Columbus, OH: Move OH
My name is Stevie Pasamonte, and my family and I have relied on public transit since we immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1992. Over thirty years later, my mother, my sister, and I all live in Columbus, Ohio. I moved here in 2009 for school, and my family followed me a couple years later so that we could remain close to one another. Let me tell you a little about the three of us:
My mother is a disabled war veteran. She joined the U.S. Military when I was a teenager in an effort to provide for our family, earn college funding for her children, and gain U.S. citizenship. As a result of injuries sustained during her service, she has a lot of difficulty with mobility. She uses the COTA bus to visit my sister and me during the week, often stopping by to make me lunch while I’m busy with work. While she only lives five miles from me, it takes her 45 minutes to get to my home by bus.
My sister lives closer to my mom—only three and a half miles away. But when my mom visits my sister, it takes her nearly the same amount of time—except her options are either to walk for 20 of those minutes, or to transfer buses and hope her second one shows up when she expects it to. Very often, it won’t. If it does, she still has about a seven minute walk from the bus stop. For my mother, that is not an easy feat.
Prior to the pandemic, my sister worked as a front desk manager in hotels. But when the pandemic hit, COTA was forced to cancel late night service, meaning my sister no longer had a safe, inexpensive way to get home. She relied on ride-share apps to get home after her shift ended and it became untenable at her income level.
I live in downtown Columbus with my partner. I’m beyond lucky to live in a walkable area near restaurants, convenience stores, and even a small local grocery store. I take the COTA to the office, to doctors appointments, to visit friends, to attend events and meetings, but most importantly to see and stay connected with my family.
Over the years I have seen small, positive changes to our city’s transit system, but it has never been enough to remove the hardships that come with living without a car in a city like ours. With the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen our already meager transit resources be stretched thin. In a time when it’s so important to stay connected with the ones we love, it has become a lot more difficult to do so.
But we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. Our city is growing at a rapid pace, and as we begin to rebuild our lives and our communities after the hardships of the last couple years, we can choose to invest in the things that bring us together. For my family, and for so many families in Ohio, that means investing in more reliable, more frequent transit. It means building bus shelters and elevated stops for accessible boarding. It means creating and expanding ‘last mile’ solutions. It means ensuring that our transit authorities have the funding to hire operators and improve and expand service. We can choose to do all of this—and we must.