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New COTA Busline Raises The Bar For Columbus Public Transit

Esther Honig
Local and state officials gather at the Fort Hays Metropolitan Education Center where one of the many CMAX bus stops will be built.

On Thursday, state and local Officials gathered at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center to break ground on the CMAX rapid transit bus line. It will deliver passengers from the Cleveland Avenue corridor to downtown Columbus.

Passengers aboard CMAX can expect an upgrade to their public transit experience. COTA officials say each bus will be equipped with WIFI and charging stations for smartphones and other mobile technology. Bus stops will be adorned with the work of local artists, and LCD screens will track the arrival of CMAX buses in real time.

Rapid transit technology, like designated lanes on High Street and traffic signal priority throughout the route, will allow passengers to travel from State Route 161 to downtown in about 35 minutes. 

The planning for the new bus line has been five years in the making, and earlier this summer was awarded a federal grant for $37.45 million from the Federal Transit Administration. 

Speaking at the groundbreaking, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty said the investments in public transit have the potential to improve the lives of residents, especially for those who depend on the bus.  

"We are setting an example today that when we look back on CMAX two years, five years from now, we will say 'Wow, what a difference it made in this community,'" said Beatty. 

The city's investment in public transit is set to continue. Plans are coming together for the a $40 million "Smart City" grant awarded to Columbus this summer from the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

COTA president Curtis Stitt says COTA is partnering with developers from the group Smart Columbus to help integrate the city's transportation systems. 

"Smart Columbus is looking at a single payment method for all transit, public transit to using it on Uber and car share programs,"said Stitt. 

CMAX is expected to be in operation by January 2018.  

Editors note: the original online and broadcast version of this story misreported the expected travel time for the CMAX bus between downtown Columbus and State Route 161.