Graves: CATS needs to 'fundamentally start over'

Congressman Graves on CATS: "You need to fundamentally start over"
Garret Graves (Source: WAFB)
Garret Graves (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the second time in as many months, U.S. Congressman Garret Graves leveled criticisms at the Capital Area Transit System.

During the Baton Rouge Press Club meeting on Monday, Graves cited low ridership, low revenues and high spending by CATS as major problems that contribute to congestion on the roads.

"If we're driving empty buses around, that's contributing to the traffic problem. That's not helping," said Graves, R-Louisiana.

CATS has had its share of hits lately. Former CEO Bob Mirabito quit, citing personal attacks on his family. A recent bus crash, possibly caused by mechanical issues, highlighted concerns over the condition of buses.

However, CATS has been working to attract more riders, launching a texting option for bus information in February and rebranding its Red Stick Trolley with free weekend rides during April.

Graves said the bus system is beyond fixing.

"I think you need to fundamentally start over," Graves said. "Potentially putting it out there and seeing what the private sector would propose."

CATS interim CEO Bill Deville said he understands Graves' concerns, but believes they can work together to find a solution.

"We understand Rep. Graves has some criticism of CATS, and we would like to reiterate our desire to sit with him and discuss his concerns and work together to develop viable solutions to make CATS the transit system that Baton Rouge deserves," said Deville in a statement.

Graves did bring optimistic news for other traffic problem areas. The freshman congressman sits on the U.S. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and said Louisiana should be at the top of the list for sizable federal funds.

"As long as they prioritize and address the worst traffic in the nation. I see no reason why we can't have the Washington street exit fixed in two years, we can't have the Pecue exit built within the next few years," Graves said.

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