Comparing CATS: What’s around the next corner?

Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 6:09pm

UPDATED: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 5:06pm

Baton Rouge leaders are back from a transit summit in Louisville, Kentucky, where they hoped to learn ways to fix the Capitol Area Transit System (CATS). They looked at the public transportation system there, its impact on the community, and what lesson CATS could learn from them.

The CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber Adam Knapp says CATS has a long way to go before it can be effective in the Capital Area.

Knapp, along with several other leaders in Baton Rouge, say they learned about a lot about ways to improve this still struggling transportation system.

The biggest thing lesson related to the wait time.

The average time it takes someone in Baton Rouge to get on one of these busses is 75 minutes. That’s compared to 15 minutes in Louisiville.

Knapp told NBC33 News that improving the wait time will fix a lot of other things, but it's going to take money and leadership.

Only about 10 thousand people get on these busses every year in Baton Rouge. That's compared to almost 45 thousand in Louisville.

“A staggering difference of the quality of service you get and the way the transit system is treated,” Knapp explained.

“As a region, they do a lot of things to cooperate on transportation.”

Louisville spends about $70-thousand a year on their transit system. That's compared to just $12-thousand a year for Baton Rouge and CATS. Knapp says that hurts Baton Rouge at every turn, especially when it comes to growth and bringing business to the Capital City.

“Every place we compete with that we look at has quality transit options as part of the way they get cars off the road,” he said.

Knapp says another big difference is getting businesses on board. He says it's a big difference in Louisville.

“Their hospital systems were incredibly reliant on this - their malls - their restaurants - their hotels - it became a major source of service.”
And he says if it happens in Baton Rouge, it could make a big difference.

Now Knapp, along with city and parish leaders, say a lot of the systems problems could be fixed come April. That's when voters will decide a property tax proposal.

Approval would include almost 11-million property tax that would be in place for ten years.

It'd bring almost $18-million to the struggling transportation system.

CATS officials say if it passes they'd be able to expand service and routes, but if it doesn't, they could shut down by July.

Reverend Raymond Jetson with Together Baton Rouge says that's the worst case scenario.

“The economic impact on its face is going to be tremendous,” he said. “The hardship it would cause is untenable to even consider. You can’t be a great city without a good transit system and this is one of the areas where we are really struggling to show our self to be the quality community that I believe we are.”

The Baton Rouge Metro Council ready to approve a resolution supporting that tax proposal, but not everyone's on board.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker says he's not on board because not everyone uses CATS.

But members like Tara Wicker say no matter how few use the system, losing CATS would be quote catastrophic for the city.

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