Growing Public Transportation Use in Ohio

March 20th, 2012

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Intern

The American Public Transportation Administration recently announced that the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) had the top increase in ridership nationally for large bus systems from 2010 to 2011.  In 2011, there were 18.8 million total bus trips, an increase of 10.1 percent from 2010.  The City of Cleveland also saw 12.3 percent heavy rail ridership increase within the last year. Nationally, public transportation increased 2.3 percent, the second highest ridership increase since 1957. 

COTA has already seen a 6.1 percent increase in January 2012 ridership from 2011 data.  Some argue that the increased ridership is due to the increase in gas prices and increased consumer-based technology to help with understanding public transportation. 

COTA’s TXT 4 NXT BUS enables users in the Short North and University District to find the bus pick-up time by texting a number which is quick and convenient.  COTA is offering commuters on a budget an effective way to get to work, experience Columbus, and help encourage sustainability.  Increasing the ridership is important for public transportation growth in Columbus.  Multiple public transportation projects have been declined because of recent economic downturns; it is good to see the public taking the opportunity to acknowledge public transportation is good.

Greater Ohio Moderates Columbus Metro Club Forum on Regionalism

March 15th, 2012

Yesterday Greater Ohio’s Senior Director of Governmental Affairs, Gene Krebs moderated a Columbus Metropolitan Club Forum, “Grow Smart, Grow Regional: Practical Examples of Collaboration.” 

There has been much talk at the state and local level of the possibilities and pitfalls of a more regional approach to government services and government itself.  Sometimes however, it is not always clear what “regionalism” looks and feels like in reality.  This Forum explored “on-the-ground” perspectives from local business, local government, and education leaders of what regionalism and collaboration means in Central Ohio.

The expert panelists included: Bart Anderson, executive director of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, Michael Hartley, VP of Government Affairs at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and Ginny Barney, partner at the Collective Genius and former city manager of Upper Arlington, a first suburb of Columbus. 

All three panelists discussed numerous “back office” efforts underway in the region which are streamlining operations.  Some examples offered were the sharing of computer tech support among a number of school districts, small villages contracting municipal services from neighboring villages (instead of hiring their own staff and equipment), and managing payroll and other fiscal operations within a centralized location. 

All panelists spoke to the importance of having an attractive region that makes businesses and potential employees move to the area, and all pointed the role regionalism would play in lowering costs, but increasing service quality. 

Ginny Barney, along with Bart Anderson and Michael Hartley, warned that central Ohio still has tough conversations and adjustments ahead as we “retrofit” our educational systems and local governments to an upgraded version that more closely aligns with today’s realities.  All three were optimistic that Central Ohio’s current regionalism efforts were creating a foundation which would keep our region strong in the future.

This Forum was the first in a yearlong series that will shine a spotlight on current efforts in Ohio and beyond that are creating sustainable communities through collaborative, region-focused, relationships.  The next Forum is under development, but will be announced soon.

Mansfield Properties Conference

March 13th, 2012

Last week, Greater Ohio was in Mansfield, Ohio, participating in the 2nd Properties Conference, hosted by Downtown Mansfield, Inc. and Preservation Ohio.  The purpose of the half-day conference was to learn of the severity of the vacant and abandoned properties crisis in the area and to begin identifying solutions that will help head-off the next round of problem properties that are expected to hit the market in the next 6-18 months. Greater Ohio joined the Cleveland Federal Reserve and Preservation Ohio in discussing state wide initiatives underway that could help cities like Mansfield.

Over 50 people attended, from 6 counties, and the topic of a county land bank came up frequently as one important tool for stabilizing neighborhoods.  Jim Rokakis of the Thriving Communities Institute keynoted the event and discussed ways a county land bank could assist the city of Mansfield and other cities in Richland County in stemming the effects of vacant and abandoned properties. 

One of the most fascinating components of the Conference was a Tour of Unique Properties in Downtown Mansfield.  The walking tour took participants into an old car dealership that had been renovated to be used as office space, the 2nd floor of a historic building in Mansfield’s Carrousel District that is just ripe for condos or a beautiful restaurant. 

The most amazing property on the tour was the 11th and 12th floors of Mansfield’s tallest skyscraper—the Chase Building.  Originally, the 11th floor served as the executive office suite (it includes a kitchen and library) and the 12th floor as a modest ballroom with funky light fixtures from the 1960s.  These two floors are being remodeled to become a penthouse condo.  The Properties Conference tour was a preview to an event in May that Preservation Ohio and Downtown Mansfield, Inc. will be holding in Mansfield’s central business district: “Forbidden City Tour;” a tour that will give a “unique look at several properties that have not been seen by the general public in decades!”  What an innovative idea to tour closed up buildings and visualize the potential they have for the 21st Century!

Greater Ohio had a great time learning about efforts underway in North Central Ohio and wishes Richland County the best of luck as it continues to work towards a county land bank.

Forum on Governmental Collaboration at Columbus Metropolitan Club

March 5th, 2012

On Wednesday, March 14th, the Columbus Metropolitan Club will be hosting a lunchtime forum that will explore regionalism efforts currently underway in central Ohio.  Showcasing “on-the-ground” examples of government collaboration, “Grow Smart, Grow Regional: Practical Examples of Collaboration” is part of a year-long series that will highlight efforts in Ohio and beyond that are creating sustainable communities through regionalism and governmental collaboration. 

Offering a range of perspectives on collaboration, shared services and purchasing, mergers, and consolidation, the panelists include Bart Anderson, Superintendent, Educational Service Center of Central Ohio; Ginny Barney, Senior Partner, The Collective Genius and former city manager of Upper Arlington; and Michael Hartley, Vice President, Government Relations, Columbus Chamber. Chester Jourdan of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission will be moderating. 

Greater Ohio has provided advice for this panel to the Columbus Metropolitan Club and is excited for the opportunities this and future panels will offer in sparking a dialogue among Central Ohioans on governmental innovations underway and transformative changes yet to come.

To attend this exciting event, tickets can be purchased online at the Metro Club’s website or by phone 614-464-3220.  The event will be Wednesday, March 14th from 12-1.15 at the Athletic Club of Columbus, 136 E. Broad Street.