CATS CEO to recommend existing Florida street terminal in place of new downtown hub

Capital Area Transit System CEO Bob Mirabito is ready to give up his search for a new downtown bus hub and says he will recommend to the agency’s board later this month that CATS utilize the bus terminal at Florida and 22nd streets as a hub.

Under that scenario, CATS would initiate a new connecting route of some sort between that site and downtown.

Mirabito, who has been working unsuccessfully for months with city leaders to find a suitable location for a downtown hub, says his decision was prompted by his frustration over the most recent suggested site for the downtown hub put forth by city officials: under Interstate 110.

“If you go ahead and move transit to the edge of downtown you marginalize its opportunity to be successful in serving downtown,” he says. “I don’t believe it’s in our customers’ best interest to stand under the Interstate and wait to transfer for a bus.”

Though the CATS terminal at Florida and 22nd streets is more than 1.5 miles from the edge of downtown—considerably further than I-110—Mirabito says the terminal at Florida and 22nd streets has heat, air conditioning and cover from the elements, which makes it preferable to the Interstate site in his opinion.

“Under the interstate does not offer that,” he says. “And no one has offered to pay for construction of a new terminal under the interstate.”

CATS’ search for a downtown hub began in early 2014, when it introduced a new route system that brought many more buses through downtown than did the old one. Initial sites at North Boulevard Town Square and across the street at the Manship Theater proved unsuitable because of congestion and fumes. The third location outside the Old State Capitol, currently in use, has also prompted concerns as well as a lawsuit by the Louisiana Secretary of State, who tried unsuccessfully to force CATS to move.

Other suggested sites, including River Road, the Capitol Park Welcome Center, and a site near the downtown post office have been nixed for one reason or another either by the city, CATS or downtown property owners.

“It’s a disappointment,” Mirabito says. “It is my understanding that one of the things people wanted to see was CATS bringing more people downtown and attracting riders of choice. By pushing us away from downtown, someone who wants to be a rider of choice will have to take an additional bus to get downtown, which is going to be a deterrent.”

Mirabito says relocating the downtown hub site is more costly and labor-intensive than one might assume, which is among the reasons the agency is being so particular about its hub site. He estimates the cost will be between $250,000 and $500,000.

“If we are going to move we are going to do it just once,” he says. “That is why I’m going to suggest we utilize our existing infrastructure.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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