Both programs are designed to make transit easier and more convenient for riders to use.
First is the new COTA Plus program, an app-based on-demand transit service that allows riders to hail a shuttle directly from their smartphone. The app calls a shuttle and then directs the passenger to a nearby pick-up/drop-off location within a short walking distance, allowing for easy access to employment, healthcare, and basic personal services. The service is being piloted in the Columbus suburb of Grove City, which has experienced rapid growth and an increased need for connections beyond existing fixed-route transit services. This program helps to connect riders to several Grove City locations, including the Southpark Industrial Park, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, and Mount Carmel Grove City Hospital.
COTA has also launched a pilot program in partnership with the WayFinder app that is assisting people with cognitive disabilities navigate the transit system more easily. Caregivers can assist riders in finding a bus route and add instructions and notifications directly through the app that are specific to each rider (this includes such features as uploading photos of drop-off and pick-up locations, and audio notifications and text reminders that are triggered when the passenger is close to their destination). The app will also identify walking routes to and from the transit stop. The program was designed and is managed jointly by Smart Columbus and Ohio State University. While paratransit programs and services are available throughout the region to assist riders with disabilities, it is typically necessary to schedule these trips days in advance. The WayFinder app service allows disabled riders more freedom if finding ways to connect with the community.