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Case Study: Setting Community Insights in Motion: SORTA/Metro

Sector: Transit
Client: Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA)/Cincinnati Metro

“What we’ve been able to do with Cohear’s help is put together a group of people that cross all of [our ridership demographics], that really give us feedback and suggestions and listen to the things we’re doing and help us make small tweaks to make sure that the service we’re putting out is exactly what the community needs. I would absolutely recommend Cohear.”

–SORTA/Metro CEO, Darryl Haley

The Conversation

Cohear recruited a wide range of everyday experts through our Bridgebuilder network in order to provide them direct access to decision makers at SORTA/Cincinnati Metro.​

  • 9 focus groups with targeted, diverse groups of bus riders, former riders, and potential riders

  • 12 Cohear community advisory board meetings and counting

  • 70+ community members engaged

The Challenge

High quality transit ensures that people of every age, ability, and income level can access the full breadth of what their communities have to offer, but in Cincinnati, the car has long been the default mode of transportation. The Southwest Ohio Transit Authority (SORTA) partnered with Cohear because they knew that their Cincinnati Metro bus system could provide better service immediately by listening to the feedback and ideas of the community. These same shifts can help bring in new riders, and ultimately, kick off the culture change necessary to transform a city from car-centered to people-centered.

“I just had a job interview last week... During the interview, they asked me straight out, ‘do you have reliable transportation?’ and I couldn’t say yes.”

–Visually impaired community member

 “I love [riding the bus], you know I love it. It’s freedom, I don’t have to ask anybody to take me anywhere, I am free, and I am well, and I’m gone!”

–Rider Advisory Council Member

The Ideas

Riders had practical ideas, big and small: from standardizing the placement of bus stop signs to ensure they are low enough for visually impaired people to reach, to creating instructional videos, to simplifying fare structures, to making service more frequent on key routes. The everyday experts also weighed in on key decisions made by SORTA/Metro leaders about messaging and branding, and even large-scale service improvement plans.

The Outcome

SORTA’s implementation of everyday expert feedback has already had system-wide impacts:

 

  • Cincinnati Metro’s January 2020 ridership levels were the best in over a decade, attributed by CEO Darryl Haley in part to feedback generated by Cohear’s Rider Advisory Council

  • Issue 7 passed in Cincinnati in May 2020 dedicating additional funds to Metro to increase route frequency, establish 24-hour-per-day service along key routes, develop bus rapid transit, and more

    • Reinventing Metro phase 1 rolled out in 2021, incorporating insights from everyday experts, extending 24 hour service to select routes among other key service improvements