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Opinion: Transit Columbus Weighs in on Potential COTA Fare Increase

Elissa Schneider Elissa Schneider Opinion: Transit Columbus Weighs in on Potential COTA Fare IncreasePhoto by Walker Evans.
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Editor’s Note: The Board of Trustees of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) will vote tomorrow on a proposal to increase fares in 2018. Columbus Underground reached out to the advocacy group Transit Columbus for a statement on the potential fare increase. 

It’s hard because it’s important

Recently, public meetings took place regarding proposed COTA fare adjustments which would be effective Monday, January 1, 2018. Fare adjustment decisions are made by the Board of Trustees of COTA.

Here’s what’s on our minds at Transit Columbus:

A rise in fare price should be met with additional corporate, city, county, and state contributions.

Public transportation is important and vital to our economy and quality of life in Columbus. And we have to reinvest. Transit Columbus believes that fare increases need to be part of an overall foundation of appropriate county-wide sales tax funding.

The last time COTA asked tax-payers for an increase in funding was 2006. Fares have increased for riders in 2006, 2010 and 2012. It’s time for us as an entire community to continue to increase our funding of public transportation as well.

We’ve all heard the quote, “we need to plant trees that we’ll never sit under,” and I think that’s especially true for public transportation. A strong COTA is a strong Columbus. We need to consider increases from all sources, not just from riders. In 2016, there were 48 transit-related ballot measures across the country. Of those, 71 percent of those passed.

A rise in fare prices should coincide with research and a strategy to help those riders who are not yet earning a living wage.

We know that COTA is a critical and only option of transportation for many of our fellow citizens who need to get to their jobs, training & education services, medical services, and even basic shopping needs. We want them to be successful and thrive and we must be constantly vigilant that proposals like fare increases do not crush their efforts to improve their lives and their family’s lives.

We endorse a process in which COTA gets to know and better understand their riders. In particular, to best understand and respond to those riders who are not receiving subsidized passes, nor earn a living wage. To that end, Transit Columbus supports a study to understand the numbers of COTA riders for whom a fare increase would cause significant stress and a strategy for mitigating a fare increase on those riders BEFORE implementing a fare increase.

Any rise in fare prices should be done in collaboration with new ways to pay, such as smart cards and contactless payment, and new high capacity transit plans. 

We support COTA’s efforts at increasing its attractiveness to riders of choice and improving its service through the recently implemented redesign, increased weekend service, real-time schedule tracking, and current fare box upgrades. As costs rise, we understand that COTA’s budget will also need to rise to provide the service we have today. As rider costs continue to rise, a concentrated effort to continue to communicate a clear vision and a better transit future is an important promise to riders. We encourage COTA to continue to provide efficient routes and continue to increase ridership as well.

A rise in fare prices should be done in a timely, fair way which works for riders.

Rises in fare prices should come in increments that give riders the ability the plan for and keep up with increases as inflation rises. We realize that since COTA’s formation in 1974, fares haven’t kept up with inflation, although neither have wages. We would hate to see a situation where fares are risen dramatically, and by increments that its riders cannot afford.

Elissa Schneider, Chair

Transit Columbus

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