Downtown C-pass: Year One in Review


From early indications, Downtown C-pass nearly doubled transit use among the pool of eligible employees in downtown Columbus. The unique transit program provides eligible employees and residents in the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District (CCSID) with unlimited access to the COTA bus system. C-pass, which celebrated its one-year anniversary June 1, is good any day, any time, on any route. The program  is a cooperative effort spearheaded by CCSID in partnership with Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and COTA and affiliated with SMART Columbus. Capital Crossroads SID administers the program, including enrollment, customer service and educational outreach. 

"The C-pass was definitely part of our decision to move downtown,” says Josh Kohlschmidt, Director of Special Operations at Bold Penguin in the Chase Tower. “Continued options are important to us staying downtown long-term. Having transit options available to help our employees get to the office is a factor in our decision, and we often have people asking for it on their first day."

In the first year:
  • More than 420 companies signed up for C-pass, including the 50 largest employers downtown.
  • Over 14,600 employees and residents enrolled in C-pass.
  • On average, C-pass users take nearly 4,500 rides each weekday, totaling up to 25,000 rides per week.
  • Furthermore, Downtown C-pass members took more than one million rides in the program’s first 12 months. 
  • Total ridership on Rush Hour routes was up 28 percent over last year, before the start of C-pass. These routes provide express service directly to downtown from the suburbs. 
  • Finally, in May 2019, C-pass members accounted for 6.7 percent of all rides on COTA buses.

Capital Crossroads hired CJI research to conduct surveys of commuters and employers to gauge the program's impact. Surveys were conducted before and after C-pass launched, and results are due out this summer. CCSID staff will meet with property owners this summer to discuss renewal of the program, which is currently funded through 2020.

The idea for Downtown C-pass came about when property owners came together to address the parking shortage downtown. COTA ridership doubled in the sample group of employees offered a free transit pass as part of a 2015 pilot program. Taken to scale, C-pass has the potential to free up a significant volume of parking downtown. It also has the potential to decrease office vacancy, which is highest in the area around Capitol Square.

“We’re really encouraged by the program so far, and we are really seeing its impact,” said Kacey Brankamp, Program Director for Downtown C-pass. “Capital Crossroads property owners deserve credit for being bold and forward-thinking by launching this internationally recognized program.”