Transportation Roundup: Electric Buses, Driverless Shuttles and More
Taking a cue from our semi-regular Development Roundup feature, here are some smaller news items, proposals and updates from the transportation world that we’ve been following lately.
Smart Columbus has selected French company EasyMile to operate its self-driving shuttle in Linden. The vehicles are ADA-accessible and can hold up to 15 passengers. Like the downtown shuttle, an operator will be on board the vehicle at all times and will take over driving duties as necessary. Training rides could start as early as September, with the first public rides scheduled for November.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) is still planning on adding 10 electric buses to its 322-bus fleet, although they may not hit the streets until late 2020 or early 2021. A COTA spokesperson said that work will start soon on building out the charging infrastructure for the buses. Also, COTA remains on track to phase out all of its diesel buses by 2025 (about half have already been replaced by buses that run on compressed natural gas).
COTA’s micro-transit pilot project in Grove City is scheduled to launch on July 15. Designed to expand transportation options beyond the Stringtown Road terminus of the two bus lines that currently serve the suburb, the program will provide free, on-demand rides to or from a bus stop in the area. Rides that don’t involve a bus trip can also be scheduled for a three dollar fee (as long as the trip is within the program’s boundaries). The idea is to provide first and last mile service to some in-demand destinations – like the Mid-Ohio Food Bank and the new Mount Carmel Grove City hospital – that are not served by a regular COTA route.
Bird and Lime are the two mobility companies currently under contract to operate on Ohio State University’s main campus (Bird offers scooters, while Lime has scooters and e-bikes), but that could change before the start of fall semester. The university is in the process of reviewing “possible scooter, e-bike and bike share options,” according to a spokesperson. OSU’s three-year contract with bike share operator Zagster expired last summer.
The Friends of Camp Chase Trail organization has declared the trail complete after work wrapped up on a small section near Georgesville Road in May. The 16-mile trail starts in Madison County, runs through the Hilltop along a former rail corridor, and connects up with the Scioto Trail near Grandview.
Transit nerds will enjoy a new tool from TransitCenter that allows users to create maps showing ridership trends and population numbers for different cities. The nonprofit organization called out Columbus in its description of the tool, contrasting COTA’s increasing ridership over the last several years with the negative ridership numbers being posted in so many other cities.