The Central Ohio Transit Authority is preparing for its biggest one-day ridership of the year: shuttling passengers to and from Red White and Boom.
Ohio’s share of the Federal Reinvestment and Recovery Act does not, as officials had hoped, contain funding for a light rail system in Columbus. The Central Ohio Transit Authority wanted several hundred million dollars for the project. Instead, COTA is expected to receive much less.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority has been working to restore routes and service hours that were cut due to financial hardship last year. 10,000 hours were restored in May, and the bus system hopes to replace as many as 40 coaches before the end of the year. But COTA is having a hard time finding new drivers.
Central Ohio Transit Authority officials say they’re studying service improvements now that a new source of revenue is on the horizon. Voters narrowly approved a quarter-percent tax levy that begins in January 2008.
Statewide ballot issues on gambling, smoking and the minimum wage are getting the lion’s share of attention. But the president of the Central Ohio Transit Authority says – Issue 7 is “critical” to the future of public transportation in this part of the state. COTA is asking voters to approve an additional 1/4% sales tax levy to fund expanded operations.
The chief executive of the Central Ohio Transit Authority says the higher price of gasoline has led to increased ridership on COTA buses. Bill Lhota says the increase began late last summer when the price for a gallon of gas rose to around $3.
On Wednesday, the COTA Board of Trustees enthusiastically ratified a new 3-year labor contract that bus drivers and mechanics approved last weekend. Company president Bill Lhota said today that he could never have anticipated the agreement would take almost a year to negotiate. As WOSU’s Sam Hendren reports, COTA administrators believe today’s action could be a positive first step to the bus company’s restructuring.
As contract talks between Columbus bus drivers and COTA drag on, the future of a light rail project is more uncertain. Supporters of the proposed half-billion dollar northern corridor project believe it could help ease the city’s transportation problems. Critics say buses are far more efficient and flexible. Add to the mix COTA’s ongoing financial problems and a lack of public support – in the form of tax money – and it seems the light rail project has been derailed.