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Release of Transit Recommendations Delayed

Brent Warren Brent Warren Release of Transit Recommendations DelayedPhoto by Walker Evans.
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The release of the final recommendations from a pair of high-profile plans meant to set the agenda for Columbus’ transit future has been delayed.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), which started holding public meetings in April of last year for its NextGen initiative, had indicated as recently as last fall that a final report was to be presented to the public by spring of 2016. The agency now says that the project will not wrap up until sometime in the second quarter of 2017.

The City of Columbus, meanwhile, started the public input portion of their Connect Columbus initiative in March of 2015. The project’s timeline called for a list of high-priority projects by May of this year and the release of the full plan by June. The high-priority projects were never released and it doesn’t look like the June deadline for the final report will be met.

“We are working with the consultants engaged in this process and others to make sure the development of Connect Columbus is as robust and comprehensive as possible,” said Jeff Ortega of the city’s Department of Public Service. “We will have more details in the near future.”

COTA gave a more specific reason for the delay of NextGen, tying it to the scheduled release this month of new software from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

“As Phase II of the NextGen project progressed with the analysis of proposed high-capacity transit corridors, the FTA announced the release of a new version of software that calculates travel pattern data and metrics, including ridership projections,” explained Lisa Myers of COTA.

“Through discussions with our consultants on the project, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and the FTA, a recommendation was made to pursue use of the updated FTA STOPS model, rather than use older models that could have the results challenged by the FTA,” added Myers.

Both initiatives promised to break from the history of auto-centric transportation planning in Central Ohio. NextGen sought to build on COTA’s Transit System Redesign — which is in the process of being rolled out and has been pitched as a significant upgrade to the overall bus network — by making concrete recommendations for “premium transit” corridors that could support light rail or streetcars.

Connect Columbus has gathered feedback from the public on street design, bike lanes, and transit, even floating the idea of an underground light rail line through the Short North.

A third initiative — the Columbus Area Metropolitan Transportation Plan — was adopted by MORPC in May. That plan features a map of 19 “high capacity transit corridors” that are singled out for further study.

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