Discount Fares

Increasing access to our mobility solutions

New Income Assistance Program

Six-Month Pilot Effective March 1, 2022

To increase access to COTA’s services for our customers who need them most, we are excited to release a six-month pilot initiative called the Income Assistance Program. Through this program, eligible customers will have access to half-price fares.

If you have participated in any of the following countywide programs in the last 12 months, then you could be eligible for discount fares:

  • SNAP food assistance
  • Publicly funded childcare
  • Ohio Works First cash assistance
  • Prevention, Retention and Contingency emergency assistance
  • Medicaid
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

To claim this discount, customers must bring proof of participation in one of the above programs to COTA’s Customer Experience Center (33 N. High St.). One of our friendly Customer Care Advocates will help you set up a COTA account with your discount.

Any customer who wishes to participate in our Income Assistance Program must use COTA’s account-based payment system via either the Transit app or a COTA Smartcard. This new technology allows COTA to track how often you ride to ensure that you are never charged more than $2.25 per day or $31 per calendar month.

Questions? We can help!

What is the Income Assistance Program?
COTA’s Income Assistance Program is a six-month pilot that provides a 50 percent discount on fares for our fixed-route service. This program is available to all customers who currently receive income assistance from any of the six county-wide programs offered through Franklin County Jobs & Family Services (FCJFS).
How do I enroll in this program?
Customers will need to apply for the discount at the COTA Customer Experience Center at 33 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43215. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. To apply, customers must bring proper documentation as noted above.
Who qualifies for this program?
Any customer currently receiving income assistance through one of the qualifying FCJFS programs may be eligible for this program.
What qualifies as proper documentation to receive the discount?
Customers simply needs to show a document from a qualifying agency that displays the customer’s name and verifies they receive assistance from one of the six FCJFS programs in the past 12 months:

  • SNAP food assistance
  • Publicly funded childcare
  • Ohio Works First (OWF) cash assistance
  • Prevention, Retention and Contingency (PRC) emergency assistance
  • Medicaid
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
How do I obtain “proper documentation” to receive COTA’s income assistance discount?
There are several ways present proper documentation:

  • If you receive income assistance from one of the six county-wide programs, you should have received a verification letter in the mail. Simply bring that letter to COTA’s Customer Experience Center and receive your fare discount.
  • You can also log on or create an account at https://benefits.ohio.gov to obtain verification. Go to My Benefits which shows your name and the income assistance you receive. Either print or take a screenshot of that page and bring it to COTA’s Customer Experience Center.
  • You also can log on to the benefits website using your smartphone and show it to the COTA Customer Experience Representative during the application process.
What if I do not have my FCJFS income assistance verification letter and do not have computer access?
Customers can call FCJFS at 1-844-640-6446 to have a verification letter mailed to their homes. However, this is not recommended because, due to a high volume of customers, it could take FCJFS a few weeks to process this request.
After enrolling in the program, how do customers receive the discount?
Customers who qualify for COTA’s Income Assistance Program will need to use COTA’s new digital fare payment system. Customers can either set up an account through the Transit app or receive a COTA Smartcard at the Customer Experience Center. Once the account is set up and the customer qualifies for income assistance, they will automatically receive the discount when they pay by scanning the validator.
Will I be able to pay cash at the fare box if I qualify for the Income Assistance Program?
No, you will have to pay by loading cash onto the Transit app or onto your Smartcard. This will ensure that when you tap the app or Smartcard on the validator, you will receive your 50 percent discount per trip. There are several ways to load cash:

  • Load cash onto your Transit app account using a credit or debit card.
  • Visit COTA.com and log into your account and add funds using a credit or debit card.
  • Visit one of 300+ retail locations across COTA’s service area to load cash onto the Transit app or Smartcard.
Why do customers need to use the Transit app or Smartcard to use this service?
COTA is moving toward contactless digital payment onboard to ensure faster transit service. The new system also allows COTA to designate a customer’s account as a discounted account to ensure they are paying the best available fare when boarding a transit vehicle.
By using the new digital payment system, customers will also be able to take advantage of fare capping. That means that, with the Income Assistance Discount, customers who qualify will never pay more than $2.25 per day or $31 during a calendar month.
What happens when the six-month pilot program ends?
The six-month pilot period allows COTA to determine the success of the program and make any necessary adjustments. Before the pilot period ends, COTA will present its recommendations to the COTA Board of Trustees who will vote on whether to make the program permanent. Updates will be communicated as needed.
Are there other options besides applying at the COTA Customer Experience Center?
Generally, customers will need to apply for the Income Assistance Program at the Customer Experience Center located at 33 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43215.

COTA Income Assistance Pop-Up Locations
Date Time Location Address
Tuesday, March 1 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. COTA Customer Experience Center 33 N. High St.
Thursday, March 3 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Columbus Metropolitan Library — Hilltop Branch 511 S. Hague Ave.
Friday, March 4 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Columbus Metropolitan Library — Whitehall Branch 4445 E. Broad St.
Monday, March 7 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Columbus Metropolitan Library — Parsons Branch 1113 Parsons Ave.
Wednesday, March 9 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Columbus Metropolitan Library — Northern Lights Branch 4093 Cleveland Ave.
Saturday, March 19 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. YMCA Van Buren Shelter 595 Van Buren Drive
Wednesday, March 23 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Our Lady of Guadalupe Center 409 Industry Drive

Standard Discount Programs

To help ensure that more people are able to get to and from their destinations, we offer discounted fares to select groups. This includes riders with disabilities, seniors, students and others.

Persons eligible for half-price fares include:

  • People 65 years of age or older. A Senior ID is valid for three years and requires only a photo ID with your birth date.
  • Persons with disabilities who are, according to Federal and State law, “unable without special facilities or special planning or design to utilize public transportation facilities and services effectively.” [49 USC 1608 (c)(4), Section 99206.5, CA PUC]. Learn more about accessibility for disabled riders.
  • Medicare card holders who have a Key ID, which can be acquired by presenting a Medicare card, a photo ID and by completing the reduced fare application.
  • Present your Veteran ID Card (VIC) to the Guest Services counter in the Customer Experience Center. The discount card is valid for two years. To learn more, read the discount fare brochure.
  • Enrolled students at The Ohio State University, Capital University, Columbus College of Art and Design, and students attending Columbus City Schools, who have an ID displaying the COTA logo. Students must be currently enrolled and swipe a valid ID when boarding the bus. To get more details, read about our student discounts.
Fare Option Regular Fares Reduced Rate Fares
Standard and Frequent $2.00 $1.00
Transfers No fare* No fare
With ADA Card No fare No fare
DayPass $4.50 $2.25
31-Day Pass $62.00 $31.00

*Transfers are available upon request and are valid for up to two hours.