via COTA Facebook

COTA Proposes Self-Driving Vehicles As A Part Of Their NextGen Transit Project

The future of city transportation may come sooner than expected.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority is completely changing the game this time around. Under its NextGen operation, which plans to maximize city transportation for the coming decades, COTA may actually utilize driverless vehicles to ferry people around our ever expanding city.

While automated travel may seem like a pretty drastic leap into the future, it may be a necessary one. COTA is scrambling for ways to overhaul public transit, holding public meetings to get a better understanding of the problems that travelers face, and putting together committees to create solutions to those problems. But is there urgent reasoning behind COTA’s sudden rush to create a more efficient and viable commuter system? City planners say, yes.

Columbus, the ever booming city.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Columbus is growing, and at a faster rate than ever before. Our once familiar skyline has changed and evolved. Construction cranes and high-rises pepper the horizon in new and unfamiliar ways. City blocks are bulging with new offices and storefronts. Entirely new land developments are projected to be built soon, adding to the already sprawling urban growth. And with all those new buildings and places to work will come a huge boom in the city’s overall population.

According to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Columbus is set for an increase of as many as 500,000 more people by the year 2050. A report done by the Urban Land Institute of Columbus supports this, citing that the city is preparing itself to absorb a population roughly the size of the entire city of Boston. Most of this is due to growth trends of the last few decades but much can be said for city migration.

Recent studies have shown that Cuyahoga County, formerly the biggest county in Ohio, is now ranked second in population size to Franklin County. A large contributing factor behind the sudden flip is Cleveland’s loss of an estimated 1,500 people due to urban migration, while Columbus saw 14,000 new residents moving to make a home in the city.

With all these new residents moving to Columbus and the steady construction of new buildings and homes to make room for them, transportation is sure to become a pretty vital issue. Traffic will sky rocket and the parking situation, already dire in areas like the Short North, will become disastrous at best. That’s why it’s important that Columbus and COTA brace itself for this traffic influx and find alternate ways to alleviate an already developing problem.

How COTA NextGen and Columbus are meeting the problem head on.

NextGen was originally created to reimagine how people move around Columbus. Under the direction of the Project Advisory Group (or PAG) COTA has come up with innovative ways to make it easier for people to get to school or work and from one stop to the next.

Earlier this summer COTA and NextGen rolled out a whole new transit map, the goal was to make stops accessible to more people while getting them to their destinations faster. Not only did they spread out their local lines but they also designed routes specifically with rush hour traffic in mind.

New bike routes have opened up on city streets, encouraging alternative transportation and promoting cheaper ways of travel. Vehicles now share a road with cyclists but for the most part, the riders are protected by their own marked off lane. This also fits in with the city’s desire to remain as green and energy efficient as possible in the upcoming years of expansion.

A new rapid transit line called CMAX was developed to connect travelers from the Polaris areas to downtown. The line runs down Cleveland Avenue, straight into the heart of the city with limited stops to ensure a speedy commute. Not only will the route be great for tourists staying in Polaris hotels, but it provides a great alternative for residents and to get to jobs and school.

With these advancements and others on the way, city transportation will be unrecognizable from its previous models. As Columbus changes from a thriving but quaint midsize city to a blossoming metropolis, our ideas of commuting and travel must change along with it.

COTA and the future of public transit.

With the President & CEO of COTA, Curtis Stitt soon retiring, a chapter closes and another one opens for the transit authority. Emille Williams, the organizations Vice President of Operations, will sit in as Interim President while COTA begins the search for new leadership. Though Stitt has been responsible for implementing many of COTA’s newest innovations, the Central Ohio Transit Authority still intends to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s massive population influx.

The transit authority plans on creating long term solutions, like the self-driving vehicles, utilizing Uber and Lyft, and other undisclosed ideas still under consideration. Together with NextGen and city officials, they plan on creating a functioning transportation system for the future of Columbus and all of its projected 500,000 future citizens.

The estimated cost of NextGen’s proposals will reach a staggering $7.45 billion without many details on how they plan to pay for the expensive renovations. COTA is still considering many other ideas as a part of its plans for future transportation, but if you’re like me you can’t help but wonder if this city is prepared to try anything before it gets a light-rail or train system.

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