OH: Convention Bids Hint at Transportation Gap

Columbus might have learned at least one lesson from its failed bid to attract the Republican National Convention.

At a news conference last week celebrating the launch of Cbus, the Central Ohio Transit Authority's new Downtown circulator, City Council President Andy Ginther said that the city needs to offer visitors more transportation alternatives.

"One of the missing pieces (in bidding for a large convention) was the ability to get around our city easily," he said.

Columbus didn't make the final cut for the Republican convention, but it's still in the running for the Democratic National Convention. The city received an invitation to make a pitch for it last month.

Columbus is competing with 15 other cities, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Cleveland. Many of those cities have rail, fixed-route bus service, circulators or some combination of the three.

Cbus is Columbus' first dive into a circulator since a midday route between the Short North and what was then the Columbus City Center mall was eliminated because of budget constraints.

Cbus is free to ride between the Short North and the Brewery District, has stops near the Greater Columbus Convention Center and runs more frequently than most other COTA service in the area.

— Speaking of Cbus, COTA expects the circulator to provide 200,000 trips this year. That's about 25,000 a month for eight months.

It was cold and rainy during its launch last Monday, and COTA recorded just 617 rides that day. The number jumped to 895 on Tuesday and 889 on Wednesday.

Ridership is going to be part of the equation when COTA decides whether Cbus is a success, CEO Curtis Stitt said. If it makes the grade, it could pave the way for other circulator routes in Columbus.

Cleveland's public-transit system started in the same way: a few circulator routes that eventually increased to about a half-dozen.

"If this isn't successful, it certainly doesn't make sense to add more of the same," Stitt said.

— People kicked off a COTA bus for misconduct might receive a written warning that getting on a bus again could lead to their arrest for trespassing. Well, yes and no.

Under state law, trespassing applies to premises, the Columbus city attorney's office said. Neither a bus nor a bus stop constitutes a premise, chief prosecutor Lara Baker-Morrish said, but a stationary bus shelter does. So if they can get on a bus, they're safe. Only if they're found waiting in a bus shelter can they be prosecuted.

That might soon change. Last week, Columbus City Councilman Zach M. Klein held a public hearing on updating the city's criminal ordinances, including a proposal that would allow the city to charge bad riders with trespassing if they manage to get on a bus. The "premise" requirement would not apply.

COTA spokeswoman Lisa Knapp said the agency supports the measure, which the council is likely to consider.

(This scenario wouldn't apply if a judge had banned the person from riding a bus; violating a court order is a whole different story.)


Dispatch Reporter Earl Rinehart contributed to this report.

rrouan@dispatch.com

@RickRouan

@Crawlumbus

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