CATS board unanimously approves route eliminations and changes; Metro Council to have final say next month

    With a proposal to eliminate a pair of Capital Area Transit System routes getting unanimous approval from the CATS board on Tuesday evening, the plan is now in the Metro Council’s hands.

    CATS spokeswoman Aime McNaylor says CATS officials will be spending the next few weeks reaching out to each council member to brief them on the plan and answer any questions they may have. The council is set to introduce the item at its meeting on Wednesday next week, and set a public hearing and final vote on the issue for its Nov. 10 meeting.

    “CATS is responsible for taking money from underperforming routes and making the high performing routes better, so I don’t anticipate we would get any kind of pushback” from the council, McNaylor says.

    Up for elimination are two routes connecting riders to downtown Baton Rouge—one from The Mall of Louisiana and another from O’Neal Lane. CATS officials have cited low ridership as the reason for the eliminations, and they’re also proposing changes to 11 other routes, including adding 50 weekday bus hours over five routes, adding six busses to five routes during peak times, and changes to time and scheduling in multiple routes. CATS estimates it will save $600,000 annually by eliminating the routes. If approved by the council, the changes will take effect on Dec. 6.

    If attendance at a pair of public hearings held on the route eliminations and changes are any indication, there won’t be much public objection to the plan at the Nov. 10 hearing and council vote. At the first meeting on Wednesday last week just one person showed up. Attendance was a little better at the second meeting on Monday, but McNaylor says just four people showed up. CATS CEO Bob Mirabito has said “the lack of attendance speaks to how underused these routes are.”

    Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the CATS board cast a unanimous 9-0 vote to approve the purchase of four Dodge Caravans for $21,107 each. McNaylor says the vans will used to improve the efficiency of swapping out drivers on CATS routes during shift changes. Rather than having drivers return to the CATS hub at Florida and 22nd streets after their shift is up, the vans will meet them along the route.

    “We will be able to relieve more than one operator at a time and it won’t tie up any additional buses that could be out serving the routes,” McNaylor says.

    —Steve Sanoski

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