The new Transportation Innovation Challenge wrapped up on Sunday at the city's Idea Foundry, with a winning idea to improve public transit now headed for feasibility studies.
"Team Get It Done," headed by Brittany Cliakscale, Alex Slaymaker and Jenesis Shine, came up with the proposal to encourage local companies to incentivize workers who ride the bus or use other public transit to get to work.
"If someone goes to a job interview, they're asked if they have a car, or if they have access to 'reliable transportation,' meaning a car," Slaymaker explained. "We're trying to change that narrative."
The team's idea would bring employers to the table for discussion on how to reimburse workers who contribute to the growth of public transit — either by rewarding employees who forfeit their company parking spot, or providing bus passes for those who commit to take COTA to work each day.
Other ideas floated during the weekend-long think tank included a phone hot line to help senior citizens access public transit information without a computer; and an Uber-like service that would solve the "first mile, last mile" problem by transporting bus riders from their home to the local bus stop.
Not all ideas were expected to work, and even the winning idea must now go through years of feasibility studies, approvals and political deliberation — but Columbus city council president Shannon Hardin said Sunday that the energy behind the "Innovation Challenge" is promising for tackling other issues in the city.
"This is just the beginning," Hardin said. "We need to continue bringing folks to together, continue the collaboration that helps Columbus be the city that serves all of us."