Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority
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|
|Headquarters||602 Main Street|
|Service type||bus service, paratransit, express bus service, streetcar|
|Stations||17 streetcar station stops|
|Fleet||353 transit buses, 5 streetcars, and 46 paratransit vehicles|
|Daily ridership||48,000 unlinked passenger trips|
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[update], the agency operates 50 bus routes and facilitates approximately 16 million passenger trips annually.
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%.
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 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.
|Number||Route name(s)||Average weekday boardings ||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|
Montgomery Job Connection
|4||Kenwood- Blue Ash, Ridge Road, Silverton - Blue Ash, Norwood||3,774||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|11||Madison Road - Oakley
Erie Avenue - Hyde Park
|14X||Forest Park Express||240||No||No||No||Yes|
Mt. Healthy Express
|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|
|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|
|31||West End - Evanston Crosstown||1,703||Yes||Yes||N/A||No|
|32||Delhi - Price Hill
Glenway Crossing - Price Hill
|33||Western Hills - Glenway||3,778||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|38X||Glenway Crossing - Uptown Express||97||No||No||No||No|
|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|
|51||Glenway Crossing - Hyde Park Crosstown||1,655||Yes||Yes||N/A||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|
Colerain Express via Banning
Anderson Job Connection
|78||Springdale - Vine
|81X||Mount Washington Express||65||No||No||No||Yes|
|85||Riverfront Parking Shuttle||501||Yes||No||N/A||Yes|
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 stations
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.
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 purchase a special UC*Metro card, costing $53 and $160 per semester, respectively. 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. 
All fixed-route buses have a bike rack mounted on the front with room for two bicycles.
Current Bus Fleet
|Year||Manufacturer||Model||Fleet Numbers||Engine & Transmission||Fuel Type||Garage||Notes|
|2001||Gillig||Phantom||924-974 (8 in service)||
||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)||
||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)||
|2006||Gillig||Advantage||6000-6039 (38 in service)||
||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)||
|2008||New Flyer||D40LF||8001-8024 (24 in service)||
|2008–09||New Flyer||DE40LF||8025-8030 (6 in service)||
9000-9031, 9038-9067 (62 in service)
||Diesel||9000-9011, 9038-9052 BH
9012-9031, 9053-9067 QG
|2009||New Flyer||D60LF||9033-9037 (5 in service)||
||Diesel||Bond Hill||Used on routes 3/3X, and 78 weekdays.|
|2010||New Flyer||DE40LF||9068-9070 (3 in service)||
|2010||New Flyer||DE30LFR||1001-1004 (4 in service)||
||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 on weekends.
|2011||New Flyer||DE40LFR||1101-1114 (14 in service)||
|1113 used on route 90 METRO*PLUS as a spare bus.|
|2011-12||Gillig||Low Floor Standard||1201-1245 (45 in service)||
|1201 is a 2011 model.
1202-1245 are 2012 models.
|2013||Gillig||BRTPlus||1301-1310 (10 in service)||
||Diesel||Queensgate||Used on route 90 METRO*PLUS|
|2013||Gillig||Low Floor Standard||1321-1343 (23 in service)||
|2015||Gillig||Low Floor Standard||1501-1537 (37 in service)||
|1533-1537 are configured differently. They have Allison transmissions and include the kneeler on the door handle for easier access.
1533 is wrapped specifically for the 2016 Operator of the Year, George Johnson.
|2016||Gillig||Low Floor Commuter||1601-1622 (22 in service)||
|Will be used for express routes 42, 52, 71, and 82. Began service December 5, 2016|
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:
- Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), serving Columbus, Ohio
- Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), serving Cleveland, Ohio
- Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (formerly the Miami Valley RTA), serving Dayton, Ohio
- "SORTA's current GTFS feed data". Go-Metro.com. SORTA. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- "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.
- "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.
- "SORTA Ridership data 2014". Cincinnati Transit Blog.
- "Fare Information". SORTA. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
- "New UC/Metro Partnership a Sizzling Summer Success".
- "UC*Metro".. University of Cincinnati.
- "National Transit Database". National Transit Database. Federal Transit Administration. 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