COTA launches income assistance pilot program to improve transit fare equity





The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) launched its six-month pilot program that extends eligibility for transit discounts to individuals who receive public income assistance.

The COTA Income Assistance Program provides a 50 percent discount for customers who participate in one of the following countywide programs:

  • SNAP food assistance;
  • Publicly funded childcare;
  • Ohio Works First cash assistance;
  • Prevention, Retention and Contingency emergency assistance;
  • Medicaid; and
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

Eligible customers can apply for the discounted fares at COTA’s Customer Experience Center in downtown Columbus. Customers need to show verification from a qualifying agency that displays their name and verifies they receive assistance from one of the countywide programs. COTA Customer Experience Champions will be available to review documentation and verify eligibility for enrollment.

“COTA’s Income Assistance Program pilot is an important expansion of our commitment to providing equitable access to our customers who need it most,” said COTA Chief Financial Officer Angel Mumma. “We’re excited to implement this program utilizing our new digital fare payment system, which allows for fare capping, so all customers are offered the best fare rate for their trips.”

Currently, seniors, children, veterans and qualifying disabled customers are already eligible for 50 percent discounted fares. Those who qualify for income assistance can receive their discount through COTA’s new account-based digital payment system. The new account-based ticketing system, which launched in November, utilizes the Transit app or COTA Smartcards and allows customers to benefit from new fare capping technology that keeps track of their trips so customers paying standard fare will not pay more than $4.50 per day or $62 per month.

Customers receiving income assistance will have their fares capped at $2.25 per day and $31 per month. This discount will not apply to cash-paying customers who are not using COTA’s account-based system.

Once qualifying customers activate their account, they can load cash onto the Transit app or Smartcard and travel immediately. There are several ways to load funds:

  • Add funds to a Transit app account using a credit or debit card.
  • Visit COTA’s website and log in to an account and add funds using a credit or debit card.
  • Visit one of 350+ retail locations across COTA’s service area to load cash onto the Transit app or Smartcard.
  • Visit the Customer Experience Center in downtown Columbus to load funds into an account.

COTA will also host community pop-up events to help customers apply for the new digital fare payment system and qualify for the Income Assistance Pilot. COTA will gather and analyze data during the six months of the pilot program before bringing recommendations to the board of trustees for a finalized low-income fare structure.




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