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New COTA C-Pass Provides Free Bus Passes For Some Downtown Employees

COTA bus in downtown Columbus

The new downtown C-Pass program provides eligible employees working in the heart of the city unlimited access to COTA's entire bus system for free.

Property owners in the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District agreed to fund COTA access for 45,000 downtown workers through 2020.

So far, about 7,600 eligible employees have signed up for the program. About 230 out of 1,000 employers have registered.

Andrew Rosinski works downtown, and he's relieved he won't have to drive as much to work.

“Just not having to look for a parking spot,” Rosinski says. “It’s about the same time for me to drive, park and get to my office as it is to take COTA and get to my office as well.”

Property owners pay an assessment that covers the costs. That charge is three cents per square mile. In many cases, that assessment fee is passed onto the employers through their lease, according to Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District Director Cleve Ricksecker.

“If it works here, and we think it will, we’ll see lots of other cities copy this,” Ricksecker says.

The goal of the program is to free up parking downtown, which has become more congested as the city’s population continues to grow. Investors predict the Downtown C-Pass program will make public transit a more attractive commuting option.

“Ones that have opted to relax, take the bus, look at email, read report that they’re happier, healthier, less stress,” Ricksecker says. “So we think this will make downtown a preferred place to work and do business.”

The system is based on COTA’s partnership with Ohio State University. Students pay $13.50 each term as a part of their student fees for unlimited use of COTA's services. 

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.