Old Debate Shows Changing Views on Transit

119 years ago, in January 1900, a group of concerned residents and business owner came together to voice their opposition the Columbus and Newark Traction Company being awarded a franchise to build and operate a streetcar line on Mound Street. In today’s car-dominated environment, most of the arguments against such a project would most likely fall along the lines of rail being too expensive or how no one would ride it. More than a century ago, however, the arguments showed a very different attitude towards public transit in general.

The opposition group put out a list of 10 reasons why they were objecting to the project. They were:
1. We believe it to be the interest of prospective passengers of a street railroad from the east over the National Road, that the cars come into the city over the Main Street tracks.
2. Because it would be most direct to the center of the city.
3. Coming over the Main Street line would confine cars of the new line to the established rate of speed while in the city.
4. The proposed line on Mound Street would get but few city passengers.
5. It is not likely that reduced fares would be secured.
6. Transfers over old lines could not likely be had.
7. Cars would be far between.
8. A car line on Mound Street would be useless to residents of the city because too near Main Street where cars are much more frequent than could be expected on a suburban line.
9. Not getting city traffic, cars on the proposed line over Mound Street would run at a high rate of speed, making it dangerous for people in that part of the city and especially so for the residents of Mound Street.
10. We believe that it would be to the general interest of the city and the special interest of the southeastern part, also the interest of a new company that the proposed new line over the National Road from the east should come into the city two or three blocks from, if not on the Main Street line, but never over Mound Street.

Besides being somewhat repetitive in places, the given reasons are more practical than the emotional anti-rail tirades often witnessed today. The group wasn’t so much opposed to rail- just the opposite-, but instead didn’t like that there were too many lines in the same area, making a potential new one too redundant to serve a practical need and be financially successful. They didn’t bring up construction costs, but objections to the potential lack of transfer stops. They weren’t overly worried about the line interfering with other traffic, but rather whether the service would run enough cars.

So often in the current rail and transit debate, proposals tend to get bogged down in political ideology rather than figuring out what the basic transit needs of the population are or the effectiveness of the proposed service features. A century ago, even opposition groups seemed to fully understand that the issue was not rail itself, but in ensuring that what got built made the best sense possible. Columbus hasn’t had rail in more than 40 years, and in its long absence, we’ve perhaps lost the plot on what really matters.

The opposition group lost the fight and Mound Street got its streetcar line. The East Mound section, including most of Downtown, ended service in 1929 as the car became increasingly dominant.
The last streetcar trip in the city occurred on September 5, 1948.

MORPC Transit and Road Survery

MORPC has once again put up a site to allow the public to comment on hundreds of potential road and transit projects, as well as pedestrian and biking infrastructure. You can click on any segment or choose from project types to add your views on each proposal. Additionally, you are able to add your own project suggestions as well. Take a look.


Google Map Links

Columbus Development Maps

2010-2013 Development
2014-2019 Development
2020-2025 Development
All these pages are basically just map versions of the development pages. However, the maps are organized by year and include before and after photos of the development sites.

Columbus Fantasy Transit Map

2019 Transit Map
The transit map for the Columbus Metro Area is just one example of many existing fantasy maps for Central Ohio. This one includes routes for light rail, BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and interurban rail to neighboring counties.

The Redevelopment of Westland Mall
Mall Site
Westland Mall and the larger surrounding area is in desperate need of a revamp. Recently, a proposal to make the site into a “Weston” development in the potential style of Easton has emerged. I made this map several years ago as a basic blueprint for how the entire area could be rebuilt into a much more urban, walkable, vibrant corridor.

Ohio Severe Weather Report Maps by Decade

1950-1959 Severe Reports
1960-1960 Severe Reports
1970-1979 Severe Reports
2010-2019 Severe Reports
The 1950s and 1960s maps are the only ones completed so far.

Columbus Area Bike Lanes, Multi-use Paths and Sidewalk Infrastructure

Bike Infrastructure
This map attempts to include all the existing bike and multi-use infrastructure in the area, along with general pedestrian infrastructure. The map will is not fully updated yet through 2019.

Downtown Columbus Parking Infrastructure

Parking Lots and Garages
This map, last updated in 2015, documents all existing parking garages and surfaces lots throughout Downtown.

Cool Link of the Day: Mapping Commuting Patterns

Curious to know how people get to work in every county in the United States? Use the following link to find out.

The map was constructed using 2013 data, so it’s fairly recent. As for Franklin County? Here’s the breakdown:
Drive Alone: 82%
Carpool: 8%
Public Transit: 2%
Walk: 2%
Bicycle: 1%
Taxi or Other: 1%
Work from Home: 4%

The numbers are overwhelmingly auto-centric, as they are nearly everywhere, but what the numbers don’t show are any trends.

Is Columbus Walkable?

“Walkability” is the new buzzword when it comes to urban neighborhoods and what new generations want. Based on the Walkscore.com criteria, and with scores from 0-100 (100 being the most walkable), here are Columbus’ most walkable neighborhoods.

Top 25 Most Walkable Neighborhoods and Total Score
1. Downtown: 86
2. Dennison Place (Short North): 85
3. Italian Village (Short North): 85
4. Weinland Park (Just northeast of Short North): 85
5. Indiana Forest (Northeast Campus Area): 84
6. Necko (South Campus): 81
7. Victorian Village (Short North): 81
8. Old North Columbus: 80
9. Glen Echo (North Columbus): 80
10. North Campus: 80
11. German Village: 79
12. Tri-Village (5th Avenue West): 79
13. Brewery District: 78
14. OSU: 77
15. Iuka Ravine (North Columbus): 76
16. Clintonville: 75
17: King-Lincoln (Near East Side): 74
18. Schumacher Place (Near South Side): 73
19. Busch (Northwest Columbus): 72
20. Indianola Terrace (North Columbus): 71
21. Merion Village: 69
22. Governours Square (Bethel and Henderson): 68
23: Harrison West (Hilltop): 67
24. Old Beechwold (North Columbus): 67
25. Olde Towne East: 67

Together, the top 25 neighborhoods contain a little over 100,000 people.

Overall Columbus Neighborhood Walkability Score Breakdown
90-100 (Walker’s Paradise-daily errands do not require a car): 0
70-89 (Very Walkable- most errands can be done on foot): 20
50-69 (Somewhat Walkable- some errands cand be done on foot): 72
0-49 (Car Dependent- most or all errands require a car): 120
Average Columbus Score: 47

So less than half of Columbus’ neighborhoods are walkable, and only a small amount are very walkable, where most tasks do not require a car. The overall score shows that Columbus is still largely a car-dependent city.

Walkability, however, is just part of the picture. There are also scores for biking and mass transit access, both of which are also measured on the 0-100 scale.

Top 25 Bikeable Neighborhoods
1. North Campus: 89
2. Harrison West: 88
3. Northmoor (North Columbus): 80
4. Old North Columbus: 80
5. Clintonville: 77
6. OSU: 75
7. Brewery District: 74
8. Dennison Place: 74
9. Glen Echo: 74
10. Victorian Village: 74
11. Indiana Forest: 72
12. Iuka Ravine: 72
13. Necko: 71
14. Italian Village: 70
15. Merion Village: 68
16. Tri-Village: 68
17. Weinland Park: 67
18. Downtown: 66
19. Indianola Terrace (North Columbus): 66
20. North Hilltop: 66
21. Whetstone: 66
22. German Village: 64
23. Mount Vernon (Near East Side): 64
24. Riverview (North Columbus): 63
25. Schumacher Place: 63

The majority of Columbus’ most bikeable neighborhoods are also the most walkable.

Bikeable Neighborhood Score Breakdown
90-100: 0
70-89: 14
50-69: 45
0-49: 153
Average Columbus Bikeable Score: 45

Similar to its walkability, the majority of Columbus’ neighborhoods are not particularly bikeable. This has a lot to do with the further out and newer suburban areas of the city being built almost exclusively for cars. Only in the last 10 years has the city become more interested in promoting bike use. The city is adding several hundred miles of bike lanes and bike infrastructure, and it recently launched its own bike-share system.

Finally, we have the transit scores, which are based on access to mass transit options.

Top 25 Most Transit-Friendly Neighborhoods
1. Downtown: 64
2. Brewery District: 57
3. Italian Village: 57
4. German Village: 55
5. Victorian Village: 55
6. Dennison Place: 54
7. Weinland Park: 54
8. Necko: 52
9. Olde Towne East: 52
10. Schumacher Place: 52
11. Indiana Forest: 50
12. Harrison West: 49
13. King-Lincoln: 49
14. North Campus: 49
15. OSU: 49
16. Franklin Park (Near East Side): 49
17. Beechwood: 47
18. Iuka Ravine: 47
19. Milo-Grogan: 47
20. South of Main (Near East Side): 47
21. Livingston Park North (Near South Side): 46
22. Mount Vernon: 46
23. Old North Columbus: 46
24. Woodland Park (Near East Side): 46
25. Franklinton: 45

Transit Score Neighborhood Breakdown
90-100: 0
70-89: 0
50-69: 11
0-49: 201
Average Columbus Transit Score: 29

Clearly, based on these numbers, the city’s transit system needs a ton of improvement. COTA, or the city’s bus system, is really the only form of mass transit available, and beyond a few areas near Downtown, seems to struggle to provide access. The city is currently studying BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) with a first line proposed from Downtown and up along Cleveland Avenue to the North Side, with future lines coming after that. This will help, but there is still much to be done. Some type of rail system should also be part of near future development, as the city remains one of the largest in the US without any type of passenger rail.

So what is the overall picture of the city? First, that too much of the city is built for car use only. The boom in urban development has been significant, but the vast majority of it is occurring in areas that have the highest scores. Correlation or coincidence? Densification of neighborhoods further from the core is entirely possible, and these areas can and should be built with walkability and transit in mind. The city is taking steps for improvement, but it is, at least in my opinion, one of the weakest points of Columbus.

To see where your neighborhood stands, check out http://www.walkscore.com/