Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority

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Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority
SORTA Metro logo.png
Cincinnati-metro-41 north-college-hill 2010.jpg
A Cincinnati Metro Route 41 bus heads West on Galbraith Road in North College Hill, Ohio in 2010
Parent Hamilton County and Cincinnati City Council
Founded 1973
Headquarters 602 Main Street
Locale Cincinnati, Ohio
Service type bus service, paratransit, express bus service, streetcar
  • 22 local
  • 1 limited
  • 20 express
  • 162 tripper
  • 1 streetcar
Stops 4,465[1]
Stations 17 streetcar station stops
Fleet 353 transit buses, 5 streetcars, and 46 paratransit vehicles
Daily ridership 48,000 unlinked passenger trips[2]
Operator MV Transportation[3]

Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, abbreviated 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, the agency operates 50 bus routes and facilitates approximately 16 million passenger trips annually.[5]

SORTA is funded primarily by Cincinnati's city earnings tax, second by fares, and third by federal sources, with some other minor sources. This stands 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 is about 0.3%.

Downtown Cincinnati is also served by the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK), whose transit services extend over the Ohio River into Northern Kentucky.


Network map, 2011

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.[6]

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.[7] Service began at noon on September 9, 2016. General fare is $1 for a 2-hour pass and $2 for an all day pass; however, transfers to buses require paying difference in fares. Tickets can be purchased at ticket vending machines posted at each station.

Routes 28, 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.

SORTA Routes
Number Route name(s) Average weekday boardings [8] Off-peak service Weekend service Reverse commute Goes Downtown
100 Cincinnati Bell Connector TBA Yes Yes N/A
1 Museum Center - Eden Park 270 Yes Yes N/A Yes
2X Madeira Express 185 No No No Yes
3-3X Montgomery Express

Montgomery Job Connection

350 No No No Yes
4 Kenwood- Blue Ash, Ridge Road, Silverton - Blue Ash, Norwood 3,774 Yes Yes N/A Yes
6 Queen City 1,406 Yes Yes N/A Yes
11 Madison Road - Oakley

Erie Avenue - Hyde Park

2,890 Yes Yes N/A Yes
12X Madisonville Express 67 No No No Yes
14X Forest Park Express 240 No No No Yes
15X Daly Express

Mt. Healthy Express

347 No No No Yes
16 Mt. Healthy 814 Yes Yes N/A Yes
17 Seven Hills, Mt. Healthy, Mt. Airy, Northgate 4,467 Yes Northgate runs Mon-Sat N/A Yes
19 Colerain - Northgate 2,102 Yes Yes N/A Yes
20 Winton Road - Tri-County 941 Yes Yes N/A Yes
21 Harrison Avenue 2,343 Yes Yes N/A Yes
23 Forest Park Northside Job Connection < 300 No No Yes No
23X Forest Park Tri-County Express < 300 No No No Yes
24 Uptown - Mt. Lookout - Anderson 1,408 Yes Yes N/A Yes
25X Mount Lookout Express 67 No No No Yes
27 Northside - Casey 1,382 Yes Yes N/A Yes
28 East End - Milford 261 Yes Milford extension operates on weekdays only N/A Yes
29X Milford Express 205 No No Partial Yes
30X Beechmont Express 203 No No Partial Yes
31 West End - Evanston Crosstown 1,703 Yes Yes N/A No
32 Delhi - Price Hill

Glenway Crossing - Price Hill

1,213 Yes Yes N/A Yes
33 Western Hills - Glenway 3,778 Yes Yes N/A Yes
38X Glenway Crossing - Uptown Express 97 No No No No
40X Montana Express 144 No No No Yes
41 Glenway Crossing - Oakley Crosstown 886 Yes Yes N/A No
42X West Chester Express Job Connection 468 No No Partial Yes
43 Reading - Lockland

Evendale - Woodlawn, Roselawn, Winton Hills, Bond Hill

5,975 Yes Evendale-Woodlawn runs weekdays only N/A Yes
46 Avondale - Zoo 1,791 Yes Yes N/A Yes
49 Fairmount - English Woods 311 Yes Yes N/A Yes
50 Sayler Park 284 Yes Yes N/A Yes
51 Glenway Crossing - Hyde Park Crosstown 1,655 Yes Yes N/A No
52X Harrison Express 177 No No No No
64 Glenway Crossing - Ferguson 1,968 Yes Yes N/A Yes
67 Sharonville Job Connection 51 No No Yes Yes
71X Kings Island Express 306 No No No Yes
71 Kings Island Job Connection 306 No No Yes Yes
74X Colerain Express

Colerain Express via Banning

356 No No No Yes
75X Anderson Express

Anderson Job Connection

193 No No Partial Yes
77X Delhi Express 127 No No No Yes
78 Springdale - Vine

Lincoln Heights

2,757 Yes Yes N/A Yes
81X Mount Washington Express 65 No No No Yes
82X Eastgate Express 136 No No No Yes
85 Riverfront Parking Shuttle 501 Yes No N/A Yes
90 Metro*Plus 1,564 Yes No N/A Yes


Weekday ridership through the day by line, 2014

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.

Annual Ridership
Year Total unlinked passenger trips
1991 28,845,617
1992 27,883,500
1993 26,009,113
1994 25,212,426
1995 23,980,156
1996 26,456,015
1997 26,227,001
1998 28,809,040
1999 26,383,074
2000 26,637,640
2001 25,066,546
2002 24,615,383
2003 24,143,526
2004 23,319,650
2005 26,158,352
2006 25,555,566
2007 26,146,916
2008 26,072,321
2009 23,120,952
2010 19,007,620
2011 18,957,732
2012 17,553,120

Stops and stations[edit]

Located on Fifth Street between Walnut and Main in Cincinnati, Government Square serves as Metro's downtown transit hub

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. No passengers are allowed at 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, which can't be used for round-trips nor stopovers; no charge next two uses within 2 hours. Day Passes are $4.50 within Zone 1 or $6.30 within Zone 2. No fare to kids under 35 inches (89 cm); limit 2 per fare-paying passenger.[9]

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.[10] Current policy requires students and faculty to purchase a special UC*Metro card, costing $53 and $160 per semester, respectively.[11] 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 ride one direction. University of Cincinnati students and faculty are also eligible to choose this card instead of purchasing the other UC*METRO card.


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.[12]

All fixed-route buses have a bike rack mounted on the front with room for two bicycles.

Current Bus Fleet[edit]

Year Manufacturer Model Fleet Numbers Engine & Transmission Fuel Type Garage Notes
2001 Gillig Phantom 924-974 (8 in service)
  • Cummins ISC
  • Voith D864.3
Diesel Queensgate 924-946, 948-949 were retired in 2015.

947, 950-960, 963-967, 969 retired in December 2016. 8 will remain in service until funds are available for new buses. 940, 942, 944, & 948 were sent to Lextran in Lexington, KY.

2002 Gillig Phantom 2100-2137 (32 in service)
  • Cummins ISC
  • Voith D864.3
Diesel 2101-2102, 2105-2119, 2121-2125 QG

2127-2137 Bond Hill

2120 retired in 2012. 2126 retired in February 2014. 2100, 2103, 2104 and 2106 retired in December 2016.
2004 Gillig Phantom 4000-4022 (23 in service)
  • Cummins ISM
  • Allison B400R
Diesel 4000-4008 BH

4009-4022 QG

2006 Gillig Advantage 6000-6039 (38 in service)
  • Cummins ISM
  • Allison B400R
Diesel Queensgate 6003 retired and scrapped in 2015 due to an accident.

6022 retired and scrapped in 2010 for an unknown reason.

2008 Gillig Advantage 8000 (1 in service)
  • Cummins ISM
  • Allison B400R
Diesel Queensgate
2008 New Flyer D40LF 8001-8024 (24 in service)
  • Cummins ISM
  • Allison W400R
Diesel Queensgate
2008–09 New Flyer DE40LF 8025-8030 (6 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Allison EP-50 HybriDrive
Hybrid Queensgate
2009 New Flyer D40LF

9000-9031, 9038-9067 (62 in service)

  • Cummins ISM
  • Allison W400R
Diesel 9000-9011, 9038-9052 BH

9012-9031, 9053-9067 QG

2009 New Flyer D60LF 9033-9037 (5 in service)
  • Cummins ISM
  • Allison W500R
Diesel Bond Hill Used on routes 3/3X, and 78 weekdays.
2010 New Flyer DE40LF 9068-9070 (3 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Allison EP-50 HybriDrive
Hybrid Queensgate
2010 New Flyer DE30LFR 1001-1004 (4 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Allison EP-40 HybriDrive
Hybrid Queensgate The only transit authority to order these before they were discontinued by New Flyer.

Used on Route 1 every day and routes 28/50 occasionally on weekends.

2011 New Flyer DE40LFR 1101-1114 (14 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Allison EP-40 Electric Drive
Hybrid 1101-1107 BH

1108-1114 QG

1113 used on route 90 METRO*PLUS as a spare bus.
2011-12 Gillig Low Floor Standard 1201-1245 (45 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Voith D864.5
Diesel 1201-1235 BH

1236-1245 QG

1201 is a 2011 model.

1202-1245 are 2012 models.

2013 Gillig BRTPlus 1301-1310 (10 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Voith D864.5
Diesel Queensgate Used on route 90 METRO*PLUS
2013 Gillig Low Floor Standard 1321-1343 (23 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Voith D864.5
Diesel 1321-1330 QG

1331-1343 BH

2015 Gillig Low Floor Standard 1501-1537 (37 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Voith D864.5 (1501-1532)
  • Allison B400R (1533-1537)
Diesel 1501-1525 BH

1526-1537 QG

1533-1537 are configured differently. They have Allison transmissions and include the kneeler on the door handle for easier access.[13]
2016 Gillig Low Floor Commuter 1601-1622 (22 in service)
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Voith D864.5
Diesel 1601-1607 (BH)

1608-1622 (QG)

Will be used for express routes 42, 52, 71, and 82. Began service December 5, 2016

Public relations[edit]

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.[14]

See also[edit]

Adjacent public transit agencies:

Other major public transit agencies in Ohio:


  1. ^ "SORTA's current GTFS feed data". SORTA. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "National Transit Database, TS2.2 - Service Data and Operating Expenses Time-Series by System". National Transit Database. USDOT, Federal Transit Administration. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "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. 
  4. ^ Coolidge, Sharon (October 6, 2016). "Full speed ahead: Streetcar operator will run more streetcars". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Gannett Company. Retrieved October 7, 2016. 
  5. ^ "About Metro". Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. 2015. Retrieved 2016-09-14. 
  6. ^ "Developer Data". Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Brownfield, Andy (August 18, 2016). "Cincinnati Bell buys streetcar naming rights". Cincinnati Business Courier. American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 14, 2016. 
  8. ^ "SORTA Ridership data 2014". Cincinnati Transit Blog. 
  9. ^ "Fare Information". SORTA. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "New UC/Metro Partnership a Sizzling Summer Success". 
  11. ^ "UC*Metro". . University of Cincinnati.
  12. ^ "National Transit Database". National Transit Database. Federal Transit Administration. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  13. ^

External links[edit]