Riders navigate redesigned COTA routes for the first time

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The Central Ohio Transit Authority has launched a newly redesigned bus network on May 1 and will be offering free rides May 1-7 to its riders. (WSYX/WTTE)

Riders navigated COTA's redesigned bus system for the first time today.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority launched its newly redesigned bus network Monday May 1 and will be offering free rides from May 1st to the 7th as riders adjust to changes.

COTA says the new bus system will have twice as many high frequency bus routes that arrive every 15 minutes or better on major streets.

It's been about a three year process to get here.

"Columbus is not a five day a week town anymore," says COTA President and CEO W. Curtis Stitt.

So he says COTA made the decision to boost weekend service, as well as increase frequency and create simpler routes to reflect a city that has changed a lot.

"The jobs are places where they weren't forty years ago under the COTA system we have been running for the last forty years," says Stitt, "so it was time to take a deep look at our service. "

Stitt says when it comes to rider numbers, the trend has been rising overall, despite small decreases in the past two years. With this new system, they expect ridership to decline at first.

"But, overtime there is a significant increase, we expect to see 10% ridership increase in our service over the next three years," says Stitt.

Some riders navigating the new system were optimistic today.

"You don't have to wait as long, they are supposed to go a lot further than they used to," says rider Sherri Carter.

COTA workers were out at bus stops today, assisting riders dealing with first day stress.

"I'll figure it out eventually, but I do have a walk in between stops," says rider Rosalind Simpkins.

One rider says he is already noticing the difference.

"I am not waiting as long, but yeah I have noticed a definite change," says Solomon Williams.

But, the difference for others has them pining for the old system.

"I used to be paralyzed so now I have to do a lot of walking from one bus stop to another," says rider Dontell Boyce.

With the new system, COTA discontinued some bus stops, while building new ones as well.

COTA is encouraging its riders to use the trip planner on their website. You can also see some of the new routes and schedules.