New Albany's SmartRide public-transportation program, which is run in partnership with COTA, continues to evolve as the New Albany International Business Park grows, according to local officials.

New Albany's SmartRide public-transportation program, which is run in partnership with COTA, continues to evolve as the New Albany International Business Park grows, according to local officials.

COTA's Line 40 buses travel to the city's business park from downtown Columbus and Easton Transit Center from 6 to 8 a.m. and make return trips from 3:50 to 5:55 p.m. each weekday, said COTA spokeswoman Lisa Myers.

COTA offers six trips on Line 40 in the morning and five in the afternoon, she said. The extra route in the morning makes only a few of the normal stops downtown and then proceeds directly to COTA's New Albany Park & Ride, she said; the other five morning routes make all scheduled stops, including at the Easton Transit Center.

New Albany then employs three free shuttles that run locally throughout the business park, according to community-development director Jennifer Chrysler.

"It's been a real asset to us from a business-attraction standpoint," Chrysler said.

Chrysler said more than 23,000 trips were made on the city's shuttle service in the business park in 2015. In January and February of this year, more than 2,400 trips were made, she said.

Over the latter part of 2015, the program also attracted millennials who are using the public-transportation system to travel from downtown or Easton to work in the park's corporate offices, Chrysler said.

Adrienne Joly, New Albany's deputy director of community development, said the city paid $130,000 to operate the SmartRide program in 2015. The program is being paid from the business park's economic-development fund.

"The city contracts with (Parking Solutions Inc.) for drivers for all three shuttles and the use of one shuttle," Joly said. "The city owns the other two shuttles used for the SmartRide program."

City spokesman Scott McAfee said SmartRide is beneficial to employees in the business park and the city wouldn't have been able to implement the program without COTA.

"The SmartRide program is another way of thinking outside the box," McAfee said.

COTA and New Albany began discussing the transportation challenges in and around the business park years ago, Myers said.

"The city and COTA partnered to develop a new COTA Park & Ride," Myers said. "COTA increased its reverse-commute service to the area on Line 40, and the city of New Albany began offering shuttle service that provides the door-to-door service throughout the business park that passengers need."

Myers said SmartRide launched in September 2014.

"Ridership on COTA's Line 40 nearly doubled after the service started and has continued to grow," she said. "The SmartRide shuttle service has also continued to grow."

Rider figures from COTA show Line 40 was used 717 times per month in October 2013. Myers said the figures are a measure of each time someone gets on a bus.

After the SmartRide program was implemented, that figure increased to 1,376 per month in October 2014.

In October 2015, the rate increased to 3,035 times per month.

Myers said the SmartRide partnership was used as a model for a similar service in the Groveport-Rickenbacker area that launched in September 2015.