COTA Transit Launch Party and Pop-Up Events

Central Ohio Transportation Authority Internal Events



The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) sought to introduce a new cashless fare management system to its bus riders, replacing traditional paper tickets with a mobile app. This transition required passengers to download the Transit App, create an account and link a payment to their mobile devices to access bus services.


EMS collaborated with COTA to design three immersive customer-centric experiences aimed at easing the transition and building excitement around the new payment system. Trained Brand Ambassadors played a pivotal role in guiding riders through the transition process.


Transit App Launch Party:



This one-day event held at COTA headquarters was designed to generate excitement and kickoff the transition to the cashless bus fare. EMS determined both the décor and interactive engagements were included to energize riders participating in the experience.



Outside the event venue, a lively DJ led dance parties next to a COTA bus stop, to garner more traffic to the event. Inside, EMS devised the “bus stops “concept to help customers navigate the transition. These six stops were strategically designed to guide customers through the process of adopting the new fare management system:


1.     Download the Transit App: At the first stop, riders were guided through the process of downloading the Transit app on their mobile devices.

2.     Account Setup: At this station, attendees learned how to set up their accounts on the app, ensuring a seamless transition.

3.     Payment Linking: The third stop provided step-by-step instructions on linking payment methods to the app.

4.     Benefits Exploration: At this station, guests discovered the various advantages of the new fare management system, including convenience and efficiency.

5.     Photo Opportunities: In addition to the educational aspect, the event included opportunities for guests to take printed photos as memorable souvenirs.

6.     Prize Wheel Excitement: To add an element of fun and excitement, attendees had the chance to spin a prize wheel, with the opportunity to win branded premiums while gaining insights into COTA’s innovative approach to transportation.



Pop-Up Activations & Bus Takeovers:



Following the Laund Party, EMS continued to engage riders through a series of Pop-Up activations at selected transit centers and local libraries, featuring tents and prize wheels.



Additionally, EMS pulled together a Brand Ambassador “hype squad” knowledgeable on the Transit App and helping customers transition, that took over COTA buses on high-traffic routes in Columbus to distributed QR codes to riders giving them to more information on the new fare and link to downloading the Transit App.


Results from the November 1st Transit App Launch Party revealed that 503 total accounts were created. Of those, 438 (87%) were created through the Transit app, while 65 (13%) were created and linked to a Smartcard. A total of 170 customers downloaded the Transit app during the one-day event and 13,600 opened the app that day compared to an average of 10,500 daily opens. Plus, 841 COTA customers used the app on the onboard scanner to ride and 263 riders transitioned day-of which was 0.86% of the total ridership. Engagement and usage on the app also increased by 38% from a week prior to the event. occurring on November 1st showed 657 (78%) from the Transit App and 184 (22%) from a Smartcard.



In total, the Transit Tour activated 11 events over two weeks and six days between November 1st and November 9th, reaching more than 670 customers through event experiences and quality conversations with Brand Ambassadors and members of Team COTA at each event. 869 branded premiums were distributed along with information materials.



The tour received additional exposure including a special live segment on the local morning news before the start of the Launch Party, placements in local advertisements as well as social media posts from COTA and its partnering businesses’ social media channels.



Overall, the events were successful in garnering awareness of the new fare management system, promoting downloads of the Transit app, and an excellent customer-centric way to support customers’ transition to the new way to pay.

Services Provided:
  • Event Management & Coordination
  • Program Logistics & Management
  • Display Creation
  • Setup & Teardown
  • Community Education & Outreach
  • Brand Ambassador Staffing
  • Mobile App Promotion
  • Anecdotal Feedback & Data Capture
Client Category: Public Transportation


guest interactions
accounts created
increase in app usage post-launch
0 %
premiums & informational materials distributed