The Central Ohio Transit Authority is making it easier -- and free -- for downtown residents, workers and tourists to visit attractions within the central city.
The COTA Board of Trustees last week approved free fare rates for Cbus -- the new downtown circulators that, starting May 5, will travel between the Short North and Brewery District.
COTA spokesman Marty Stutz said transit officials had considered a fee of 50 cents per one-way ride -- which would have generated an estimated $30,000 in fares -- but felt "free" was a more attractive option.
"We decided to try the service out and remove any barriers to make people hesitant to try it," Stutz said.
"We will monitor and evaluate this alignment and we have the option of making changes in the future. We see a strong demand so far."
The transit authority also extended the proposed circulator route north past Buttles Avenue to Third Avenue, making it a full 5.4-mile loop with 28 stops along the way.
Stutz said the $1.3 million effort will include new bus stops, six new buses and additional staff training.
The buses will run seven days a week, as frequently as every 10 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes during evening hours and on weekends.
Stutz said it will not affect regular bus schedules or fees, which are $2 a ride, in the area. That includes the Night Owl line, which connects Clintonville to downtown until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Julie Klein, actress and marketing director for Shadowbox Live in the Brewery District, said she's fully supportive of Cbus.
"We are thrilled and excited that this new COTA opportunity will allow others to easily visit the Brewery District," said Klein, who also is president of the Brewery District Trade Association.
"And it may bring down folks who may not normally come down, who may not spend a day or an evening in the district."
Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance, echoed similar sentiments.
"It's a wonderful complement to all of our neighborhoods and will certainly help alleviate concerns of parking," she said.