What does a modern transportation network have in common with Netflix?

They each offer an amazing and growing menu of options, says Laura Koprowski, but allow customers to use and rent only what they need without any obligation to buy. Both offer a new way of providing people with the same products and services they used to own.

Koprowski, the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s vice president of government affairs, marketing, and communications, is quick to point out that the changes don’t mean COTA’s traditional buses are taking a back seat to motorized scooters or ride-hailing. Instead it means the authority is equally concerned about how riders travel to and from buses and their destinations.

“Scooters have helped turn scooter users into bus users,” she said.

Koprowski joined COTA almost two years ago after 17 years doing similar work at MORPC. Her job change came at a time of great transition for both COTA and the region. Insight2050 alerted the region that it could expect as many as a million new residents between 2010 and 2050, and that their demographics and consumer preferences would be different. COTA was determining how to meet their transportation needs.

The evidence of scooter users becoming bus riders is anecdotal, but it illustrates how COTA is trying to view different modes of transportation not as competing, but as complementary. COTA and Smart Columbus are seeking data to define the trends they see.

In the long term, Koprowski says, many people will still want a Netflix-like menu of options, “and driving a car is still on table. But you don’t have to own the bike, scooter, or car. You have services that fit your need for that day and that trip. It’s setting us up to build the infrastructure for long-term patterns of customers and users.”

Currently COTA, fresh off a carefully crafted remaking of the entire bus system, is turning to new tasks, such as working with the City of Dublin in developing shuttles for senior citizens. It is essentially a transit consultant for communities on such pilot projects. It also is developing “mobility hubs” – starting with the CMAX bus-rapid transit line in Linden. The hubs will have kiosks with online trip-planning and schedules, as well as stops for buses, bikes, scooters and ride-hailing.

Koprowski said her work at MORPC on insight2050 is very important to her role at COTA.

“Every day we are referring back to insight2050 – whether it’s population growth, job growth, or scenarios,” she said. “I love to take that experience and apply it in real time, the very near-term, at COTA. We develop service to fit the needs of users.

“I appreciate communities like Westerville that embrace their location there on CMAX. But we still have parts of our region with development that is unfriendly to transit stops. Now I get to be an implementer of MORPC’s ideas.”