OH: COTA Bus Stops to Get Makeover

Jan. 21--COTA bus shelters along High Street are getting a face-lift.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority is to begin replacing 13 shelters at 11 locations between Nationwide Boulevard and Mound Street in March. The project is expected to be completed by June, said Mike Bradley, COTA's interim vice president for planning.

The new shelters, designed by Columbus College of Art & Design students, will come in 30- and 20-foot varieties that include benches and maps to navigate bus routes. They will have lights and real-time displays that show when the next bus is to arrive.

One of the biggest changes, though, will be new graphics that instantly convey which buses stop at each shelter, Bradley said. Those plans are being vetted by the Downtown Commission. If approved, the graphics will show a full list of the buses that pick up riders at each stop.

The whole project costs about $957,000 and will include resetting brick pavers beneath the shelters and reworking electrical conduits at some stops. Workers are adding electrical access at some shelters, Bradley said.

New shelters will be made with aluminum and some glass and should last 15 to 30 years, said COTA spokeswoman Lisa Knapp. Existing shelters were built in 2006.

The stops will be key to the Downtown circulator that COTA plans to launch in May. The route will run along High, Front and Park streets between Sycamore Street and Buttles Avenue.

Bradley said COTA is waiting for bids to be returned for similar shelters on Front.

The new shelters come as COTA continues to eliminate stops around the city to help speed up its lines. Since September 2010, COTA has removed 672 stops that the agency said were too close together.

The bus system operates on a network of 3,655 stops, down from 4,264, Bradley said. The system also has added lines, and bus stops along them, amid the cuts.

Planners still have 1,768 stops to evaluate before a September 2015 completion date for the reduction plan, he said. New guidelines call for 500 feet to 1,200 feet between stops, depending on the density of commercial and residential development. That's less than at many transit agencies in some of the country's largest metropolitan areas. COTA used Charlotte, N.C., as a benchmark.

"People (in large urban areas) are just more accepting of longer walking distances because that's just the way it is," said Claire Beck, COTA service planner.

But Bradley said COTA isn't looking at the program as "a numbers game." It plans to cut about 20 percent of stops but will seek public input for weeks before it decides.

"You're trying to have a balance between people's access and the running speed of the bus," Beck said.

She sifts through the public comments when a bus stop is on the elimination list. Feedback tends to be more pronounced on busy bus lines, she said, adding that. COTA also needs to know whether a disabled person lives near a stop.

rrouan@dispatch.com

@RickRouan

@Crawlumbus

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