COTA

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - Kperry@dis­patch.com @kim­ballperry

Pinker­ton im­pressed, Ryan and fel­low board mem­ber Michael Stevens said, by dis­cussing more than buses.

“She is bring­ing an in­clu­sive view of mo­bil­ity and trans­porta­tion and the role that tran­sit plays in that,” Stevens said.

Pinker­ton is a

civil-en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate of Ohio North­ern Univer­sity whose pro­fes­sional ca­reer in­cludes pub­lic, pri­vate and high­ere­d­u­ca­tion venues.

She started in com­mer­cial con­struc­tion. She then worked for the Union County en­gi­neer, the Ohio Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Ohio State Univer­sity.

Pinker­ton is the chief

op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Lo­gan County’s Trans­porta­tion Re­search Cen­ter, an East Lib­erty non­profit group af­fil­i­ated with Ohio State Univer­sity that re­searches the au­to­mo­tive, mo­bil­ity and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­tries.

“We wanted some­one who would cre­ate a sys­tem that drives eco­nomic devel­op­ment,” Ryan said. “She’s got this grasp of mo­bil­ity that is broader than just trans­porta­tion.”

Over the past few years, COTA has tried to re­make it­self from an agency that serves bus riders to one that is an eco­nomic en­gine for the region and an in­te­gral part of where and how the com­mu­nity works and lives. It changed bus routes and hours to bet­ter help work­ers get to their jobs seven days a week, from early morn­ing to late evening.

COTA is team­ing with Smart Colum­bus to see how they can take ad­van­tage of tech­nol­ogy to im­prove mo­bil­ity and lives.

“It’s about dif­fer­ent mo­bil­ity op­tions and how tran­sit is evolv­ing,” said Stevens, who, in ad­di­tion to his COTA board seat, is the chief in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer for the city of Colum­bus, lead­ing Smart Colum­bus.

While at ODOT, Pinker­ton was the first worker to em­pha­size trans­porta­tion in­vest­ments to help lo­gis­tics and man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries grow. “She has an eco­nomic- and com­mu­nity-devel­op­ment fo­cus,” Ryan said.

In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing ac­cess to

pub­lic trans­porta­tion at more hours of the day to get peo­ple to jobs, COTA has been con­sid­er­ing how com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing Uber, Lyft and Car2Go, can af­fect what it does and hopes to do.

“Ev­ery­where she goes, she takes the ini­tia­tive, picks up the ball and takes on dif­fer­ent is­sues,” Ryan said.

One ex­am­ple, Stevens added, was help­ing Colum­bus win the Smart City des­ig­na­tion.

“She was part of the pre­sen­ta­tion to the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion on the im­por­tance of tran­sit,” Stevens said. “She’s been in­volved in Smart Colum­bus from the start.”

In 2016, Colum­bus beat out 77 other U.S. cities in the Smart Cities chal­lenge, win­ning $50 mil­lion in grants to cre­ate a “smart” trans­porta­tion sys­tem in which ve­hi­cles and roads communicate to make travel eas­ier and safer.

At Ohio State, Pinker­ton was chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of its Cen­ter for Au­to­mo­tive Re­search and then co-di­rec­tor of the Honda-Ohio State Part­ner­ship, a re­la­tion­ship with the univer­sity’s largest cor­po­rate part­ner. It in­cludes more than $50 mil­lion in en­dow­ments for OSU and in­volve­ment with the Trans­porta­tion Re­search Cen­ter.

At that cen­ter, Pinker­ton’s fo­cus was in­creased growth of the coun­try’s largest in­de­pen­dent trans­porta­tion prov­ing ground.

While work­ing for the Union County en­gi­neer, Pinker­ton helped de­velop in­no­va­tions in the North­west U.S. 33 In­no­va­tion Cor­ri­dor. Now, a 35-mile stretch of that fed­eral high­way is where ODOT is spend­ing about $15 mil­lion to test tech­nolo­gies for driver­less ve­hi­cles and smart roads.

COTA pro­vides 19 mil­lion trips a year through a $151 mil­lion an­nual bud­get; $130 mil­lion of that comes from two Franklin County sales taxes. The author­ity serves all of Franklin County and parts of Union, Lick­ing, Delaware and Fair­field coun­ties.

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