Bus confusion? 5 tips and 5 routes!

It’s November and it’s about to get real cold, real quick. If you are anything like I was as a freshman, the only thing I knew about the buses was that the CABS was the Campus Area Bus System and the COTA had routes throughout Columbus…but I had no idea how to use them or the difference between routes.

CABS versus COTA

If you read nothing else, here are five tips for the bus system…

CLN versus CLS

For the CLN (Campus Loop North) and CLS (Campus Loop South), the North and South references the direction the bus travels on CANNON Drive. Since it’s a loop, it goes the opposite direction on College Road (the CLN travels SOUTH on College Road, whereas the CLS travels NORTH on College Road). They make the exact same loop–just opposite directions. Also, the CLN runs on weekends, but the CLS does not (be aware that the route is slightly different on the weekends–check the Bus app for details).

CABS bus

Requesting stops

CABS: The bus will stop at every stop (so no need to pull the yellow cord).

COTA: The bus will only stop if you pull the yellow cord around the perimeter of the bus to request a stop or if someone is waiting at that COTA stop to get on the bus.

Interior of COTA

Electronic bus tracking

CABS: You can get up to date bus information on the Ohio State mobile app or the OSU Bus app. The thing I really like about the OSU Bus app is it will utilize the location services on my phone to find stops “Near Me” and give me up to date information about how many minutes until the next bus will arrive!

COTA: If you are riding the COTA, I have found the easiest way to know when a bus is coming is to utilize the Google Maps app, and then click the icon for public transportation. It will give directions of exactly where to pick up the bus, what time it is scheduled to come, how many stops to take the bus, and where to walk once I get off the bus to reach my destination. However, this information is not updated if a bus is running behind schedule, it only gives a rough estimate based on when it is scheduled to come!Bus App Screenshot

What to bring when you ride

CABS: Nothing.

COTA: Swipe your BuckID at the front of the bus OR pay $2

Always thank the bus drivers!

…and here are five routes to know…

CABS: CLN (Campus Loop North)

Where it goes: North on Cannon (by Morrill and Lincoln Towers), left on Woodruff to the Carmack parking lots, back east on Woodruff (by Knowlton and Traditions at Scott), turns right down College Road (heading south), to the Union, and then turns right down 12th Avenue (by Baker East/West and then down past Kennedy Commons), turns left on Neil (goes by Marketplace), then turns right on 9th Avenue and travels around the perimeter of the Med Center and back up Cannon.

When it runs: All day everyday! (Less frequently during at night and on weekends)

CABS: CLS (Campus Loop South)

Where it goes: Same route but opposite direction as the CLN!

When it runs: Mon-Fri, 5:30 a.m.-midnight

CABS: NE (North Express)

Where it goes: East on 17th Avenue (the street just North of the Oval), turns left on College road (north), left on Woodruff (heading west) out to the Carmack parking lots, then comes back down Woody Hayes/Woodruff (the street name changes!), and then turns right on Tuttle Park Place down to the RPAC plaza and then back up 17th again!

When it runs: Mon-Fri, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

COTA: #2 (#21 at night)

Where it goes: This bus runs up and down High Street. The different letters after the number 2 distinguish how far north and south it will go. This bus comes about every 9 minutes. The 21 is the “Night Owl” version of the 2 and comes about every 30 minutes.

When it runs: #2–everyday! #21–Thu-Sat, 7 p.m.-3 a.m. (depending where you are on the route)

COTA: #52

Where it goes: This route is the OSU Airport Express and runs a special route on peak travel days from campus to the airport. It has 6 stops around campus and then goes to the airport. Be aware that it only runs certain days of the year!

When it runs: Check this schedule for dates and times.

CABS Routes

Exploring: A guide to navigating Ohio State and Columbus!

Your first year is all about exploring. Whether it is a new area of study, new ideas, relationships, new places, or a new city–college is the place for you to embrace your inner explorer. Another important piece to this search is to plan HOW you will navigate your first year. When it comes to transportation options on and around campus, you can’t go wrong in finding a way to explore Ohio State and Columbus. Here is the rundown of some alternative forms of transportation to be a sustainable and travel-efficient Buckeye!

CABS: Campus Area Bus Service

Certainly, if you’ve been to campus at all this academic year, you have seen plenty of CABS buses shuttling students across campus. They look like this:

To ride, just hop on! There is no need to show your BuckID while riding.


  • The Campus Loop North has overnight service around campus and runs 24/7!
  • The Ohio State mobile app and the Transportation and Traffic Management website provide information on arrival times so you don’t have to wait in the rain, snow, or look like this:


COTA: Central Ohio Transit Authority

If you’re a commuter trying to get to campus or a student who lives on-campus and wants to explore outside the university walls, COTA is the bus system for you!

COTA provides service throughout Franklin County and surrounding areas both day AND night. All you have to do as an Ohio State student is show your BuckID and hop on for free (it’s included in the fees you pay each semester)! Maps and service availability for the campus area (and beyond) are available on the COTA website.


  • Late night service around the city
  • It comes and leaves from Ohio State–which is great for commuter students!


Don’t have a car on campus and need to run some quick errands off campus? Want to be able to drive somewhere, drop off a car, and not have to worry where you left it? If so, CAR2GO may be just the method of transportation  for you! You’ll need to purchase a membership card first, but after that it’s simple: just take it, drive it, and park it.


  • It’s a great alternative to bringing your car to campus and keeping it parked across campus for months on end
  • It’s sustainable (and sort of like a toy car for adults)!

There are plenty of other options to get around campus and the city, but the three above are my personal recommendations; you can also learn more about biking, carpooling, and other options.

As you think about exploring and navigating campus, remember this: you WILL get lost. And that’s okay! We have all been there! Once, I took COTA instead of CABS and ended up in Clintonville instead of Fisher College of Business. A great part of exploring is the potential to getting a bit off course. Granted, it may not be the most convenient to test out the bus for the first time when your class is in five minutes, but it is important to figure it out for yourself. I recommend trying it out when the stakes are low. Hop on a bus and see where it takes you when you have an extended period of time to “get lost”. Bring a friend. Ask the bus driver if the bus is the right one for where you’re heading. And know that (at the very least), they all come back to the stop you hopped on originally! Happy exploring, Buckeyes! Oh, and don’t forget to look at the maps.