Archive for February 25th, 2009

The COTA Challenge

The challenge of using public transportation has proven to be a worthy adversary. While my intentions were true, the practicality of my life, especially this month, has made it difficult to use COTA as often as I had hoped.

My first trip of the month was from downtown to Riverside Hospital. My grandfather had a heart attack at the beginning of February and then had quintuple bypass heart surgery. I was on my way to visit him. I went to COTA.com and saw that there was a bus running from 4th Street and Gay Street, right near where I live, express in 25 minutes to the front of Riverside. I was amazed at how convenient this would be. And it was, except for my failure to realize that the standard COTA monthly pass didn’t work with Express routes. Luckily, the driver was kind enough to let me ride anyway, and I had a great ride, reading relaxingly, and oblivious to the traffic racing around me.

The second attempt to use the bus came when my wife and I were going to the Short North for an afternoon of appetizers and drinks. My wife is a Columbus State Community College student and we had thought this allowed her to ride COTA for free. We got on the bus and were made aware that only Ohio State and Columbus City School students could ride for free, no longer Columbus State students. So we shelled out the $1.50, which wasn’t bad, but it did foil my expectations. In any case, after a great afternoon at Lemongrass, La Fogata, and Martini, we walked home.

What I found this month is that I actually don’t use my car that often. I walk to my gym, which is a block from my home, I walk to most restaurants or bars when I go out, or to the Downtown Resident’s Association Meetings I go to, or to my Cornhole League on Gay Street. Most of my activities center around places within walking distance. The few places I do drive are very difficult routes for using COTA. For example, to get to work in the morning the trip would take 1 hour and 27 minutes on the bus versus 15 minutes in the car. The ride home from work would take 2 hours and 5 minutes. Never more so than now, the free time I have outside of work is needed to be with my family, complete my Master’s Degree, take my dog to the park, etc. and as a result every block of time I have becomes very valuable to the point where that extra hour or more on the bus is not practical. As my schedule settles a bit, I can see making another attempt, however.

I go through about two tanks of gas a month, which isn’t great, but with Kroger and Giant Eagle fuel perks, I spend around 40 dollars a month on gas. For my wife and I to ride the COTA, it would cost us 90 dollars for two monthly passes.

All in all, this experience has been educational. In my minimal use, I did see the value of being able to read a book, or talk to strangers, or be on the phone without the stress of hurried drivers weaving through the traffic around me. However, for the moment anyway, the time constraints associated with the routes offered for my destinations make it impractical to be a regular on the COTA.



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