CATS considering bus rapid transit between LSU, downtown

CATS considering bus rapid transit between LSU, downtown

As CATS prepares for Sunday's rollout of its new bus route system—which includes 20 route changes, 10 new routes and 5 new hubs—CEO Bob Mirabito is looking ahead to what could be one of the transit agency's next initiatives: providing bus rapid transit service along the Nicholson Drive corridor between LSU and downtown.

"We have had discussions with a number of folks and have suggested to the mayor's office that we might want to look at bus rapid transit as an interim solution to servicing Nicholson," Mirabito says.

BRT is an enhanced bus system that operates on bus lanes or other transitways in order to combine the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail. By doing so, BRT operates at faster speeds and provides greater service reliability and increased customer convenience. "You could use that particular form of transportation to build amenities along Nicholson that would not only support bus rapid transit but streetcar," he says.

The city's new master plan, FuturEBR, calls for the development of a streetcar line along Nicholson that would link LSU with the planned Water Campus, River District and downtown.

But a streetcar is costly and is still several years from becoming reality. BRT, on the other hand, could be developed relatively quickly and CATS already has nearly $2 million in federal grant money earmarked for the purpose that it has had since 2006, Mirabito says.

"We've never spent it because we always needed matching funds, and before the 2012 dedicated CATS tax was passed the agency never had enough local money to match the federal funds," he says.

Mirabito estimates a BRT system along Nicholson would cost about $5 million to get off the ground. The agency's next step is to begin putting together a plan. Mirabito is meeting next month with consultant John Fregonese, who is helping the city implement FuturEBR, and members of the Capital Region Planning Commission to discuss his ideas.

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