COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s capital city is grappling with its role as a transportation underdog in the bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention by hiring one of the experts in the field.
Brian Wickersham has overseen transportation at past Democratic conventions and for Superbowls and the Olympics.
Wickersham told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he believes Columbus is ideally situated to accommodate convention goers, despite it lacking the subways available in the other finalist cities, New York and Philadelphia. He said Columbus is easy to navigate and commutes from hotels around the city’s outskirts average only 20 minutes.
“Twenty minutes is ideal really for a commute,” Wickersham said. “At some of the conventions I’ve worked in the past — Los Angeles, for instance — the average commute time was far, far greater than 20 minutes.”
DNC officials have stressed that a city must meet logistical requirements — fundraising, ample hotel rooms and local transportation — before political factors such as swing state status, labor union relations and cultural diversity are considered.
A national political convention requires moving between 35,000 and 40,000 people throughout the city. That’s about the number the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center stop, near New York’s proposed convention site in Brooklyn, serves on an average weekday — a point Mayor Bill de Blasio highlighted when the convention committee visited this summer. The Barclays Center sits atop a transit hub with nine subway lines and a commuter rail line.
“When it comes to transportation, no one compares to New York City,” said spokeswoman Marti Adams. “We have the most extensive transportation network in the United States, hands down. As we demonstrate on a regular basis, New York City knows how to move large groups on our roads and waterways and in the subways without disrupting the flow of the city, and we’ve developed a plan to move delegates between venues and boroughs.”
Critically for Columbus, Adams said part of New York’s promise is to transport delegates from midtown Manhattan hotels to the Barclays Center in less than 15 minutes.
Philadelphia, too, has a well-established public transit network that includes both a subway and light rail system. But the City of Brotherly Love also has emphasized the walkability of its Wells Fargo Center convention site to cultural, hotels, food and history in its downtown.
Wickersham said the subway debate is misplaced. He said convention delegates almost always travel by private motor coaches, not on public transportation — whether subways, buses, or any other mode.
“It’s based on the schedules, where the events are,” he said. “The light rail system they had in Charlotte, for instance, didn’t really have access from the hotels to where they needed to go to the convention center or to the convention hall.”
Columbus officials were in Washington, D.C., this week as part of ongoing convention talks. The final decision on a host city is expected by late January or early February.