BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Going before the East Baton Rouge Metro Council Wednesday is a new plan that could eventually change how the city’s transit system operates. Although it’s just an introduction, approving the Capital Area Transit System’s (CATS) Service Improvement Plan could be the first step toward improving bus routes.
“We’re trying to be more efficient and effective in the service that we operate,” says Rod Goldman, COO for CATS.
On average, CATS operates 29 routes, 1,200 trips per day, and 284,826 trips per month. These numbers represent people like Christopher Royal, who use CATS in Baton Rouge every day to get around town. “Once I get on the Scenic bus, I have to change over to the Florida Boulevard bus and fortunately that puts me right at work,” Royal said. “As far as transportation, a lot of people don’t have transportation. It helps me out a lot.”
Officials say these numbers also represent the glaring need for route expansions. Goldman says they first expanded their services in 2014 and have been looking to add additional services since then. “We knew it was also time to take a bit more comprehensive look at the services that we operate and put together more of a package to meet the unmet needs of our passengers,” he said.
In an effort to be more effective and meet the needs of riders, CATS is looking to change up the way they operate with a proposed Service Improvement Plan.
“A big component is to operate more frequently,” Goldman said. "We will have up to 85 percent of our bus routes during peak periods. They will run 30 minutes or better, which is up from about 45 percent today.”
Outside of speeding up the routes, CATS leaders hope to get rid of bus stops that don’t see as much traffic and shift those resources. “For some of our less productive services and those with less ridership, we’ve taken some segments that have a bit more ridership and will keep a link to the service network. We’ve looked to reroute or adjust our existing services to cover those,” Goldman explained.
It’s not going to happen overnight if approved, in fact, all the improvements will happen in two phases and won’t be fully in place until 2020. However, one of the first changes is extending service times and adding new routes along Blount and Greenwell Springs roads, near Mallard Crossing Apartments. Goldman says they chose the locations to extend services and add new routes based on customer feedback. "We look at demographic data to see areas where they may be up and coming or new developments that we can serve,” he said.
“We’re really trying to listen to our customers and do what we can to increase the amount of service we provide to them,” Goldman said. “We want to give them more access to services and give them more of the service quality we I know they deserve.”
Phase I of the plan is cost neutral, meaning money from under producing routes is reallocated. Phase II will be budgeted into the annual budget for CATS.