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Local organization to raise money for mass transit

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 4:38pm

BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) -- A new local group wants to find another way to help fund mass transportation. That's after the CATS budget came up short this year, leaving many Baton Rouge residents worried about how they'll get around.

CATS is out over a million dollars this year. That means cutting some bus routes from the program, and charging more to ride. However, a new coalition of concerned citizens wants to stop that from happening.

For Ernestine Nelson, every time she rides the bus, it's an important trip. "There are some times when I need to go to the doctor. I need to go to the hospital. I need to get to and from the store." She is one of hundreds of people who need the bus system to get around.

"People have jobs and stuff," says bus rider Bryant Brown. "We depend on the bus system. What could we do without the bus system?"

Now, a new agency is stepping up to help people, like Nelson and Brown, who rely on CATS. They're called NxGen Mass Transit. "Everyone who attended that meeting is concerned about the system, but everyone doesn't know where to take their voices to be heard,"says Ralph Johnson with NxGen.

The coalition wants to find a dependable source of funding for mass transportation in Baton Rouge, one that would support the program long-term. That money could come from anywhere. The organization wants help from both the state and community stakeholders. They need enough to cover that one million dollar shortfall this year.

"If Baton Rouge is truly to be America's next best city, we have to continue fighting for what this community needs," says Johnson.

Riders say they're happy to see a group that wants to help. "Everybody has to stand up. Can't no one or two people do it alone," says Brown.

They're hoping it means a better bus system. "Maybe more buses on the routes," says Nelson. "So we don't have to wait two and three hours waiting on one bus."

For now, they just want to keep the transit system up and running, so they can get where they need to go.

"It's worth it because we have no other way to travel."

NxGen representatives tell us they don't expect to see changes overnight. They will be at the Metro Council meeting tomorrow night, where council members plan to vote on the proposed CATS changes.

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