First of two public hearings on CATS route eliminations draws just one attendee

    Perhaps it was fitting that a public hearing hosted by the Capital Area Transit System this week to discuss CATS’ plan to eliminate two routes due to low ridership attracted just one attendee.

    Just one man showed up at the first of two planned meetings on Wednesday night—and even he wasn’t interested in the proposed route eliminations. Rather, he was looking for details on how any changes CATS is considering might affect the route he routinely rides.

    CATS CEO Bob Mirabito says in a statement that while he “would have liked to see more participation, the lack of attendance speaks to how underused these routes are.”

    CATS will host another public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Monday at BREC’s Forest Community Park, 13900 South Harrell’s Ferry Road. On Tuesday, the CATS board of directors will vote on the route eliminations. If the board OKs them, as expected, the Metro Council will introduce the item at its Oct. 28 meeting, setting up a public hearing and vote on Nov. 10.

    If approved, a pair of routes that connect with downtown Baton Rouge—one from The Mall of Louisiana and another from O’Neal Lane—will be eliminated on Dec. 6. Besides eliminating the two routes, CATS officials are 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 will save $600,000 annually by eliminating the routes, and Mirabito says the funds would be put back into the CATS system for other uses.

    While CATS considers the route changes, two other long-proposed routes—one connecting LSU to downtown and another along Nicholson Drive—remain in limbo. CATS officials have said impediments to implementing these routes are fleet reliability, workforce availability and the lack of a centralized downtown hub.

    While it might make sense to take the busses and drivers from the O’Neal and Mall of Louisiana routes and move them into the Nicholson Drive and LSU routes, CATS spokeswoman Aime McNaylor says it’s not that simple.

    “Any time we make a route change, our planners consider different scenarios that will allow us to improve our performance,” McNaylor says. “Right now, this means CATS will take the resources from these two routes and distribute them among our existing system. Our goal is to provide the best service to our customers daily, and without additional resources—vehicles, operators, and the certainty of the downtown hub—we feel it is premature to implement new routes and still give our customers the enhancements they need, especially on the high-volume routes.”

    —Ryan Broussard

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