Multimodal and Alternative Transit Adoption


Sustainable Steps

September 8th, 2022

Post by Ian Gray, Smart Columbus Communications Intern

The benefits of promoting multiple methods of transportation when hosting an event are multifaceted. Reducing the number of vehicles coming to an event decreases traffic congestion, ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also opens up parking for those who must drive and decreases travel time and pre-event stress for everyone.

For example, when Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther hosted a launch party for the new Sustainable Steps program in July 2019, Smart Columbus developed a mobility plan to encourage attendees to use alternative methods of transportation to navigate there. The plan included directions on how to use COTA buses, rideshare discount codes to incentivize use and directions for bikes and other shared mobility devices. This plan was included on flyers, social media posts and other communications to the public when promoting the event.

Mobility Language

Mobility plans that shift the focus away from personal vehicle parking can both promote sustainability, cut costs and reduce traffic, making events less stressful for planners and attendees. A comprehensive plan requires preparation, cooperation and precise language, but developing one can contribute to an event’s success.

Encouraging use of alternative transportation is also more environmentally friendly. Smart Columbus’s guide for reaching the Experience Center in downtown Columbus includes language stating that avoiding driving can “reduce congestion, decrease emissions and help our city grow in a competitive, sustainable way.”

An unseen benefit of providing multiple modes of transportation for gatherings is increased visibility for parts of a city or neighborhood. On their way to an event, driving attendees may encounter highway exit ramps and the inside of parking garages, while those who bus, ride scooters or share rides can pass parks and vibrant storefronts.

Elements of an effective multi-modal transportation plan

A successful mobility plan is best for event locations that are accessible to more than just those driving. The Smart Columbus Experience Center is an example of an effective location with a short, five-minute walk from several bus lines and good sidewalk access for those dropped off from ride hailing services and for scooters and bikes to park.

Encouraging the use of buses or trains means accounting for both public transit novices and experts. For example, the Smart Columbus Experience Center Mobility Plan includes the COTA bus lines, as well as stop locations.

  • CBUS, CMAX and Lines 2 and 2L serve stops at S. High St. & W. Town/E. Rich.
  • AirConnect and Lines 4, 5, 7 and 11 serve stops at S. Front St & W. Town St.
  • Lines 3, 6, 8 and 9 serve stops at W Main St. & S. Ludlow St.

It is also helpful to include how to navigate from bus stops to the event, adding cardinal directions or telling people when to cross streets or intersections.

Ride hailing services such as Uber and Lyft provide event code programs. These require having an account as well as the date, location(s) of the event and the number of attendees. The options of providing discounted or free rides to event attendees are customizable.

Electric scooter and bike rental services present a sustainable and fun form of event transportation. The Smart Columbus Experience Center mobility plan includes CoGo bike rental program and specifies that bikes can be docked across the street from the Experience Center.

Communicating mobility plan language

It is important for an event mobility plan to communicate why users should care about mobility options. Whether the goal is sustainability, reduced traffic, showing off the city streets or some combination of the three, sharing priorities of a mobility plan can increase user buy-in.

The Smart Columbus Experience Center mobility plan tells readers “to decrease our dependence on personal vehicle ownership, we'll bring people on board to grow our ecosystem with more multi-modal options—including improving existing services and adding new ones that let people leave their cars at home, or get around better without one.”

Effective mobility plans use simple language. Information can include the cost and travel time of various transit methods as well as communicating any special event codes or detours. For the Sustainable Steps event, the mobility plan included several modes of transportation while being no larger than a notecard. Minimal text and graphics that use a few distinct colors and clear lines will also be easier to read for travelers.

Prioritizing alternative transportation

A mobility plan with a focus on reducing event traffic should list parking options last. Communicating multiple alternative transportation methods and explaining how to use them before showing parking instructions encourages behavior change while still providing the full range of options.

Where transportation plans are placed within event information is important for their effectiveness. Mobility options should be easily accessible on event websites, social media pages and on flyers.

Mobility plans are an effective method for alleviating traffic and improving event success. They promote sustainability while also allowing for multiple choices in how to see and traverse a city. Thorough plans require preparation and precise language but can be reused and adapted as transportation options evolve.


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