Aboard The CBUS

Yesterday was one of those hot, muggy days that seem to immediately drain you of energy and leave you coated in sweat at the same time.  We were interested in heading down to the Short North, but walking there would have caused us to melt into the sidewalk.  And driving to the Short North on a Gallery Hop day is a colossal pain.  So, what to do?

Enter the CBUS.

IMG_6855The CBUS is a “circulator” that runs on a continuous loop on High Street and Front Street between German Village and the Brewery District, on one end, and Victorian Village and Italian Village on the other.  Along the way, it has stops at Columbus Commons, the Ohio Statehouse, the Arena District, and the Short North.  And there are no worries about reading a confusing bus schedule, or getting on the number 4 bus when you should be getting on the number 23 bus — the CBUS has different, readily identifiable markings, the CBUS stops are marked with a special circular sign, and the CBUS just goes on the same route all day long.

The CBUS was the perfect option for us — but the only real issue was whether we could overcome our anti-bus mindset.  This sounds like a minor thing, but it really isn’t.  If your vision of a bus is a dirty, beat-up contraption filled with smelly, misbehaving passengers, it’s not going to be your first transportation choice.  But we decided to give the CBUS a chance — and it turned out that our preconceptions about bus travel were all wrong.  (I recognize that the Bus-Riding Conservative will be insufferable after that admission.)

The CBUS is clean, bright, and blissfully air-conditioned.  The upcoming stops were announced verbally and shown on an electronic crawl screen at the front of the bus, so you always knew which stop was upcoming.  Our fellow passengers included couples, families with small kids, and Columbus visitors heading to an event at the Convention Center, which also is along the route.  There are multiple stops along the way, and you can signal the driver when you want to stop by pulling a little cord that runs behind every seat.  And the CBUS is free.  Free!  What could be better than that?

One other thing about the CBUS that the BRC has emphasized:  it runs almost exactly the route that some people have proposed as the route of a street car/light rail system, and it does so at a tiny fraction of the cost — and without ripping up the streets and installing rail lines and paying for the construction and the train cars.

We liked the CBUS so much that, on our ride back home, we talked about how we can use it even more.  I’m guessing that most users of the CBUS have that same reaction.  It  promotes the interaction and flow between core downtown neighborhoods, and it also makes non-bus-riders like us a bit more amenable to potentially using the Central Ohio Transit Authority options to meet our other transportation needs.  That’s the whole idea, I think.  I’m not sure how long the CBUS will be free, but I hope it continues — it’s a great idea and way to introduce the non-BRCs of the world like us to the possibilities and advantages of mass transit.

The New Columbus Bus Line

The Bus Riding Conservative never misses a chance to lecture the rest of us, often in mind-numbing detail, about the joys of using the Central Ohio Transit Authority.  So I wasn’t surprised when the BRC sent me a clipping of a story about COTA establishing an express bus link between Columbus and New Albany.

IMG_3045When I read the article, I happily realized that it wasn’t the normal boring BRC fodder about the thrill of bus riding.  There actually was an interesting aspect to the story, namely this:  the newly established express bus route is for people who are commuting from downtown Columbus to New Albany, and not the other way around.  The express bus will leave downtown at five scheduled times between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., make a stop at Easton Town Center, the colossal shopping megaplex on the I-270 rim, and then will rumble on to the New Albany Business Park.  New Albany then will pay for a shuttle service to take people from the COTA stop to other locations within the business park.

That’s interesting for two reasons.  First, it shows that the efforts to bring businesses out to the suburbs are bearing fruit — so much so that COTA sees a market for an express bus that helps the workers at those business get out to their jobs.  It makes me wonder how much contracommuting is going on in the Columbus area.  Second, the fact that people are living downtown and needing a ride out to the ‘burbs to work suggests that we might be able to avoid the prospect of runaway suburban sprawl that was forecast by a recent study by a city planning firm.

The area around Columbus is mostly flat farmland, so it’s not exactly full of scenic wonders.  Still, I’d rather keep the fields of amber waves of grain (or, more accurately, corn and soybeans) than see more concrete, Home Depots, and Kohl’s outlets.  The city’s footprint doesn’t need to grow any larger.  Encouraging people to live downtown, and helping them get to jobs out in the suburbs, is one way of keeping that from happening.