Columbus fights congestion with free bus passes

Columbus is the first city in the U.S. to hand out free bus passes to downtown workers to minimize its transit pressures in the inner city districts. The city has grown by almost 30% since 1997 with its large university population, growing art scene and attractive old inner-city neighborhoods.

While other cities have continuously cut their parking spaces in downtown areas, this has been rather unauspicious for Columbus, pushing businesses to suburbs with vaster parking opportunities and cheaper rents. With population growth and an increase in commuting putting pressure on city traffic and parking, Columbus wants to come up with a new way to incentivize residents to use public transport. Of the 84,000 employees of inner city businesses, only 6% commute to work using public transport.

A scheme was approved last month, where business owners pay three cents per square foot they own downtown to help finance the bus passes of their employees. The fees will go to the Central Ohio Transit Authority (Cota) and is limited to people who work downtown, turning a financial burden into an incentive. The programme is set to begin next summer with a two-year trial, hoping to raise the use of public transport to 20%.

The Guardian

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