A big ribbon ran afoul of gigantic scissors Jan. 23 at COTA's Linden Transit Center as city and county officials gathered to commemorate the launch of the rapid-transit bus service known as CMAX along Cleveland Avenue.

The line began service Jan. 1.

But more than pomp and ceremony were on display as speakers talked about the collaboration needed over the past six years to bring the improved service to reality.

New Columbus City Councilman Emmanuel Remy participated in a panel discussion at the Huntington Gateway Center looking at the potential for economic development along the corridor spurred by CMAX.

"It's our first step into the future," said Jean Carter Ryan, chairwoman of COTA's board of trustees.

"CMAX is what public transit is all about: economic development," said Emille Williams, interim president and CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority. "What is most important about CMAX is the investment in people and the community."

CMAX offers 20 percent faster service than a regular bus route between downtown and the Northland Transit Center. It represents an investment of $48.6 million, according to materials handed out by COTA representatives. That includes $37.45 million from the Federal Transit Administration and $11.2 million in local capital investments.

"CMAX will have a huge impact," predicted U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Jefferson Township) in a joint video appearance with U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington).

"Safe, reliable transportation options are absolutely critical, and that's what CMAX is about," Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said.

"CMAX is also an investment in our quality of life," said Kevin L. Boyce, president of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

"This is a critical step toward creating the transit system we must have as the region grows," City Council President Shannon G. Hardin said. "CMAX brings Columbus one step closer to having a world-class transit system."

During a ceremonial ride following the speeches, COTA Vice President of Planning and Service Development Mike Bradley explained that 27 of the intersections between downtown and Northland have "signal prioritization."

That means a transponder on the specially designed buses, which also feature on-board Wi-Fi and charging ports for electronic devices, can be used by drivers to extend the green phase of a traffic signal or abbreviate how long a light is red, he said.

Bradley also noted that 33 of the CMAX stops feature the works of local artists from neighborhoods along the route.

"I'm very excited about what the future holds," said Remy, former longtime president of the Northland Community Council, during the panel discussion.

Remy referred to CMAX as the "missing piece in the puzzle" of bringing greater prosperity to the Cleveland Avenue corridor, and he predicted it also would help the efforts of Northland civic leaders to bring redevelopment to the East Dublin-Granville Road area stretching west to Interstate 71.

"Brighter days are just ahead," Remy said.