A year from being approved, new CATS routes serving LSU and Nicholson areas no closer to fruition

    The lack of a downtown Baton Rouge hub for the Capital Area Transit System is one of three factors CATS officials cite as impediments to the implementation of the LSU Express and Nicholson Drive routes that the agency announced more than a year ago.

    CATS spokeswoman Amie McNaylor says the transit agency continues to work with the city-parish government and Planning Commission to find a suitable site for the downtown hub—a search that began last March. Earlier this month, officials had to return to the drawing board after plans to locate the hub at the Capitol Park Welcome Center at Third and Lafayette streets fell through.  

    McNaylor says the other two factors holding up the new routes are fleet reliability and workforce availability.

    The two long-delayed routes, along with the lightly-used Garden District Trolley, were approved by the East Baton Rouge Metro Council last year as part of a campaign to attract new riders of choice—that is, those who have other modes of reliable transportation but choose public transit. The three new routes were to expand CATS’ offerings to 33 routes, but thus far only the Garden District Trolley has been launched.

    “We would have liked to have them implemented by now, yes, but providing quality service is our top priority. As such, we need to have all the pieces in place,” McNaylor says in an email. “We have not set a date for implementation at this time.”

    To address the aging fleet, McNaylor says CATS has begun a plan that calls for purchasing 12 new buses each year.

    “We expect to take delivery of four new 2016 buses in the second quarter of 2016 and eight more new 2016 buses in the last quarter of 2016,” she says.

    The LSU route would link the campus to the CATS terminal at Florida Boulevard and 22nd Street. The Nicholson route would include limited stops between downtown, the LSU campus and residential neighborhoods south of campus. The Garden District Trolley circulates between the Garden District and downtown.

    Since being launched in January, early ridership figures on the Garden District Trolley have not been favorable, and are on the decline since peaking in March. Figures provided by CATS show the following number of passengers: 249 in January, 708 in February, 733 in March, 548 in April, 615 in May, 460 in June, 323 in July, and 392 in August.

    McNaylor says CATS is one month into a new contract with Covalent Logic, a local web design and development firm, and has discussed with the company marketing plans for the trolley to increase ridership. However, a date to begin marketing the trolley has not been set, she adds.

    —Ryan Broussard

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