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Free Downtown Bus Pass Program Launches

Brent Warren Brent Warren Free Downtown Bus Pass Program LaunchesPhoto by Walker Evans.
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C-Pass, the free bus pass program that aims to convert thousands of Downtown employees into regular users of the Central Ohio Transit Authority( COTA), is set to officially roll out on Friday.

As of Tuesday, 218 Downtown businesses – out of a total of about 1,000 that are within the boundaries of the program – had signed up for the passes, according to Michelle Chippas of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District (SID), the property-owner supported organization that spearheaded the creation of the program.

The precise number of employees that will be riding on Friday is not yet known, she added, as many of the businesses have yet to upload all of their employees into the system.

The SID has been working since March to reach out to employers and walk them through the process, but enrollment has only been officially open since the beginning of May. Sign-ups will continue after the program starts, and the expectation is that more companies will sign on this summer as word spreads.

Tyler Steele, General Property Manager of Huntington Center at 41 S. High St., said that he has been working to educate the 40-plus tenants in the building – which collectively employ over 2,000 people – about the program.

“From the COTA users who are excited to save on the cost of their bus fare, to the C-Suite executive looking forward to not paying for monthly parking and gaining some productive billable time during his commute, we hear lots of positive feedback so far,” he said. “This is about having options; we need to have more transit options if we are to see sustainable growth in the heart of the city.”

The roll-out will be watched closely. Although similar programs exist in Seattle and Boulder, Colorado, this would be the first transit-pass program in the country funded primarily by property owners.

COTA’s CEO, Joanna Pinkerton, speaking at a Columbus Metropolitan Club event last week, said that she sees C-Pass as “representative of a fundamental shift – of companies, property owners, developers and citizens understanding that they have a role in funding transportation.”

“I’m really impressed with the development community,” she added, “and also the major employers Downtown, who are saying, ‘we do not want to add to congestion, we do not want more pollution Downtown, we don’t want to be paving parking lots…we want more functional housing, more jobs, we want things to go vertical.'”

Pinkerton also placed the C-Pass program within the larger context of Amazon’s HQ2 project, pointing out that the company listed transit access as one of the key requirements for cities vying for the $5 billion mega-project.

“That’s an example of corporations understanding that it’s more economical and sustainable to have high-capacity movement of people,” she said. “And you’re going to see that a lot more in the future, where companies are trying to get out of the business of owning parking structures and parking lots, and just finding ways to get their employees to work.”

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

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