and will continue even after the first bus passes are activated and employees start riding in June.

Regular “Employer C-Pass Orientations” are scheduled throughout May. No registration is required for the one-hour sessions, which will be held every Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. at 23 N. Fourth St.

As for how the passes will work, there are a range of options available. The simplest one is mobile payment, which the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) will be rolling out in conjunction with the start of the C-Pass program. Employees will just need to download an app, and then present a QR code to the COTA fare box in order to board.

For employees without a smart phone, possibilities include a sticker that can be placed on an office entry card or a COTA-issued ID card.

Employers will be responsible for maintaining a list of eligible employees, which will include anyone working 15 hours a week or more, for two months or more at a time.

There is also an opportunity for people who don’t work within the boundaries of the program, but who live Downtown, to participate in the program.

“Residential buildings are not required to participate, but our agreement with the COTA allows them to opt into the program,” explained Ricksecker. He added that the Brunson, at 145 N. High St., is the first residential building to officially sign on, but other property owners have expressed interest in doing so.

Although the program has been pitched primarily as a way to free up scarce Downtown parking for office users, the impact could be much broader. In an interview last year with Columbus Underground, Brankamp said she was hopeful it would lead to bigger changes:

“I think we’ll see people converted, or changing their mindset, and that’s what we saw with the pilot program — by giving the free pass, it eliminated whatever the barrier might have been for people, and after they tried it the overwhelming majority felt that the bus was a viable commuting option.”

For more information about the program, visit www.downtowncpass.com

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