Multimodal Trip Planning- Common Payment System

BringingMulti-ModalTripPlanningtotheColumbusRegion

Multimodal Trip Planning Assistance/Common Payment System

October 9th, 2019

The Columbus region is growing in both urban and suburban areas – growth which has contributed to increased congestion and need for better transportation alternatives to move people between urban and suburban areas and employment centers. 

First and last mile services are lacking in some areas, and bus stops are sometimes too far away from homes, jobs and other key destinations to walk. Our residents struggle with lengthy commutes as well as multiple bus transfers and long waits.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has projected that by 2040, the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s (COTA) service area will experience a 13 percent increase in population, 15 percent increase in employment, and 13 percent increase in highway traffic congestion. 

Our goal in creating the Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application and Common Payment System is to provide a platform that integrates end-to-end trip planning, booking, electronic ticketing and payment services across public and private modes of transportation. The account-based Common Payment System will provide travelers with the ability to pay for all trips with a single account.

The geographic scope of the Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application and Common Payment System is citywide and beyond, encompassing COTA’s service area and extending into outlying communities that are further serviced by mobility providers. COTA’s service area includes all of Franklin County and parts of Delaware, Fairfield, Licking and Union counties. Outlying communities are characterized by lower-density commercial, retail and housing development. 

The Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application is enabled by trip optimization services that are part of the Smart Columbus Operating System. These services connect with mobility providers, including transit, transportation network companies, car and bike sharing companies and taxis, to create customized trip itineraries for the traveler.

The Smart Columbus Operating System will serve as a unified gateway for the region, by combining the transportation services of mobility providers into a single platform accessible to travelers using the Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application. 

Within the operating system, this data can also be inputs for machine learning to support better trip optimization and to make better predictive models for how people may effectively get around.

mmtp photo

Mobility as a Service
Smart Columbus defines Mobility as a Service (MaaS) as a shift away from personally-owned vehicles to a solution that combines both public and private transportation services. Integration with the Smart Columbus Operating System is central to Columbus’ vision for facilitating MaaS. The operating system will serve as a unified gateway for the region, by combining the transportation services of mobility providers into a single platform accessible to travelers using the Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application. The account-based CPS will provide travelers with the ability to pay for all trips with a single account. 

The effective outcome will be to make our communities work more effectively and improve access to transportation options for residents to need to travel to jobs and job centers in the region. 

In general, there is believed to be a lack of incentive for travelers to engage in multimodal services, as it is not convenient to have to rely on different apps to get from point A to point B. There is also a lack of incentives for mobility providers to become part of a MaaS solution, although this is changing and improving as MaaS is gathering more support.

mmtp Geographic Scope

Stakeholder engagement survey

End-users and stakeholders involved in Smart Columbus’ engagement process included: 

  •  Expecting moms 
  •  Older adults 
  •  Linden residents 
  •  People who work in Linden 
  •  Bicyclists 
  •  Pedestrians 
  •  Traffic managers 
  •  Transit vehicle operators 
  •  Transit managers
  •  Heavy duty vehicle operators 
  •  Emergency vehicle operators 
  •  Easton visitors and enrollees 
  •  Columbus State Community College staff and students


Through our research, we’ve learned that many community members do not pay for apps and are concerned with putting bank or credit card information into an app. Most people with smart phones (87 percent) also have a data plan and could utilize a trip planning application.

Sixty-eight of surveys completed to research this project were by residents of the Linden neighborhood in Columbus, one of Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s opportunity neighborhoods. When Smart Columbus asked these residents to share some of their experiences with the current system, their comments touched on a range of issues:

  • Residents struggle with inconveniences of using transit, such as multiple bus route transfers, prolonged periods waiting for a bus to arrive, lengthy commutes to and from destinations, and the cost of monthly bus passes. 
  • First and last mile services are lacking in Linden and COTA bus stops are too far away from riders’ homes, jobs, and other destinations. Residents desire more convenient transit service, including more connections within Linden, and a crosstown route along Cleveland Avenue to Polaris, a popular retail, commercial and entertainment area on Columbus’s north side.
  • Better access to city bicycle routes and shared use paths is needed along with bicycle racks in public places. A focus on walkability within Linden is needed to serve older adults, the blind and children, along with improvements to sidewalks and lighting. 
  • Safety is a big concern for Linden residents. This includes personal safety of single moms, children, and older adults riding COTA walking to or from a bus stop and the physical safety of residents who are afraid to ride a bicycle on congested city streets. 

The desired outcome of these meetings was to solicit input on the deficiencies or limitations of the current system, and to inform the Concept of Operations development (available to read below) for Smart Columbus projects that directly affect Linden. 

 Key takeaways from the sessions included: most of the attendees said that they would favor a smartphone app to make travel arrangements and pay for them, seeing it as a convenient, no-cash needed option; also, Linden residents have privacy concerns with personal information provided at kiosks. 

Program timeline

The Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application will be available for public use by summer of 2019, and the Common Payment System will be available by 2020.

View Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application / Common Payment System Concept of Operations and webinar deck below.

Playbook Resources

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