COTA and self-aggrandizement
Sometimes complaining isn’t only fun, it actually could get a little attention. I read a column by a man who had been on a COTA citizens’ advisory committee, who was disillusioned by the closing of the committee, and also by his view of COTA’s apparent perception of itself as an agency that provides useful transportation only to the poor and the disabled, ignoring hundreds of thousands of average people.
So I wrote a letter to the editor in response, and today the Dispatch printed it, at the top of the page, next to a cute little picture of a bus I think they drew just for me! They did only a tiny bit of editing. For my out-of-town readers, here is the edited version:
I couldn’t agree more with Michael Meckler’s recent Forum column in The Dispatch about the failure of the Central Ohio Transit Authority to see the full potential of its service.
In 2000, COTA announced its new Commuter Check program, which let employees receive part of their pay as tax-free transit vouchers. It’s a great deal for employees, employers and COTA. But in four years, COTA has not managed to bring the program to Nationwide, where I work Downtown with 7,000 other employees.
Nationwide, Downtown’s largest employer, told me it was too expensive to participate. COTA should be stepping up and covering some of the cost if that’s what it takes to attract this kind of ridership, but you don’t see this kind of initiative on the part of COTA.
Recently, Nationwide announced it would move 480 suburban employees Downtown. COTA should be at the suburban location every day, forcing bus schedules into the hands of anyone who walks by. This is a golden chance for them to easily target hundreds of new commuters, many of whom will have no idea where to park. The agency should be getting them on board from the very start, and offer anybody moving Downtown free rides for a month.
But COTA doesn’t seem to care about attracting new riders.
- Most buses seem to carry schedules for a route other than the one you’re on, or no schedules at all.
- Its Web site, even after a much-trumpeted redesign, is still awkward and hard to use. Try following its advice and typing “Broad and High” into the trip planner. You’ll get a list of 44 different choices; Broad and High is 11th on the list. And they finally added maps of all routes only recently.
- They ripped out the maps from all of the Downtown bus stops years ago and replaced them with useless, broken digital displays.
I know that some people, against all odds, do take the initiative to track down maps and schedules, find their bus stop and become regular riders. But it’s too rare. More often, I hear stories like Meckler’s, that he tried to stick with it for years but finally gave up.
COTA is like a cult in reverse: Nobody can come in and everybody leaves.