CATS changes one year after tax passes

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's been almost one year since a controversial tax passed to support the city's bus system. CATS' top officials say it's been 12 months full of improvements with many more in the works for 2013.

Since Baton Rouge and Baker voters approved a tax to support the buses in April, the system has been subject to quarterly accountability meetings.

"The system has lacked good service for such a long time, and this is an opportunity to turn that around. So that's what we're committed to," said CATS CEO Brian Marshall.

Marshall promises even more improvements for the long-struggling system. In addition to technological updates to bus security systems, he says buses are much more timely. A recent study suggests CATS could be even more effective if they contract management from private companies. Marshall believes that to be an unnecessary expense.

"We've been dedicated to the city. We've been dedicated to the system, and everybody who works at CATS really wants to see improvement and we're working hard for that kind of improvement," said Marshall. "We're not spending those dollars on administration. We're spending those dollars on the street."

Bus riders say they hope those dollars will be used to make the buses they rely on more reliable.

"I'm still waiting for them to come with out with the GPS tracking system, so we know where they are. I mean that's the bad thing about it is we don't know where the bus is, and we've got to wait a whole hour or two hours," said Ladda Bounnavong, who has been riding CATS buses for 18 years.

"It's more convenient when you know where you stops is, but now it's much harder," said Michelle Stewart, another bus rider. "They changed them."

Marshall points out that in about a year from now, CATS will launch a new route structure, along with new buses.

"For those who felt like they weren't feeling an expansion of the transit system, we know that December 31st we will prove them wrong. They will be so proud of our city. They will be happy users of a good transit system," said Marshall.

On Thursday, State Rep. Regina Barrow plans to test the bus system out for herself. She will ride from Earl K. Long to the new Women's Hospital to raise awareness of what she says is a lack of transportation to and from the city's health care facilities.

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