The Central Ohio Transit Authority is still struggling to hire enough bus drivers to handle its routes. As a result, service changes set to take effect on Monday, September 5 will include less frequent buses on certain routes and the elimination of Line 6 along Cleveland Avenue.
Line 6 riders are directed to the CMAX, which runs along the same portion of Cleveland Avenue but with fewer stops.
COTA customers hoping for the return of night service are also out of luck – the last buses will continue to leave the city center around 10 p.m.
Other service reductions include:
- Reduced service on Sundays and early in the morning for lines 1, 2, 10 and the CMAX.
- Lines 4, 31 and 102 will now run every 60 minutes, seven days a week (instead of every 30 minutes)
- Line 3 will run every 45 minutes from Monday to Friday (instead of every 30 minutes)
- Airconnect select event service will end on September 22
COTA changes its routes and service schedules three times a year – in January, May and September – and 2022 has seen service reductions each time.
The driver shortage problem is not unique to Columbus. A February survey by the American Public Transportation Association found that 71% of 117 agencies surveyed had to either cut service or delay service improvements because they couldn’t hire enough workers (the organization Defense Transit Center published a report on the issue in July).
Earlier this year, COTA increased its new operator training wage from $15.50 to $17.50 per hour (after training, the wage increases to $21.10 per hour), but this and other efforts to recruit new drivers have not been enough to avoid the cuts at a time when ridership is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.
Figures provided by COTA show that ridership this year will likely end up at a similar level to last year, less than half the fixed-route ridership recorded in 2019, when more trips were made. on the system than in any other year since 1988. .
Here are the ridership totals going back to 2019:
2022 (as of August 30) – 5,780,826
2021 – 8,875,200
2020 – 10,322,467 (includes pre-pandemic period from January to March)
2019 – 19,141,454
More information about the September service changes can be found at cota.com.
In other COTA news:
- A new educational pass is available free to all Columbus City School students in grades nine through 12. The passes, which are called Student Success Cardsallow students to travel for free on any route, seven days a week.
- COTA’s board of directors voted to make the agency’s income assistance program permanent. The program offers half-price fares to low-income passengers.
- Council also approved funds to expand the Short North C-Pass program, which provides free rides to Short North workers, residents and visitors, and approved a capital budget that includes a new transit center at the Rickenbacker International Airport.
- The agency announced earlier this month that it had received $26.7 million in federal grants from the Federal Transit Administration under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. The grant money will be used to purchase 28 additional battery-electric buses. COTA’s first electric buses started operating last fall.