By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Coordinator
Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) and Transportation for America (T4A) led the second workshop of the 2017 Ohio Transportation Leadership Academy in Columbus. The day-long workshop, titled “Making Informed Decisions about Transportation Investments,” saw participants from various sectors and organizations convene from six areas around Ohio: Cincinnati, Delaware, Toledo, Lorain, Cleveland, and Akron.
The morning session was led by GOPC’s Executive Director Alison Goebel and T4A’s Vice President for Technical Assistance Beth Osborne, who discussed sources and strategies for funding public transportation projects using a combination of federal, state, and local sources. Given that many local transit systems in Ohio are in need of additional support to maintain and expand service, Goebel and Osborne emphasized that leaders seek a diverse combination of funding sources through, for example, partnerships with employers and universities, advertising, or philanthropic contributions. Participants also learned about how implementing robust performance measures to transportation projects can help communicate the local need for additional support.
In the afternoon sessions, participants welcomed speakers from Pittsburgh and Columbus, who discussed their regions’ creative efforts to improve local transportation systems. Carly Dobkins, from Pittsburgh’s Regional Transportation Alliance, and Sean Luther, from Envision Downtown, spoke about the ongoing effort in Pittsburgh to create a regional transportation vision that seeks to tackle mobility challenges in the city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. In bringing together a large coalition of county-level leaders, these initiatives have focused on the full multi-county region’s shared transportation priorities, while planning for future demographic and economic changes. Dobkins and Luther highlighted efforts to work across borders by bringing to the table public, private, and philanthropic sectors from various parts of the region to build an interconnected and multimodal system. A strong emphasis on economic activity and providing project options to transportation users have been key in moving towards a shared vision for the greater Pittsburgh region as a whole.
For the final session of the day, Josh Sikich and Doug Arseneault from the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) discussed the recent cost-effective process of redesigning central Ohio’s bus system. These changes to the system ensure that COTA now offers more frequent service while more readily taking into account where jobs are located and where people live. Sikich and Arseneault explained that the final version of the bus route system was a product of COTA’s community engagement over several years, incorporating riders’ needs that were expressed through dozens of public meetings. Moreover, the success of the smooth transition was based on the education of the public through constant messaging and communication, which allowed riders to become familiar with the new system and understand what improvements and efficiencies were made.
GOPC would like to thank all speakers and participants for attending and contributing to a successful workshop!