Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is the public transport agency serving Cincinnati and its Ohio suburbs. The agency provides Metro transit bus service, Access paratransit service, and the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar system in downtown Cincinnati. SORTA replaced the Cincinnati Transit Commission, which operated buses from 1952 to 1973. As of 2015[update], the agency operates 50 bus routes and facilitates approximately 16 million passenger trips annually.
A Metro Route 41 bus heads West on Galbraith Road in North College Hill, Ohio in 2010
|Owner||City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County|
|Area served||Hamilton County (in addition provides commuter routes from Butler County, Clermont County, and Warren County into Cincinnati)|
|Transit type||Bus, Express bus service, Paratransit, Streetcar|
|Number of lines||
|Number of stations||4,465 bus stops, 18 streetcar stations|
|Daily ridership||53,147 unlinked passenger trips|
|Chief executive||Darryl Haley|
|Headquarters||602 Main Street, Cincinnati, Ohio|
|Began operation||December 30, 1952 (as Cincinnati Transit Commission)|
|Number of vehicles||353 transit buses, 46 paratransit vehicles, 5 streetcars|
SORTA was funded primarily by Cincinnati's city earnings tax, second by fares, and third by federal sources, with some other minor sources. This stood in contrast to other Ohio transit agencies, such as COTA and GCRTA which are primarily funded by sales tax. For a sense of perspective, the portion of Cincinnati's earnings tax going to Metro's budget was about 0.3%. On May 14th, 2020 Hamilton County voters passed Issue 7, which switches the source of SORTA funding to a sales tax. The sales tax in Hamilton County will be raised to 7.8% and the Cincinnati earnings tax is eliminated. The levy is projected to generate 130 million dollars a year, which will be split 100/30 between Metro and road infrastructure respectively. 
SORTA operates about 40 major fixed bus routes, as well as a demand-responsive paratransit service. Of the major routes, roughly half run only at rush hours and are essentially commuter services, some of them serving the reverse commute. The other half operate throughout the day, and some offer better frequency at the rush hours. Approximately 90% of all trips are made on the all-day routes, 10% on the express commuter routes. In 2012 SORTA released its schedule information in the General Transit Feed Specification, making schedules more easily available to customers.
SORTA also provides school bus services to Cincinnati Public Schools with vehicles from their fleet of transit buses. School bus routes, called Metro XTRA, are technically open to any fare-paying customer. However, they are circuitous, not well advertised, and mostly used by CPS students. School bus routes are not listed in the table below.
SORTA operates the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar system between downtown and Over-the-Rhine. Cincinnati Bell owns the naming rights for the streetcar until 2026. Service began at noon on September 9, 2016. General fare is $1 for a 2-hour pass and $2 for a 24-Hour pass; however, transfers to buses require paying difference in fares. Tickets can be purchased at ticket vending machines posted at each station.
Routes 29X, and 82X extend into neighboring Clermont County under an arrangement with the Clermont Transportation Connection. Routes 71 and 71X extend into neighboring Warren County under an arrangement with Warren County Transit. Routes 42 and 42X extend into neighboring Butler County under an agreement with Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA).
|Number||Route name||Service Days||Garage|
|1||Mt. Adams- Eden Park||Monday - Friday||Queensgate|
|2X||Madeira Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|3||Montgomery Job Connection||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|3X||Montgomery Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|4||Kenwood - Blue Ash||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|4||Ridge Road||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|4||Silverton - Blue Ash||Monday - Friday||Bond Hill|
|4||Norwood||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|6||Queen City||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|11||Madison Road - Oakley||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|11||Erie Avenue - Hyde Park||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|11||Madison Road - Fifth Third||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour.||Bond Hill|
|12X||Madisonville Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|14X||Forest Park Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|15X||Mt. Healthy Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|15X||Daly Road Express||Weekdays During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|16||Mt. Healthy||Monday - Saturday||Queensgate|
|17||Seven Hills||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|17||Mt. Airy||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|17||Mt. Healthy||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|17||Northgate||Monday - Saturday||Queensgate|
|19||Colerain - Northgate||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|20||Winton Road - Tri-County||Monday - Saturday||Queensgate|
|21||Harrison Avenue||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|23||Forest Park Northside Job Connection||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|23X||Tri-County Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|24||Uptown - Mt. Lookout - Anderson||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|25X||Mount Lookout Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|27||Northside - Casey||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|28||East End - Madisonville||Monday - Friday||Queensgate|
|29X||Milford Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|30X||Beechmont Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|31||West End - Evanston Crosstown||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|32||Price Hill - Delhi - Sayler Park||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|32||Covedale - Price Hill via Matson||Monday - Friday||Queensgate|
|33||Western Hills - Glenway||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|38X||Glenway Crossing - Uptown Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|40X||Montana Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|41||Glenway Crossing - Mt. Airy - Oakley Crosstown||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|42||West Chester Job Connection||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|42X||West Chester Express||Weekdays During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|43||Reading - Lockland||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|43||Bond Hill||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|43||Winton Hills||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|43||Evendale - Woodlawn||Monday - Friday||Bond Hill|
|43||Roselawn||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|46||Avondale - Zoo||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|49||Fairmount - English Woods||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|50||Sayler Park - Addyston||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|51||Glenway Crossing - Uptown - Hyde Park Crosstown||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|52X||Harrison Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|64||Glenway Crossing - Westwood||Monday - Sunday||Queensgate|
|67||Sharonville Job Connection||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|71||Kings Island Job Connection||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|71X||Kings Island Express||Monday - Friday During AM Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|71X||Kings Island - Fields Ertel Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|72||Kings Island Direct||Seasonal (June - October)||Queensgate|
|74X||Colerain Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|74X||Colerain Express via Banning||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|75X||Anderson Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Bond Hill|
|77X||Delhi Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|78||Springdale - Vine||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|78||Lincoln Heights||Monday - Sunday||Bond Hill|
|81X||Mount Washington Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|82X||Eastgate Express||Monday - Friday During Rush Hour||Queensgate|
|85||Riverfront Parking Shuttle||Monday - Friday||Queensgate|
|90||Metro*Plus - Kenwood||Monday - Friday||Queensgate|
|100||Cincinnati Bell Connector||Monday - Sunday||Elm Street Depot|
Transit ridership in Greater Cincinnati has generally been on the decline for at least the last several decades. Of particular note, the 2008 recession significantly cut into SORTA's budget, resulting in service cuts and fare increases which seem to have had a very large impact on overall ridership. A few main lines, those running most frequently, account for a majority of all trips, while weekday rush-hour express services account for only about 10% of all trips.
Ridership also varies dramatically by time of day. Almost twice as many people board transit during the peak of either rush hour as do during midday. This phenomenon is also observed on the all-day lines, even if peak-hour-only services are disregarded.
|Year||Total unlinked passenger trips|
Stops and stationsEdit
Most of SORTA's roughly 5,000 stops are simply marked with a sign on a pole listing routes the stop serves, and are fairly infrastructure-light. Several dozen stops include bus shelters and covered benches. Several suburban stops are park-and-rides. Government Square is the main transit station, located downtown near Fountain Square. SORTA owns and operates the Riverfront Transit Center though it's only used for a layover point for the Metro*Plus route. Passengers are banned from this layover.
Currently, standard zone 1 fare is $1.75. Destinations outside the city of Cincinnati can cost between $2.65 and $4.25. Transfers are $0.50 extra and can be used on up to two vehicles & expire within two hours of issuance; round-trips or stopovers prohibited. Applicable zone charges may apply if traveling outside of whichever zone the rider has a transfer for. 24-Hour Passes are $4.50 within Zone 1 or $6.30 within Zone 2, plus fare difference if past it. No fare to kids under 35 inches (89 cm); limit 2 per fare paying passenger.
On April 30, 2007, SORTA began a partnership with the University of Cincinnati to provide free rides to its students, staff, and faculty. The partnership was scheduled to last for two years and the initial response to the offer had been positive. Current policy requires students and faculty to pay $1 per ride and can get a transfer for 50 cents, which covers all zones. A similar offer is available to students at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and to Antonelli College students. Students can register for a free card which provide them with a $1 fare for any bus/train ride any direction. University of Cincinnati students and faculty are also eligible to choose this card instead of purchasing the other UC*METRO card.
Riders may also use SORTA's Cincy EZRide App, which is free to download. The app allows riders to plan trips, track a bus, and pay the fare within the app.
Garages and fleetEdit
SORTA operates about 350 buses on fixed routes, and about 50 smaller vehicles as part of their demand responsive services. All vehicles in SORTA's fleet are ADA accessible. On average, vehicles in the fixed route fleet are 6.9 years old, and in the demand-responsive fleet 1.4 years. Vehicles in the fixed route fleet are rated, on average, for a capacity and 65 passengers, both sitting and standing.
All fixed-route buses have a bike rack mounted on the front with room for two bicycles.
- Queensgate Garage 1401 Bank Street, Cincinnati, OH 45214
- Bond Hill Garage 4700 Paddock Road, Cincinnati, OH 45229
Current buses in service at Queensgate
|2006||Gillig||Low Floor||6000 – 6039||In the process of being retired. 6021, 6024-6031, 6033-6034 and 6037 remain in service.|
|2008||New Flyer||D40LF||8001 – 8024||First order ever of New Flyer buses|
|2008||New Flyer||DE40LF||8025 – 8030||First order ever of hybrid buses.|
|2009||New Flyer||D40LF||9012-9031, 9053-9067||9059 out of service due to severe rear end collision.|
|2010||New Flyer||DE40LF||9068 – 9070|
|2010||New Flyer||DE30LFR||1001 – 1004||Only transit agency to order these. Used on routes 1, 28, 50, and 85.|
|2011||New Flyer||DE40LFR||1108 – 1114||1113 used on Route 90.|
|2012||Gillig||Low Floor||1227 – 1245||1227 - 1235 moved to QG from BH as of 9/12/2020|
|2013||Gillig||Low Floor BRTPlus||1301 – 1310||Used mostly on Route 90. Can be on other routes on an as needed basis.|
|2013||Gillig||Low Floor||1321 – 1330||Bus 1322 is currently wrapped as part of Metro’s “MetroStrong” campaign that recognizes all employees that helped to keep Metro moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.|
|2015||Gillig||Low Floor||1526 – 1537||Equipped with Wi-Fi.|
|2016||Gillig||Low Floor Commute||1608 – 1622||Used on mostly routes 52X, 71/71X, and 82X. Occasionally used on other express routes on an as needed basis. Equipped with reclining seats, Wi-Fi & power outlets.|
|2018||Gillig||Low Floor||1801 – 1819||Equipped with Wi-Fi and power outlets.|
|2019||Gillig||Low Floor||1910 – 1934||Equipped with Wi-Fi, power outlets and interior camera monitors.|
|2020||Gillig||Low Floor||2012 - 2021||Equipped with improved rear brake lights, flushed windows, on board monitors, and cornering lights. In service as of 9/15/2020. 2017 has not been placed in service yet.|
Current buses in service at Bond Hill
|2009||New Flyer||D40LF||9000–9011, 9038–9052|
|2009||New Flyer||D60LF||9033 – 9037||Articulated buses. Used on routes 3/3X, 43, and 78 on weekdays. Not currently in service.|
|2011||New Flyer||DE40LFR||1101 – 1107|
|2012||Gillig||Low Floor||1202 – 1226||1214 out of service due to severe accident. 1227 - 1235 moved to QG.|
|2013||Gillig||Low Floor||1331 – 1343|
|2015||Gillig||Low Floor||1501 – 1525||Equipped with Wi-Fi. Bus 1504 is currently wrapped as part of Metro’s “MetroStrong” campaign that recognizes all employees that helped to keep Metro moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.|
|2016||Gillig||Low Floor Commute||1601 – 1607||Used mostly on route 42/42X. Used on other express routes on an as needed basis. Equipped with reclining seats, Wi-Fi & power outlets.|
|2018||Gillig||Low Floor||1820 – 1830||Equipped with Wi-Fi and power outlets.|
|2019||Gillig||Low Floor||1901 – 1909||Equipped with Wi-Fi, power outlets and interior camera monitors.|
|2020||Gillig||Low Floor||2001 - 2011||Equipped with improved rear brake lights, flushed windows, on board monitors, and cornering lights. In service as of 9/14/2020. 2009 not placed in service yet.|
Future bus orders
|2020||Gillig||Low Floor||TBD||Queensgate||Equipped with improved rear brake lights, flushed windows, on board monitors, and cornering lights. Expected arrival is end of year 2020. |
In 1993, SORTA began experimenting with the use of biodiesel. In 2001, SORTA operated about half of its bus fleet on a biodiesel blend. Since September 2005 (initially because of Hurricane Katrina), SORTA has continuously operated its buses with a biodiesel blend. In 2006, SORTA consumed almost 1.8 million gallons of biodiesel made from soybeans grown in Ohio.
Adjacent public transit agencies:
- Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA), serving Butler County, Ohio
- Clermont Transportation Connection (CTC), serving Clermont County, Ohio
- Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK), serving Northern Kentucky
- Warren County Transit, serving Warren County, Ohio
Other major public transit agencies in Ohio:
- "SORTA's current GTFS feed data". Go-Metro.com. SORTA. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- "SORTA September 2018 Ridership Report" (PDF). go-metro. SORTA. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2013" (PDF). Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. 2014. p. 19. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
- Coolidge, Sharon (October 6, 2016). "Full speed ahead: Streetcar operator will run more streetcars". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Gannett Company. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
- "About Metro". Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. 2015. Retrieved 2016-09-14.
- "Developer Data". Go-Metro.com. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Brownfield, Andy (August 18, 2016). "Cincinnati Bell buys streetcar naming rights". Cincinnati Business Courier. American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
- "Fare Information". SORTA. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
- "New UC/Metro Partnership a Sizzling Summer Success".
- "UC*Metro".. University of Cincinnati.
- "Cincy EZRide App - Go Metro". www.go-metro.com. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
- "National Transit Database". National Transit Database. Federal Transit Administration. Archived from the original on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "THAT'S A LOT OF SOYBEANS: METRO USED ALMOST 1.8 MILLION GALLONS OF BIODIESEL IN 2006".
- Go Metro, SORTA official website