Swiping a card to go almost anywhere in Columbus is no longer a luxury just enjoyed by Ohio State students. OSU faculty and staff can now purchase discounted Central Ohio Transit Authority monthly fares for local routes via a pre-tax payroll deduction.
Under the COTA Bus Access Payroll Deduction Program, faculty and staff can have unlimited COTA bus access by having a little money taken out of their pay each month to cover the cost of the pass.
As of March, the standard local monthly COTA pass is $62 per month and the discounted price for OSU employees is $58 per month. The goal of the program is to combine the long-standing $4 discount offered to employees and the added value of a pre-tax payroll deduction, said Lisa Myers, the public and media relations manager for COTA.
OSU employees and staff will use a BuckID, as students do, instead of regular bus passes.
The discounted fare applies to local routes only. To ride an Express route, employees and staff need to pay an additional charge of 75 cents per ride in addition to the cost of the Express ride.
Beth Snoke, the director of OSU transportation and traffic management, said this program is the result of numerous groups working together for the past year.
“A group of employees, representing faculty and staff, submitted a proposal to university leadership outlining a pre-tax payroll deduction COTA discount pass option utilizing the BuckID,” she said in an email. “A group, representing the office of business and finance, OCIO (Office of the Chief Information Officer), BuckID, Transportation and Traffic Management, and COTA met regularly to develop the program to be available to all employees through the employee self-service website.”
Myers said COTA and OSU faculty and staff have always wanted the program.
“For many years since the COTA and Ohio State student program was developed, faculty and staff have asked for a similar program. There have been many conversations over the years in an effort to identify an effective way to connect Ohio State faculty and staff to COTA’s service,” Myers said. “The conversations that led to the program that launched last week occurred within the last year.”
Michael Lisa, a professor in OSU’s Department of Physics, helped push for this program.
“Some things are win-win. This program is win-win-win-win-win-win,” he said.
Lisa said the plan allows faculty and staff to save money and live a green lifestyle.
“Ohio State continues to make good on its commitment outlined in its 2011 Climate Action Plan; COTA broadens its ridership base to include many who may not have ridden previously,” he said. Lisa added that a vibrant transportation system makes for a successful modern city that attracts young professionals.
When enrolling for the first time in the program, employees will need to obtain an updated BuckID, but there will be no additional charge for an updated BuckID, Stoke said.
Employees wanting to enroll in the program must do so through the employee self-service website and are responsible for starting and stopping the program themselves.
COTA CEO Curtis Stitt said he thinks this option will strengthen the relationship between COTA and the OSU community.
“COTA values the long-standing partnership with Ohio State and its students, and we’re pleased to partner with Ohio State on providing additional payment options to faculty and staff,” he said in a COTA press release. “The opportunity to swipe a BuckID instead of purchasing a pass on-site makes using COTA’s services more convenient. We’re confident that the program will encourage increased public transportation use by Ohio State faculty and staff.”