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Some Major Property Owners Opt Out of Free Bus Pass Program

Brent Warren Brent Warren Some Major Property Owners Opt Out of Free Bus Pass ProgramPhoto by Brent Warren
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The new free Downtown bus pass program — now dubbed C-Pass and set to roll out in June — has been hailed as an innovative approach to solving the Downtown parking shortage and a new way to convert car-centric commuters in Columbus into bus riders.

The program is made possible by a host of partners, including the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) and the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). The largest chunk of funding, though, comes from the Downtown property owners who pay into the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District.

But there are some notable property owners Downtown that will not be participating in the program.

The Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC), owner of the Lazarus Building at the corner of South High and West Town streets, no longer contributes to the special improvement district. According to Capital Crossroads, the CDDC pulled the Lazarus Building out of the district in January of 2017.

Neither organization responded to requests for more information about why the CDDC made that decision. The two groups share a website, and Amy Taylor, CDDC’s Chief Operating Officer, is listed as a Capital Crossroads board member.

The CDDC is a non-profit development corporation that has spearheaded many large projects Downtown, including the Columbus Commons and the Scioto Greenways.

The Lazarus Building is the only High Street property Downtown that is not within the boundaries of the C-Pass program. It was redeveloped by the CDDC in the mid-2000’s — a $60 million dollar project that transformed the former department store into a 700,000-square-foot, LEED-certified office building with ground-level retail. The building now holds about 2,000 employees, according to the CDDC’s website.

Also not included in the C-Pass program are buildings owned by the State of Ohio, so state employees will not be eligible for the free passes. Tom Hoyt, Chief Communications Officer for the Department of Administrative Services, offered the following statement when asked why the state chose not to participate:

“The Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District approached the state to participate at an annual cost that was significant. It was reviewed and determined to be too expensive. We elected not to participate.”

The absence of some employers from the program has not gone unnoticed by local transit advocates.

“Transit Columbus supports the C-Pass program and values the huge amount of work and commitment that Capital Crossroads SID has dedicated to making this program a reality,” said Josh Lapp, Chair of the Transit Columbus board. “We would love to see more organizations — such as the State of Ohio and others — buy into the program because we believe this program in particular and transit in general is essential to the continued success of Downtown.”

Both Franklin County and the City of Columbus are participating in C-Pass. About 3,000 county employees will be eligible for the free passes, and a city spokesperson confirmed that every city employee who works in a Downtown building will be eligible for the program.

“A vibrant Downtown is imperative if our city and region are going to continue to thrive,” added Lapp. “Bolstering transit is key to Downtown’s success and must be a goal for everyone devoted to improving Downtown.”

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

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