How Chariot, in Concert with Chase and Smart Columbus, Is Working to Reduce Congestion in Central Ohio

By Dan Grossman, Ford Smart Mobility vice president, Global Microtransit Services

No two cities are exactly the same. That holds true whether you’re discussing the local food scene or homegrown musical talent, and it’s equally true when it comes to transportation. Traffic jams and long commuting times may be challenges cities everywhere face, but that doesn’t mean they can be dealt with in the same manner in each location.

To effectively reduce congestion and pollution, we have to take a deeper look at each city’s transportation landscape — its available modes of transit, local preferences, etc. — and examine its specific issues to find the right solutions. As we work with cities and officials to address their unique needs, we’re looking to team up with local players who can take a more active role in the betterment of their communities.

That’s why we’re launching our Chariot shuttle service in Columbus, Ohio, through a partnership with JPMorgan Chase as part of the Smart Columbus initiative. Smart Columbus is focused on improving the transportation infrastructure to relieve congestion and accommodate a regional population that’s expected to grow by 1 million residents over the next two decades. Like us, the group wants to develop a comprehensive multimodal approach to transit that drives economic growth, provides better access to jobs and reduces pollution.

By teaming up with Chase, the region’s largest corporate employer, Ford is offering Chariot’s ride-sharing service to roughly 400 employees who work at the company’s Polaris Parkway location in Columbus. By providing this service to employees who report to work here each day, we can start reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles on Ohio roadways, and move toward improving everyone’s daily commute and overall quality of life.

Beginning Monday, Chariot will dispatch its 14-passenger shuttles along six initial routes that weave through multiple neighborhoods as they pick up and drop off Chase employees. Routes include Slate Hill and Washington Park, Lewis Center and North Polaris, Olde Sawmill and Powell, Upper Albany and Westerville, and downtown Columbus. Our Chariots are also equipped with bicycle racks to accommodate those who wish to bike to their nearest shuttle stop.

Providing Chariot shuttles is just a first step being offered by Smart Columbus and Chase to improve people’s quality of life in the city. Riders are guaranteed a comfortable seat and internet access, they won’t have to deal with traffic congestion or be concerned about where to park on the Chase campus. Our service complements Chase’s own ride-sharing programs and the public transit options already available to employees from Central Ohio Transit Authority.

After all, our goal is to work directly with cities to figure out the best way we can improve commuting. Chariot in Columbus complements existing transportation options there, while adding a new way for residents who don’t live near transit stops and would typically drive alone to work to commute. With the introduction of Chariot along with the recent launch of CMAX, a new rapid bus service from Central Ohio Transit Authority that runs along Cleveland Avenue, the city of Columbus and Chase are working to relieve the impact thousands of single-occupancy vehicles can have on the road to create a more connected city.

Beyond these first six routes with Chase, we’re planning to expand Chariot’s ride-sharing service to other businesses and organizations in the Columbus area who are looking for ways to improve their employees’ commute. As we talk to cities around the world, it is clear the residents of each have different needs and different challenges when it comes to transportation. In Columbus, Chariot’s enterprise service most directly addresses the congestion challenges facing residents there.

At Ford, we are committed to working with everyone to improve commuting in cities, including businesses, universities, hospitals and any other interested groups. As more organizations commit to encouraging their employees to participate in carpooling and ride sharing, it will play a critical role in improving rush hour, getting unnecessary vehicles off the streets, and giving people more time to spend doing the things they care about, with the people they care about.