Codes & Policies

Helping Everyone Stay Safely in the Fast Lane

Guiding Principles so Everyone Enjoys the Journey

To help guide what we do and ensure we’re maintaining a safe environment for you, COTA has created a number of policy documents. These policies not only govern behavior on our transit vehicles, they also help direct how we operate. Learn more by selecting a policy or reading the information below.

Guidelines That Help Us Travel Safely

COTA’s highest priority is the safety, security and prosperity of our passengers and operators. We aim to deliver efficient, effective service in a welcoming, comfortable, and above all, safe environment.

If you have feedback or questions about the safety and security of COTA transit vehicles, shelters, stops or facilities, contact Customer Service at 614-228-1776, TTY/TTD or

If you see something you think requires immediate police, fire department or medical attention, please call 911.

Our Passenger Code of Conduct outlines acceptable behaviors while riding a COTA vehicle or visiting any COTA shelter or facility. To keep our passengers safe and comfortable, we reserve the right to deny service to anyone not in compliance with the following rules:

  • Be Ready: Please be at your stop five minutes before the scheduled departure time. For help making plans, you can use this website, contact Customer Service at 614-228-1776 or download the Transit App.
  • Have Proper Fare: Have your exact cash fare or correct day pass, transfer, mobile phone, Connector SmartCard or ID card ready. COTA fareboxes do not issue change, but will issue vouchers for amounts $2 or greater upon request. You may redeem a voucher at the COTA Pass Sales Office at 33 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio 43215. Your operator may deny service if you do not have proper fare or improperly use fare media, including someone else’s ID card or expired passes.
  • Hold on to Strollers: We welcome strollers and carts on our vehicles. But please remember to keep your child secured and the wheels locked. Also, for your safety, operators must keep aisles and doorways clear. That means they may ask you to fold or collapse your stroller or cart, or move it to the rear of the bus.
  • Maintain Service Animals: Service animals trained to assist people with disabilities are welcome on board. Please keep your service animal on a leash and ensure they remain well behaved. Other animals or pets may ride only if they are in a cage or case that fits on your lap.
  • Secure Mobility Device: We ask passengers riding COTA to give priority seating by the door to seniors and people with disabilities. To protect you and your fellow passengers, and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the vehicle’s operator will secure any mobility device that you have on board. Please cooperate with your operator to ensure everyone has a safe ride.
  • No Motorized Devices: Motorized devices, such as a scooter and a Segway, are prohibited on the bus. This does not include ADA mobility devices.
  • Be Considerate: Loud and disruptive behavior affects everyone. Please do not run, yell, throw objects, spit, fight or use foul language or gestures. Assaulting, harassing or intimidating the operator or passengers could cause you to be banned from the vehicle or arrested.
  • Do Not Distract the Operator: Since your operator’s first concern is ensuring you arrive to your destination safely, please avoid prolonged conversations with the operator while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Turn Down the Volume: Your conversations and favorite entertainment should be private experiences. Please talk in a low speaking voice during cell phone conversations and avoid saying offensive words. Use headphones with your sound-producing electronic devices and keep the volume at a low or moderate level.
  • Keep It Clean: COTA requires that customers maintain acceptable hygiene when riding. Please do not put your feet on the seat or leave trash behind. Always wear a shirt and shoes and do not expose other passengers to bodily fluids of any kind or odors that may present serious health or safety risks.
  • No Smoking, Eating, or Drinking: Passengers are not permitted to eat, drink, smoke or use e-cigarettes. In addition, you cannot smoke on any COTA property, including bus shelters and terminals. Please exhale any and all smoke before boarding. Any food or drink brought on board must be completely covered.
  • No Drugs or Alcohol: Using drugs or drinking alcohol on any COTA property violates COTA policy and Ohio law.
  • No Illegal Weapons: Illegal weapons are forbidden on any COTA property.
  • No Dangerous Equipment: Dangerous equipment that may cause a fire or explosion, such as car batteries, gas cans, lawn mowers or paint thinner, is not permitted on any COTA vehicle.
  • Exit at the End of the Line: Effective Dec. 6, 2021, all customers are required to disembark at the end of the line and can board five minutes prior to departure. This policy change was made to allow for our operators to take their necessary layover time, prepare for their next route and ensure their vehicle is safe, secure and ready for the next line of service. Operators will notify customers prior to final stop of opportunities to disembark with shelters.

Let’s Roll and Stroll Together

For your convenience, strollers and carts are permitted on all COTA vehicles.

However, for your safety, Operators must keep aisles and doorways clear and may request that you comply with one or both of the following guidelines:

  • Fold or collapse your stroller or cart
  • Move to the rear of the bus with your stroller or cart

The Reasons We Could Make a Fare Change

COTA has a duty to operate in a fiscally prudent and financially sound manner. For that reason, we may need to adjust the passenger fare structure periodically. This allows customers to continue paying a fair and reasonable portion of the cost of providing transit service.

COTA evaluates changes to the fare structure every three years. Considerations include farebox recovery ratios, affordability, inflation and comparable fares in other cities. COTA values and considers all public input regarding fare policies and proposals.

The last proposed fare adjustments occurred in 2018. Prior to those adjustments, four public meetings took place and included the following Meeting Presentation Deck: Slideshare or PDF.

Fare Change Policy

Our goal is for the annual ratio of total farebox revenues when compared to total expenses (the “farebox ratio”) to be similar to the national industry average for all transit systems of similar size and service levels.

  • Every other year, COTA prepares an update to a projected financial summary for the next five years. That update is included in our Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP) and indicates the timing and extent of future proposed fare changes.
  • The actual need to implement a projected fare change will be reviewed during COTA’s annual budgeting process.
  • COTA will hold a public meeting in an accessible downtown location to ask for public comment and discussion at least two months before implementing any fare increase.
  • The COTA Board of Trustees and management will actively consider all public comments prior to finalizing any fare increase proposal. This consideration will include a thorough analysis of any suggested alternatives to a proposed fare increase.

The following activities will take place after formal approval of a fare change, but prior to the effective date of the fare change, in order to inform users of the change:

  • The Ohio Department of Transportation will be notified of the change;
  • Press releases describing the changes will be sent to general-circulation newspapers, radio and TV stations;
  • Any other activities deemed necessary by COTA

Fare Equity Analysis Policy

(as adopted by the Board of Trustees on 6/26/13)

  • The FTA requires COTA to evaluate the effects of fare changes on minority populations and low-income populations.
  • A minority population is any readily identifiable group of minority persons (persons identified by race, color or national origin) who live in geographic proximity.
  • A low-income population is any readily identifiable group of households who live in geographic proximity and whose median household income is at or below 150% of the Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines.
  • For proposed changes that would increase or decrease the fares on the entire system, or on certain transit modes, or by fare payment type or fare media, COTA shall analyze any available information generated from ridership surveys indicating whether minority and/or low-income riders are disproportionately more likely to use the mode of service, payment type or payment media that would be subject to the fare change.
  • COTA shall then—
    • Determine the number and percent of users of each fare media being changed;
    • Review fares before the change and after the change;
    • Compare the percentage differences for each particular fare media between minority users and overall users; and
    • Compare the percentage differences for each particular fare media between low-income users and overall users.
  • Should a proposed fare change result in a disparate impact, COTA will consider modifying the proposed changes to avoid, minimize or mitigate the disparate impact of the change.
  • Where disparate impacts are identified, COTA shall provide a meaningful opportunity for public comment on any proposed mitigation measures, including any less discriminatory alternatives that may be available.
  • If COTA chooses not to alter the proposed fare changes despite the disparate impact on minority ridership, or if COTA finds, even after the revisions, that minority riders will continue to bear a disproportionate share of the proposed fare change, COTA may implement the fare change only if:
    • COTA has a substantial justification for the proposed change, and
    • COTA can show that there are no alternatives that would have a less disparate impact on minority riders but would still accomplish COTA’s legitimate program goals.
  • If at the conclusion of the analysis, COTA finds that low-income populations will bear a disproportionate burden of the proposed fare change, COTA will consider modifying the proposed changes to avoid, minimize or mitigate the disproportionate burdens of the change, where practicable.

Fare Structure

(as adopted by Board of Trustees on 11/17/2009)

  • A 20% farebox recovery ratio is hereby adopted as the appropriate ratio target to be considered by staff, along with affordability and other criteria, when recommending future fare increase.
  • The President/CEO be, and hereby is, authorized to take such further action and execute and deliver such further documents as, acting with the advice of counsel, shall be deemed necessary and appropriate to carry out the intent of this Resolution. [See above Fare Change Policy]

Refund Policy and Procedures

All sales are final. No refunds will be provided for any passes (paper and/or electronic) or stored value remaining on a COTA account (mobile/Smartcard).

Refunds requests due to the October 2021 change in fare policy

In conjunction with the implementation of the new fare management system, Masabi, COTA updated its fare structure as follows:

  • Elimination of the upcharge on the rush hour routes (applies to all customers)
  • Modify transfer to allow for two-hour accessibility (no one-way restriction) (applies toall customers)
  • Modification to the definition of “Children” for the purposes of determining discounteligibility (applies to all customers)
  • Implementation of fare capping (applies to all Masabi account-based system users)

Elimination of the upcharge on the rush hour route is the only change that will result in customers having potentially “overpaid” for their pass. This applies to customers that purchased 31-day express passes prior to October 17, 2021 (at which point 31-day express passes stopped being sold). In these instances, CEC representatives will provide a complementary 7-day pass to all customers the present a 31-day express pass at the CEC (valued at $25.00). Since the revenue has already been recognized by COTA, there are no actions that need to be taken by CEC representatives in the POS system.

We Always Want to Hear from You

COTA shares each of its initiatives online and in public meetings, which allows the community to provide comments. View our ongoing community initiatives here.

To provide your thoughts on how COTA can improve our service, please contact us. We welcome your feedback by email or on Facebook or Twitter.

For comments on major COTA initiatives, please use the following email address to ensure the appropriate team receives your input.

What We Collect and How We Protect It

COTA is aware that visitors to our website may have certain concerns. To help you better understand the type of information this website collects and how that information is used, we have created this . Please review the policy from time to time to check for updates.

  • Public Record
  • Automatically Collected Information
  • Personal Information
  • Privacy and Security
Public Record

As a political subdivision of the state of Ohio, COTA is subject to certain statutory exceptions. Most documents and records maintained by COTA, including but not limited to electronic data, are public records under Ohio law. Therefore, information submitted through this website may be subject to disclosure pursuant to a public records request. If you have questions about the Ohio Public Records laws, refer to Ohio’s Revised Code, Section 149.43. Additionally, personal and other information provided to this site may be subject to judicial or other government subpoenas, warrants or orders.

Automatic Collection of Certain Information

No personally identifiable information is collected from visitors who simply browse this site or who download information from it. While our web servers maintain logs of user activity to help us manage the website, information stored in these logs does not identify you personally. The logs store things such as the domain name and IP address from which you access our site, the type of browser and operating system you used, the date and time you accessed our site, the pages visited and the address of the site that you linked to us from (if you linked to our website from another website). We may use this information to learn how many visitors we have, where they are coming from, which parts of our website are of most interest to visitors and other facts that will help us improve the website and the services we offer.

Personal Information

You may be asked to provide personal information in certain fields on this website. Visitors who request services through this site may be required to furnish additional information in order for us to provide the service requested. We may share this information with other organizations to provide the help you are requesting. We may also use that information to help assess user needs and analyze trends.

The information collected on this site is used for the purpose for which it is requested. Examples of such information is information included in resumes, job applications, Mainstream registration, Senior ID registration, vendor/contractor registration, account registration, e-newsletter registrations and information from the “Contact Us” link for questions or comments on this website. By using our services and accessing our site for any such purpose, you are consenting to the information collection and use of the information for the intended purposes.

Privacy and Security

We will limit our use of your personal information to the performance of our functions and activities and to fulfill our legal obligations. We will not rent or sell any Internet information identifying you individually (name, address, phone, number, etc.) to third-parties for marketing or mailing list. Those who communicate with and supply us with contact information may receive future communications by email, direct mail or telephone.

If you do not wish to receive any correspondence from the Central Ohio Transit Authority please ask to be removed from our contact lists in one of the following ways:

  1. Send a letter to: COTA Marketing Department, 33 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio 43215
  2. Email our team at

Some information that you submit to us through this website may be protected by encryption technology, whereas other information may not. Unless a particular web page on this site indicates that encryption technology is being used, you should not assume that information you submit through the page will be secure.

COTA has implemented reasonable security measures in order to protect both personal and non-personal information from loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration or destruction. COTA shall not be held liable for any injury caused by the disclosure of your information, whether by security breach, accident, inadvertence or any other act resulting in disclosure.