COTA's Northland Transit Center Park and Ride sign.
Pedestrians walk COTA's Northland Transit Center Park and Ride.
A nighttime view of COTA's bus rapid transit line.
Residents and workers wait under shelter to use COTA's CMAX bus rapid transit.
A nighttime view of COTA's Northland Transit Center Park and Ride.
An aerial view of the Central Ohio Transit Authority's bus rapid transit system.
A rendering of local artwork at one of the CMAX stations.

COTA – CMAX Bus Rapid Transit


Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA)


Columbus, OH

Site Design for Busy Rapid Transit Line Includes Feedback from Communities and Engenders Local Pride

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) launched the region’s first bus rapid transit line in 2018, linking nearly 400,000 residents and workers along its busy Cleveland Avenue line from Downtown Columbus north to Polaris Parkway in the city of Westerville. Dubbed “CMAX,” the rapid transit line provides faster and more reliable transit service to jobs, healthcare, and educational resources for minority and low-income populations along the Cleveland Avenue corridor and will open doors to myriad economic development opportunities in the area.

As part of the project, COTA partnered with OHM Advisors’ landscape architecture and architecture teams to provide site design for the 64 designated platforms on the CMAX route in both directions, the 1,200 sf Meijer Transit Center, and the Northern Lights Park and Ride Facility. COTA’s design goal was to create a CMAX-branded experience reflecting both the project’s integral role in Central Ohio’s long-term vision for growth, and the community pride of the diverse neighborhoods along the entire Cleveland Avenue route. It was critical to COTA that the communities and impacted neighborhoods felt ownership in the project, so OHM Advisors led an extensive community engagement process to both educate the community and solicit valuable feedback for the resulting designs.

With that feedback, our design team created an array of signature station designs fitting individual stations’ site constraints, all of which include distinctive shelters and pylon housing, a route map with real-time display, and CMAX branding with illumination to increase safety and visibility. To further instill a sense of community pride, each of the 33 stations between Columbus State Community College and the Northland Community Council includes artwork developed by local artists. A two-year process that included coordination with local artists, the Greater Columbus Art Commission, elected officials, community leaders, and area commissions resulted in designs that reflect the unique culture and history of the diverse neighborhoods in the area.

In addition to new or enhanced stations, a new transit center, and an upgraded park and ride, the CMAX project also incorporates specially designed BRT buses, roadway improvements, and a transit signal priority system. COTA projects a 21% travel time savings and 15-20% anticipated ridership increase with CMAX within the first five years of implementation, along with increased opportunities for local investment and an improved quality of life for minority and low-income populations along the Cleveland Avenue corridor.

Project Highlights: community engagement, architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, site design, transit