Transportation

Columbus, Ohio, Officials Seek One-Stop Transit App

The Central Ohio Transit Authority and Smart Columbus are looking for an app that allows users to plan and pay for their transportation.

by Mark Ferenchik, The Columbus Dispatch / August 17, 2018
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(TNS) — Imagine planning a trip Downtown. You want to ride a Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) bus, but it won't take you directly to your destination. You might need to get a CoGo or Lime bike for that. And what is the best route?

Smart Columbus and COTA are creating a smartphone app to allow riders to compare routes and transportation options, and to pay for their travel.

Smart Columbus and COTA are seeking companies to build the "multimodal trip-planning application." Proposals are due Aug. 31, with the vendor to be under contract by November.

"With the trip-planning application, what we're trying to accomplish is [to] provide visitors the ability to see what mobility options are," said Andy Wolpert, a transportation engineer and Smart Columbus project manager for the city of Columbus.

The city won a competitive, $40 million Smart City Challenge grant in 2016 to help develop a futuristic, "intelligent" transportation system. Alyssa Chenault, communications project manager for Smart Columbus, declined to provide an estimated budget cost for the development of the app. "We don't want to influence the proposals," she said.

Brandi Braun, deputy innovation officer for the city, said, "We want to create this app to seamlessly link together multiple forms of transportation, so we start to shift away from cars."

The system could provide alternative ways to get to the doctor's office, the grocery store, the workplace or school.

"We want to empower our residents to live their best lives," Braun said.

COTA spokesman Patrick Harris said the future is multimodal, with all the new transit options appearing across central Ohio, including motorized, dockless scooters. He said COTA's ridership should increase as well, as more people use it and pair it with other options.

With the app, riders would enter their destination and be provided with information about routes and the most cost-effective way to get there.

Riders would then pay once for all public and private transportation to be used on the trip.

The system could span at least seven counties in the Columbus metro area.

Smart Columbus and COTA officials are talking to other transportation providers about becoming part of the system. That includes bike-sharing and ride-sharing companies and taxi services. Parking garages and meters also could be included in the network.

Cities such as Denver and Austin, Texas, have just begun using such apps, Wolpert said. Los Angeles also is preparing to release a similar app.

©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.