A Rant: (the lack of) Public Transportation in Columbus, Ohio

*Author’s Note: I originally started writing this post during the first week on January. I put it aside with the hopes of coming back to it. Little did I know I would completely forget about it ’til the second week of March. I figured I would just post it, even though I’m not completely content with it.

Happy 2016, friends! It’s that time of year when we reflect on the merriment and misfortunes of the previous year, all while facing the unknown of the next 364 days of the year. While possibly hungover. Today, I am not writing to look back on 2015 and the resolutions I set, but one particular goal I have kept since 2012 and use it as a way to rant (because just reviewing and renewing resolutions is boring, tbh). Close friends and family will know that since January 1, 2012, my #1 New Years Resolution has always been to “reduce my carbon footprint.”

(Here are my original tumblr posts! 2012//2013)

I can honestly say that I have stuck well with this certain resolution, probably because it was, and still is, something I am truly passionate about and genuinely want to improve upon. I was quite vague in 2012 and didn’t really know how I would accomplish this goal. I did the basics like ditching paper towels and taking full advantage of public transportation. In 2013, I took it one step further and recorded how much gas I consumed. I continued writing down how many gallons of gas I bought, my mileage, and cost per gallon in 2014 and 2015, but after reviewing the numbers for 2015, I noticed something.

In 2013, I frequented a gas station 19 times, buying a grand total of 121.322 gallons of gas. That’s $424.26 or an average of $3.50 per gallon. According to a Huffington Post article from 2012, the average American consumes 558 gallons of gas per year. So, I’d say I did pretty well with making steps toward reducing my carbon footprint.

The next year, I continued scribbling down amount of gallons purchased.  Oddly enough, I visited gas stations 19 times in 2014 as well, but bought 102.321 gallons. And before you think “Oh Layla, that’s fantastic! You improved and consumed less gas!” Well, technically, but 2014 was an odd year because I only had a car from January to August 17th. If I didn’t move to Germany and continued to live in the United States, my consumption would have likely been much higher than 2013.

Now, onto 2015. From January to July, I did not have a car, but as soon as I came back to the States, it was one of the first problems I encountered and needed to find a solution to ASAP. Luckily, I inherited my sister’s old Chevy Cobalt and I was back at a Speedway the next day filling up my tank. I went to a gas station 14 times between August 24, 2015-December 31, 2015. In that time, I bought 101.002 gallons of gas. Once again, it seems great, but not the case.

In 2013 and the first five months of 2014, I was still a student at Ohio State, enjoying the perks of having free access to COTA (Central Ohio Transit Authority). I worked downtown at the Statehouse and had a pretty consistent schedule, meaning I would take the bus from my house to the Statehouse in the morning, work for five hours, take the bus from downtown to campus, go to class, then take the bus from campus back home in the evening. It was a pretty sweet gig. The only time I drove my car during this time was perhaps on the weekends or if I drove up to Youngstown (or anywhere in Ohio for that matter). But, all good things must come to an end and perhaps one of my most utilized perks of being an OSU student was taken away. The summer of 2014 was spent driving up to Youngstown often and virtually no use of Columbus’s public transportation.

Fast forward past a year of living green in Germany and to the post-Fulbright year reality, I found a job in Columbus and started a daily routine again. With a routine, one would think this would be an opportunity to perhaps invest in a monthly bus pass and take the bus to work, allowing me to continue my goal of living a sustainable lifestyle. But there was one variable this time around: the suburbs. Yes, my new grown-up job is in the suburbs, which begins the whole purpose of this blog post, to rant.

Taking the COTA is great if you are based in Columbus and need to get to to different parts of the city. However, attempting to use the bus anywhere beyond the downtown-campus area is exhausting and troublesome. For example:

I live 6.2 miles away from where I work, or about a 15 minute drive by car. If I wanted to take public transportation to work, it would take an estimated 1 hour and 20 minutes, which includes taking two different buses and then having to walk another 1.3 miles on top of that. Like, what? As much as I want to continue taking public transport and reduce my carbon footprint, it’s nearly impossible and a huge inconvenience. It makes me angry. And it’s not even like I live far from main roads or the location of my job is hidden in the woods, far from civilization. I take four different roads to get to work and they are the four major roads in Northwest Columbus: Kenny Road, Bethel Road, Sawmill, and 161 (Dublin-Granville Rd). The fact that these heavily used traffic corridors in a capital city do not have frequent access to public transportation is astounding to me. Without getting into the list of reasons why public transport is so valuable to cities, I just want Columbus and COTA to know that having a presence isn’t enough, especially if it does not service a large population of a city as spread out as Columbus. Public transportation, whether it’s a bus or underground, needs to be efficient, which COTA severely lacks.

The argument can be made that in this part of the city, it is predominately economically well off residents who have cars, so public transportation is not needed. *cue eye roll* Public transport is not solely for economically disadvantaged people. Not only have metropolises like New York and Tokyo benefitted from public transport, but even middle-sized cities like Portland, Oregon. It shows when a population depends on trams, buses, or whatever, they are more economically and environmentally cautious, making the city itself economically and environmentally cautious. Things that matter in 2016!

There are thousands upon thousands of articles and studies about this, so I will end my rant here. But let me reiterate, that if Columbus wants to propel itself into being a desired, competitive city, it must make strides forward and make the city more connected. I mean, let’s be real, that is probably the number one reason why Columbus lost the Democratic Convention bid to Philadelphia. If you cannot provide a service to the million+ people who live in your city, how do you expect visitors to be able to navigate it?

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