Covering Louisiana

Aug 31, 2014 12:52 PM by AP

Transit system gets high marks for improvements

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A report card issued by a Baton Rouge community group says the Capital Area Transit System is meeting many of its goals in improving service.

The Advocate reported the group Together Baton Rouge has been monitoring progress of the bus system, known as CATS.

The group lauded the system for reducing commute times and for building new hubs and adding routes.

But both the agency and the nonprofit say there is much work to be done.

Transit system CEO Bob Mirabito says the biggest need is replacing 45 of the system's 66 buses.

In a meeting this past week, CATS received an A-minus grade overall from Together Baton Rouge. The rating was based on goals CATS and Together Baton Rouge set to improve service.

"I was pleased," Mirabito said after the meeting. "I think an A-minus was generous. I still think we have a ways to go to improve our performance."

Mirabito said the system is considering expanding into neighboring parishes and bidding on the LSU bus contract.

Together Baton Rouge has monitored developments in the bus system since passage of a property tax to fund CATS in March 2012.

The report card has six items CATS promised to improve upon by April 2014. In addition to adding hubs and reducing trip times for most of its 30 routes, the system added five express and limited-stop routes, five traditional service routes, improved on-time departures and improved arrival/departure information.

The report card said CATS hit its goal of 75 percent of departures leaving on time for 22 of 30 routes, not including the downtown trolley. "Arriving on time" is defined as being from one minute early to 10 minutes late, Mirabito said.

"We have seen significant improvement," said Edgar Cage of Together Baton Rouge. "But we expect, anticipate and will demand that these percentages constantly go up."

An impediment to future changes is the age and frailty of the bus fleet, Mirabito said.

He said the average lifespan of a bus is 12 years. Of the system's 66 buses, 45 should be retired or are due for retirement in a few years, including 12 built in 1997 that have more than 750,000 miles on them.

New buses cost $450,000 to $500,000 each, Mirabito said. He said CATS has applied for federal funding to buy 45 new buses.


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