COTA, Via partner to provide on-demand service in Central Ohio communities

Oct. 15, 2020
The new on-demand bus network is the first of its kind in the U.S., serving as a model for other cities looking to update public transit in response to COVID-19.

Via has partnered with the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) to provide a first-of-its-kind mobility solution in parts of Columbus, Gahanna and New Albany, Ohio.

The new service is the only full-time on-demand bus service in the United States. In the first three weeks of service, COTA//Plus Bus On-Demand customers averaged 13-minute wait times to be transported to any transit stop within their defined zone, including John Glenn International Airport, during regular service hours, seven days a week.

“As Central Ohio gets back to work, COTA is not just resuming some of our suspended service; we are reimagining it,” said COTA Chief Innovation Officer Sophia Mohr. “Through our partnership with Via, COTA//Plus Bus On-Demand is providing residents of Northeast Franklin County with service that meets their immediate and specific needs. We are excited to explore how other neighborhoods can benefit from this innovative solution and connect more people to our transit system.” 

COTA//Plus Bus On-Demand transports multiple customers who hail a transit vehicle at the nearest transit stop through the COTA//Plus app. Northeast Franklin County customers formerly relied on three fixed route lines – 25, 35 and 45 – which were suspended in May due to low ridership, as many were working remotely or furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wait times between transit vehicles on those lines ranged from 30 minutes to 45 minutes to rush hour-only service. COTA//Plus Bus On-Demand responds to customers within 15 minutes. 

“Dynamic, on-demand transit is a powerful tool to expand access to professional, economic and social opportunities for communities in the Columbus region,” said Via CEO and Co-Founder Daniel Ramot. “We are proud to work with COTA to introduce an innovative transit solution, powered by technology, that complements and extends the existing public transit infrastructure, and meet the needs of residents with increased efficiency, affordability and convenience.” 

To ensure social distancing, COTA On-Demand transit vehicles are limited to 10 customers, while larger fixed-route vehicles are limited to 20 customers. Passengers and operators are required to wear masks while on board any COTA transit vehicle. COTA has an extensive cleaning and sanitization protocols, including sanitizing all transit vehicles from three to five times a day, treating all surfaces with an antimicrobial solution, and doubling the sanitization of 118 transit shelters.

The service is COTA’s second on-demand venture with Via following the launch of the COTA Plus microtransit network in 2019.