COTA Ridership in 2019 Highest in 31 Years

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Central Ohio Transit Authority experienced another year of ridership growth in 2019, with the highest ridership since 1988.

COTA’s total ridership in 2019 was 19,141,454 compared to 18,914,789 in 2018. That is a 1.2 percent increase and a 4 percent increase since the Transit System Redesign in 2017. The increase in ridership also included growth across several COTA services, including a full year of C-pass, the employer-paid transit program in downtown Columbus.

COTA continues to see increases in ridership as the national trend shows declines in public transportation. For example in 2018, of the top 30 U.S. markets, COTA was only one of six transit systems that saw ridership growth.

“Every day more Central Ohioans are choosing one of COTA’s various services for their mobility needs,” said COTA President/CEO Joanna M. Pinkerton. “COTA continues to see growth as customers are counting on us to connect them to jobs, education, health care and vital services within the growing Central Ohio economy. Through innovation, dedication and teamwork, every Team COTA member is committed to connecting people to prosperity with mobility options that are equitable and inclusive for our diverse region of customers. We are committed to Moving Every Life Forward in the region.”

In addition to overall ridership, COTA also saw increases in the following services:

  • CMAX, COTA’s Bus Rapid Transit line from Westerville to downtown Columbus, experienced a 3.3 percent increase in ridership from 2018 to 2019.
  • C-pass delivered more than 1,242,000 trips in 2019. Through a partnership with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, eligible downtown Columbus employees can get unlimited transit access at no cost to them. The cost is covered by property owners, their employer and MORPC. To date, 58 percent of downtown businesses participate in the C-pass program. Additionally, C-pass contributed to a 14 percent increase in ridership on rush hour lines.
  • AirConnect recorded a 5.5 percent increase in ridership in 2019. AirConnect provides 7-day service between John Glenn Columbus International Airport and downtown Columbus hotels and the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
  • COTA Mainstream also saw a 5 percent increase in service, delivering more than 305,000 trips to ADA customers. The launch of the pilot program Mainstream On-Demand helped provide more flexibility for customers by allowing them to book same-day service.
  • COTA Plus launched in July 2019, providing microtransit service to a portion of Grove City. The first public microtransit service to be offered in Central Ohio’s history, in the first five months, COTA Plus delivered 2,800 passenger trips, connecting customers to high-capacity fixed-route transit, major job centers, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective and the new Mount Carmel Grove City Hospital. This year, COTA Plus plans to expand citywide in Grove City, and add service in three other Central Ohio communities.

In response to ridership growth, COTA is committed to enhancing services for all customers. In December 2019, COTA’s Board of Trustees approved investment to improve frequency on CMAX and four other lines where increased usage is causing occasional overcrowding. COTA is also investing in transit stop amenities, and building 150 additional transit shelters in the next three years. Once completed, 70 percent of customer trips will originate from enhanced transit stop locations.

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