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Archive for December, 2009

COTA is once again expanding service beginning January 1st 2010.  New service extends weekend hours, adding two new line-ups on both Saturday and Sunday.

Currently the last downtown line-up is at 10pm.  The new service adds both and 11pm and 12am departures in all directions.  On Sunday as well, two new line-ups are added at 8pm and 9pm.  Previously the last Sunday departure was between 6pm and 7pm depending upon the route.

The downtown line-up is when all busses arrive, wait for transfers, then depart.  It is an effective method of ensuring that customers have access to connecting busses and helps COTA re-set any schedule fluctuations that have occurred.

Fares also increase beginning January 1st.  One-way single fare local will be $1.75 up from $1.50 and monthly passes increase to $55 up from $45.  The last fare increase took place in 2006 however a tax levy of 0.25% passed in 2006 offered COTA additional revenue to increase service.  However, the recession has led to reduced spending and thus reduced tax revenues for COTA.

The extended services on the weekend routes offer tremendous potential for Columbus residents and businesses.  Venues such as the Arena District and Short North are now accessible without the need for a taxi after 10p which is often about the time the fun gets started on a Saturday night.  Visitors to Nationwide Arena and Huntington Park can now travel via COTA following hockey and baseball games and concerts, which should help alleviate congestion.

Sunday’s service extension is a benefit to both retailers and employees, offering greater access to all parts of the city to more people.  Adding almost three additional hours of transit access on Sunday increases the employment opportunities for most Columbus residents.

For more information, please visit www.cota.com

From a personal standpoint, these service additions make it almost possible to eliminate the car for the sake of commuting to work.  There is only one instance now where I would have to use the car, whereas in the past, I had to calculate my schedule precisely and any delay would have meant the need for a taxi.  That potential led me to drive more often, just in case.  That worry is eliminated with the extended COTA service.

It may also mean that a 2010 COTA Challenge is about to begin.

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In August of 2008 a group of active bloggers, with the help of WOSU and COSI, helped a small Columbus neighborhood learn how to use social media to spread the word about its triumphs and struggles.

The neighborhood, Ganther’s Place is located in Columbus’ south side, just south of Whittier Street.  They now have a blog in addition to their web site.  They use Twitter and FaceBook to keep their neighbors and the adjoining communities informed.  The neighborhood has been the recipient of grants and funding for their community-led projects and has been in the local and national news for a variety of reasons.  Just yesterday they were featured in the New York Times.

So much good has come as a result of their efforts, and the neighborhood leaders continue to press ahead despite the occasional political and social setback.

Slightly more than a year following the creation of their new-media efforts, Ganthers Place is using their local media efforts to communicate the need for help for one of their neighbors.

In early November, a young man was beaten near South High School  which lies adjacent to Ganther’s Place.  The young man known as Justin is now home, but with a trachea and feeding tube.  His mother has had to take two months off from work and Justin’s father is also in the hospital with health-related issues of his own.

In response, Stephanie Sherwood, the woman who runs Ganther’s Place on-line media, set up a fund at the Charter One Bank inside the Parsons Avenue Kroger to assist Justin’s family.  All proceeds from the fund go directly to Justin’s family.

While many people in Columbus are dealing with a challenging economy, this is an exceptional situation that needs our assistance.  Thanks to the ongoing community efforts of the good neighbors at Ganther’s Place, if we all pitch in with whatever we can, we will help the Justin’s family.

Please donate to The Justin Bailey Fund.  Monetary donations can be made at The Charter One Bank inside of Kroger on Parsons Avenue.  You may also donate such things as food and clothing to Ganther’s Place.  Please call 614 732 4436 for more information.

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The debate over the increase in parking meter rates in Columbus has been raging for a couple of weeks now.  I’ve listened to and read information from the opposition – those who feel that they were not informed about the rates and that the new rates will be too high.  I’ve read and listened to the folks on the defense – those hoping to gain additional revenue for the city to help fund the new convention center hotel.  Both sides of the story have specific merits.

One certainly can’t fault the city for looking for additional sources of revenue.  Columbus is not alone in it’s search.  And downtown business owners are there against all odds, coming to the table with as many creative ideas as they can to help sustain themselves.

There is, in my opinion, a debate that should come somewhere in the middle of both arguments.  It is, I believe, why there is such a chasm being created within this issue.

The middle argument is really about density (or lack there of) and transportation.  Columbus city government has been saying for years that they’re in favor of a strong and healthy urban center – an anchor for the region.  The challenge is that they have failed to deliver.

When we speak of “downtown” I believe its safe to refer to it as the land mass between Nationwide Boulevard and the 70/71 split.  The Short North and the Arena District are doing rather well, but only the revival of Gay Street can be seen as a tiny speck of hope within the landmass referred to as downtown.

While there are more people living downtown than in the past  (4,900 as of the end of 2007), there is now less retail than there was in 2007.  Commercial (office) vacancy rates are now about 13% and there are fewer and fewer reasons to spend time in downtown Columbus.  The city may be constructing parks and parkways, but until there is sufficient pedestrian activity, these amenities are not much more than landscaping.

Columbus city government has also failed to develop a comprehensive transportation system that will support the future growth of the downtown core.  While COTA’s bus system works to a certain degree for the residents of ‘in town’ neighborhoods, it simply does not address the needs of bringing in large numbers of suburban workers or visitors.

Additionally, a vast majority of the new downtown residents still must depend upon the use of an automobile to get to and from basic vendors of goods and services.  That is hardly a draw for downtown living.

It should come as no surprise to Columbus city government that downtown business owners are upset over increased costs being applied to their customers.  The battle downtown businesses currently face is that they must rely upon people in cars to survive – the City of Columbus has failed to deliver an alternative to the automobile.  Density is still too low downtown and the public transportation system is not adequate.

Had these two situations been addressed properly over the past decade, there might be enough pedestrian traffic downtown to prepare for a parking rate increase – the demand would have already been present.  But downtown Columbus is failing and increasing the cost to park is yet another obstacle for our entrepreneurs to overcome.

The debate over this issue has sparked dialogue between the two groups and city government appears eager to appease these entrepreneurs by holding more meetings and carrying out more studies.

Perhaps it’s nice to live in a city where local government is willing to react to its mistakes.  It’s certainly nice to live in a city where the local entrepreneurs have a vision for the place where they chose to set up shop.

Perhaps it would be nice to live in a city where the government takes on a leadership role in the first place by providing vision and alternatives – rather than finding themselves at odds with it’s businesses and residents.

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Tune into the second part of Finding a Home.  Follow this link to Vocalo to listen.

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It’s been six months since I’ve put my house on the market.  It still hasn’t sold, but that’s okay.  This time has given me the space to make sense of how it was that I found myself in Columbus and what I’ve gained while being here.

It has also helped me understand why it is that I find myself ready to leave.  This is part one of a two part podcast that explains exactly what happened.

Follow this link to Vocalo where you can listen to Part I.  The second part will be posted on Thursday, so stop back then.

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