Coming to Ohio State and leaving everything familiar behind was daunting, especially as an out-of-state student. Not only did I have to get used to a new school, new academic rigor and new friends, I had to do it all in a city that was 12 hours away from my parents by plane. Whether you are moving to Ohio State from a different state or just a different city, getting off-campus and exploring the city is one of the best ways to make this place feel more like home. And how do you do that? By using the COTA, of course!
What is the COTA?
COTA stands for Central Ohio Transit Authority. It’s pretty much just the public transit system for Columbus. Now, if you’re anything like me when I was a first-year student, you may never have used public transportation before. That is OKAY! Using the COTA can be an adjustment, but here’s a short video about how to get started!
The first time I used the COTA was when a friend and I wanted to go check out the Short North. I had heard about the Short North from people in my residence hall and people who were more familiar in the area, but no one had explained much to me about what it was besides that I NEEDED to go there. So I looked it up on the maps app on my phone, talked to my RA about which buses were the best ones to use, and the following weekend we walked to High Street, got on the #2 COTA bus heading south, swiped our BuckIDs and sat down for the ride. Some quick pieces of advice:
Have your BuckID out and ready when you enter the bus. I didn’t and it took me way too long to both get it out of my wallet–hidden deep inside my purse–and figure out which way to swipe it in the machine sitting beside the bus driver.
Find your seat quickly. As soon as everyone is done swiping in, the bus driver is on the move again and if you’re still standing when the bus starts moving, you won’t be soon after. Generally scan the bus for seats to sit in as you’re swiping in, that way you head straight there after swiping. Even if the bus starts moving before you get there, you will have somewhere to land!
Use a maps app or download the COTA app on your phone. These will help you to see which buses are arriving soon, what routes they follow, and which ones to take to get to a designated place. The #1 and #2 bus are generally the best ones to get on if you are just wanting to stay on High Street.
Back to the story–it turned out that the Short North is a section of High Street that has many little shops, restaurants, mural art and more. We were a little confused about where to get off, so we got off as soon as we saw the arches over the street that say Short North. Also, you need to pull the yellow cord to stop–it isn’t like the CABS buses on campus that automatically stop at every stop.
At night, the arches are lit up and the Short North becomes a whole new place. We spent the day walking around, taking pictures, eating food and checking out fun shops–though we didn’t buy anything. We even travelled further downtown to check out more mural art and architecture. We came home feeling way more connected to the city and confident in our ability to continue exploring Columbus. I definitely recommend checking out the Short North when you get the chance. For more places to explore and a list of events around the city, visit the Experience Columbus website.