The beginning of 2018 will see the start of bus rapid-transit service along Cleveland Avenue.

Central Ohio Transit Authority representatives announced at the Nov. 7 meeting of the Northland Community Council that the new service, called CMAX, will launch Jan. 1.

Also on Jan. 1, the new Northland Transit Center at the intersection of East Dublin-Granville Road and Cleveland Avenue will open, said Matt Selhorst of HDR Engineering, one of the consultants on the three-year, $48 million project.

"It will be free for that entire first week of January," he said of the CMAX service. "We'll have some grand-opening ceremonies."

The new service will operate on Cleveland Avenue seven days a week between downtown Columbus and the OhioHealth Westerville Medical Campus on Polaris Parkway, near Africa Road, according to a handout provided at the NCC meeting. It said the 15-mile route will connect communities along Columbus' emerging "smart corridor," linking 211,000 residents and 170,000 employees to jobs, health care and education.

Riders will be able to enjoy uniquely branded buses powered by compressed natural gas, free on-board Wi-Fi and power charging stations to stay connected, the handout said.

"We might have people just riding and charging," said Danni Palmore, head of a public relations firm that has been consulting with COTA throughout the CMAX project.

The CMAX fare will be the same as regular bus service, according to the handout.

What Palmore called "extensive outreach" will take place prior to Jan. 1. She said when receptions are held to inform people of the bus rapid-transit service, many ethnic restaurants in the Northland area will be tapped to provide food.

Testing has been conducted that permits traffic signals to remain green longer for oncoming CMAX buses or to shorten the red light cycle, Selhorst said.

"You can look at it this way: If you're running late, follow a CMAX," Palmore said.

The handout says that service between downtown Columbus and East Dublin-Granville Road during rush hour will take 10 minutes. It currently takes about 35 minutes.

Rush hour is from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 6 p.m.

Midday, weekend and evening service from downtown to the Northland Transit Center will take 15 minutes.

The federal government kicked in about 77 percent of the overall $48.6 million cost of the bus rapid- transit project, with COTA picking up the rest.