The Central Ohio Transit Authority plans to expand its COTA Plus microtransit service to Westerville on June 15.

The on-demand, first-mile/last-mile service will cover all of Westerville, plus Polaris Fashion Place, IKEA and Top Golf.

COTA's board of trustees approved the Westerville expansion on Feb. 26.

It also needs the approval of Westerville City Council, which set its first reading of the legislation for March 3.

COTA expects microtransit riders to include students from Otterbein University and high schools, senior citizens and workers at Mount Carmel St. Ann's.

If Westerville approves, the service would run for two years, costing $1.375 million. COTA would spend $250,000 each year and apply for grant money, said Elliott Doza, COTA's project manager for service planing.

Westerville would pick up the rest of the cost.

Beginning June 15, four buses would run from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, Doza said. Extended service would be provided for special events.

Doza said Westerville asked for the service as part of its new mobility plan.

Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth said he hopes the expansion would address service gaps in the community cited by employers and employees.

"That's what we're trying to address with the microtransit," he said.

He said COTA Plus would be available to the 8,000 employees who work in the Westar area near Cleveland Avenue and Polaris Parkway in the northern part of the city. The service also would connectto the CMAX bus rapid-transit route.

The transit agency began its COTA Plus service in Grove City in July 2019; it provided 2,800 passenger trips in its first five months.

COTA plans to increase that number by expanding the service to all of Grove City in April.

The authority also plans to expand COTA Plus service this year to two more communities yet to be named.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik