Transit System Redesign – COTA

Transit System Redesign

Here’s how COTA improved its route network

COTA’s first overhaul of the entire bus network in its 40-year history launched on May 1, 2017.

Through input from the public, stakeholders and the Board of Trustees, the new network was developed. Prior to the implementation of any changes, COTA sought public input to hear from our customers.

The Transit System Redesign features simplified routes, increased frequency, connections to more places, and reduced bus congestion downtown.

COTA’s new network has twice as many high-frequency bus routes that arrive every 15 minutes or better on major streets. These simple, frequent, easy-to-understand routes form the backbone of the new system. Routes also now operate on more consistent schedules seven days a week.

Other transit agencies throughout the country are considering and embarking on network overhauls in order to
improve efficiency and reliability.

COTA is among a select group of agencies to achieve such an ambitious undertaking. Representatives from
the Maryland Transit Administration and Rochester Regional Transit Service visited COTA to observe the TSR in preparation for redesigns in their respective cities. COTA also shared information with officials in Boston, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

Educating Customers and Stakeholders

COTA planned and executed a robust TSR customer and stakeholder outreach campaign. Signage at every bus stop notified customers of the upcoming changes. Staff visited elected officials, area commissions, neighborhood
leaders and community groups to share information about the new network. Public meetings were held to help riders learn how their routes would change.

A strategic marketing campaign informed the community of the changes. COTA’s trip planner at allowed customers to compare old and new routes. A street team of more than 80 COTA staff members assisted riders in the weeks surrounding the launch.

On May 1, COTA unveiled more than 3,000 bus stops and newly-designed wayfinding.

To celebrate the new network, ease the transition for current COTA customers, and encourage riders to try the new system, COTA offered riders free service May 1-7.

MORE weekend SERVICE: 

Saturday service hours increase almost 50%

Sunday service hours increase 120%

Service to more jobs: 

110,000 more jobs within a ¼ mile of high-frequency service (265,000 total)

24,000 more jobs within ¼ mile of all-day service (548,000 total)

Service to more residents: 

103,000 more residents within a ¼ mile of high-frequency service (219,000 total)

18,000 more residents within ¼ mile of all-day service (529,000 total)

TSR Benefits

  • Improved transit service
  • Connecting more people to more jobs with shorter wait times
  • Provides more travel options for the growing populations
  • More frequent and consistent service seven days a week

Project Timeline

October 2013

Independent experts hired to review and evaluate the entire bus network

March-June 2014

COTA received public input through 10 public meetings, an online survey and focus groups

September 2014

New proposed bus network completed based on public feedback

November 2014

COTA Board of Trustees accepted final report and adopted framework

May & June 2015

Host four public comment meetings; review public comments

June 24, 2015

Advise Board of Trustees on public comments

June – September 2015

Adjust full TSR bus system plan

October-November 2015

Host additional public meetings; Review public comments; Identify 2016-2017 capital improvements for budget

November 18 2015

Advise Board of Trustees on final public comments

November 2015 – January 2016

Finalize system plan; Develop draft schedules

January 2016 – January 2017

Continue implementation of TSR

May 1, 2017

Major implementation of TSR, including Downtown Plan

January 1, 2018

Launch of CMAX Cleveland Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)