The Central Ohio Transit Authority's ridership is the highest in 31 years.

Ridership in 2019 totaled 19,141,454, a 1.2% increase from 18,914,789 in 2018, COTA officials reported. Ridership in 1988 was 20,456,535.

The latest figures include a full-year of C-pass, for which downtown Columbus employers, property owners and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission pay so workers can ride free.

According to COTA officials, riders took 1.24 million trips using C-pass in 2019.

Fifty-eight percent of eligible downtown employers participate in C-pass, representing 440 employers plus three residential properties -- including the 50 largest eligible employers, said Kacey Brankamp, program director of the C-pass program for the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, which initiated the program.

"We've been seeing increased growth in ridership. We are very pleased with the number," Brankamp said.

The C-pass program also contributed to the 14% increase in ridership on lines that run only during the morning and afternoon rush commutes.

COTA officials also said ridership on CMAX, the rapid-transit line between downtown Columbus and Westerville into Delaware County, grew by 3.3% from 2018 to 2019.

And AirConnect, which runs seven days a week between downtown Columbus and John Glenn Columbus International Airport, saw a 5.5% increase from 2018 to 2019, serving 38,660 riders, or about 106 per day.

"We want to see that go up a little more, obviously," said Jeff Pullin, a COTA spokesman.

One thing COTA did in 2019 was to adjust the route so AirConnect buses go down High Street. In addition, COTA is looking at ways to make service more visible at the airport.

Meanwhile, COTA Plus, the microtransit service that began in Grove City in July 2019, had 2,800 passenger trips in its first five months.

Pullin said COTA plans to increase that number by expanding the service to all of Grove City this year. The authority also plans to expand COTA Plus service to another community by midyear and to two more by the end of the year. None of the other communities is being named yet.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik