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.
When 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.