I recently wrote a couple of articles dinging Columbus, Ohio for its branding and marketing. So today I want to highlight where they are getting it right: transport innovation.
You may have seen that Columbus recently became the first city in America to provide a free bus pass to every downtown worker, one that can be used anytime (not just for commuting) and is available to everyone regardless of who they work for. It appears to be funded by the local business improvement district equivalent.
This is great for Columbus. Why did the city get such excellent press? As the Guardian put it, “Columbus is the first major US city…” They were first.
Doing something new and different made Columbus stand out from the crowd and drew in national spotlight.
We saw the same thing with Columbus winning the DOT smart cities challenge grant. That was another big win in the transport space. (This free bus pass initiative appears to be separate).
These wins point at an opportunity space for Columbus: transport innovation. All of the focus on transport ideas comes from usual suspect cities on the coasts. But things like light rail are a bad fit for a low density, polycentric metropolis like Columbus that grew up in the automobile area. That’s much more then norm of American cities than San Francisco is.
If Columbus can continue to come up with new, different, and innovative ways to create 21st century transport solutions for its profile of city, that could be a way it sets itself apart in the marketplace. It’s already something that’s paying dividends for them.