Public safety, mechanical problems takes focus at CATS public meeting

Public safety takes focus at CATS public meeting
Pictures of damaged buses were shown at the meeting (Source: WAFB)
Pictures of damaged buses were shown at the meeting (Source: WAFB)
CATS public meeting with Amalgamated Transit Union on April 18, 2016. (Source: WAFB)
CATS public meeting with Amalgamated Transit Union on April 18, 2016. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If viewing this story on a mobile device or in an email, click the link for additional features -

Pictures of broken windows and poorly maintained buses were on display at a special meeting with the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) Board of Directors Monday morning.

Representatives with the Amalgamated Transit Union voiced their concerns about the condition of CATS vehicles. The meeting comes four days after a CATS bus operator crashed into a home on North Boulevard. Investigators suspect that mechanical problems may have caused it.

The North Boulevard crash was not discussed at the meeting because officials say the case is still under investigation.

After the meeting, interim CATS CEO Bill Deville, who was named to take over for the recently resigned Robert Mirabito, did say that particular bus was fully inspected before being used.

"I can assure you that the bus before it left was certified to be released by an ATU mechanic, and was safe to drive, according to the driver that prechecked it," Deville said. "That's a requirement before they take off, and that's all I can say about it right now."

However, union representatives presented pictures of maintenance problems that, according to them, were taken within the last month.

"We would ask the operators to not even take these buses out on the routes," said Anthony Garland, a representative for Amalgamated Transit Union. "They have their right to take a stance and say whether or not a bus is safe for them to take into service, to provide a service for the citizens of Baton Rouge."

Regarding the maintenance of the entire CATS fleet, Deville and other board members said their biggest problem is money. The Transit Union said these problems need immediate attention.

During the meeting, union reps also pointed out that Louisiana receives some of the lowest funding for public transportation in the nation.

"The challenge we have, as the ATU brought up at the meeting today is funding," Deville said. "We're organizing our funding so that we can get as much as we can."

Some riders were in attendance, but there was no public comment, something that disappointed daily rider Frank Lanasa.

"It was just two groups talking, and spewing the same rhetoric we've been hearing for the last five, six years," said Lanasa. "They keep saying they don't have enough funding, they don't have this and that. They've been in office for the last three years, and nothing's gotten accomplished."

CATS officials do say they have enough funding to get 12 new buses, which they plan on purchasing by the end of the year.

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