COTA Board of Trustees approves transportation levy language for 2024 ballot

May 23, 2024
If approved, the levy will create a dedicated funding stream for expanded modernized public transit, hundreds of miles of sidewalks, bikeways and pathways throughout more than 40 communities in COTA’s service area.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) Board of Trustees has approved language to place a levy on the Nov. 5 ballot that, if voters approved, will create a dedicated funding stream for expanded modernized public transit, hundreds of miles of sidewalks, bikeways and pathways throughout more than 40 communities in COTA’s service area. 

The levy would generate the public funding portion of the revenue to initiate the LinkUS Initiative, a comprehensive mobility solution to address growth, affordability, sustainability and opportunity in the region. The plan was created through a partnership between COTA, the city of Columbus, Ohio, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and with feedback from local municipalities, organizations and community members. 

“It is time for central Ohio to join all the other regions of our size in creating a modern transit system for all modes, including transit, bikes and cars,” said Monica Tellez-Fowler, COTA president and CEO. “We know that a modern public transit system can transform lives and communities for the better. I thank the COTA Board of Trustees for empowering voters with the opportunity to choose improved transit service and walkable, safer and more connected neighborhoods.” 

The ballot initiative asks voters to increase the current local sales tax by half a penny. The result would take COTA’s share from 0.5 percent to one percent. Residents of COTA’s service territory, which includes all of Franklin County and portions of Delaware, Fairfield, Licking and Union counties, will vote on the issue. 

“As central Ohio continues to grow, our prosperity relies on connecting our communities to job opportunities,” said Chris Amorose Groomes, chair, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and mayor of the city of Dublin, Ohio. “The LinkUs Mobility Initiative will provide access to high-quality transportation to all of our residents to ensure that as our region grows bigger, we grow better.” 

COTA notes the city of Columbus is the only city of its size without a rapid transit system. The LinkUS Initiative will help alleviate traffic as growth continues, by making buses faster and more reliable while adding new walking and bikeway connections. If the initiative is successful, COTA will increase transit service by 45 percent. The funding will support more on-demand service, additional fixed-route lines and increased frequency and service hours on existing lines. 

“In my role as president of the Columbus Urban League, I see firsthand the need to bring more reliable and more dignified transportation options to central Ohio,” said Stephanie Hightower, president, Columbus Urban League. “Our focus at the Columbus Urban League is to empower the community and drive economic transformation, foundational education and family stabilization. Reliable, affordable and consistent transportation makes a real difference in the livelihood of families from health, income, education and more – moving forward to expand how we do transportation in central Ohio will be a game changer for many of the families we serve.” 

The levy will also invest in more than 500 miles of new sidewalks, multi-use paths and bikeways, which will allow cyclists and pedestrians to travel safely not only within their own communities, but between the suburbs and the central city, creating a network of connections for cyclists and pedestrians throughout the region. 

“Smart, talented, young workers are in nationwide demand and when they choose their place of employment, they’re also choosing their region,” said Sandy Doyle-Ahern, president of EMH&T. “If we can offer more reliable transit and new bikeway connections, we can keep and attract the workforce our businesses need to thrive.” 

Beginning with the West Broad Street corridor, rapid transit buses will travel the majority of the time in dedicated lanes, aided by prioritized traffic signals and rail-style platforms that will speed up the boarding process. The East Main Street Corridor and a Northwest Corridor that includes Olentangy River Road and goes through and beyond Dublin’s Bridge Park will follow. Options for at least two more corridors are still under consideration. 

“This initiative is a transformative step towards creating a more connected, accessible and equitable transportation network in our region,” said Marlon Moore, chair of the COTA Board of Trustees. “The board applauds the LinkUS team for this comprehensive strategy that not only addresses current transportation challenges, but also prepares central Ohio for future growth.”