The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) has partnered with on-demand public mobility solutions developer Via to pilot a new microtransit network in Grove City, OH.
Residents of the Columbus, OH suburb can order one of five shuttles for pickup using the COTA Plus app. The shared ride is free for passengers using the service to connect to a bus route. Alternatively, passengers can pay $3 to travel end-to-end without being picked up or dropped off at a bus stop.
Grove City, like much of Central Ohio, has been expanding. But the area still has only two fixed route service lines, COTA's Public Information Officer Jeff Pullin told Smart Cities Dive. The new microtransit service will help the city keep up with recent growth by allowing residents to more easily get around town with public transit, particularly for the last mile of their journey, he said.
Grove City's microtransit pilot is the latest in transit offerings following Columbus' 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge win.
Central Ohio has been increasingly recognized as a leader in tech. Columbus was ranked as the best place for tech workers in 2019. The Midwestern city beat out the likes of New York, Silicon Valley and Boston due to factors such as salary and the overall cost of living. The average Columbus tech worker has an annual salary of $92,440, almost two times the average salary across other industries.
But as more people recognize the area as a great place to live and work in tech, new demand is being put on local transit.
The Via and COTA pilot service can help meet some of that growing demand. The goal of the pilot service is to eventually expand into the Columbus suburbs, according to Pullin.
"It's an innovative way to provide additional service for a growing community," he said. "Microtransit is something that more transit authorities are starting to look at as they see more growth within their city."
The pilot program also represents the latest in collaborations between public transit and private companies. Via has been increasingly used by cities and transportation groups to help reconfigure public transit from an offering of fixed routes to a flexible, on-demand network. To date, the company has launched more than 80 deployments across the globe.
Columbus is also no stranger to partnering with outside groups, including universities, private companies and public citizens. The city has hosted hackathon challenges, opening data for developers to help solve the city's transportation problems while offering coaching from The Ohio State University. Columbus has also made data available for issues like parking management, access to food for families in-need and bridge height intelligence.