CATS renewal passes; SUBR service to continue
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 7, 2012 16:05
The fate of the Capitol Area Transit System was at stake as voters went out to vote Saturday to keep the system operational.
The $10.6 million CATS property tax was approved by a narrow vote and looks to improve service across Baton Rouge and Baker.
Sandra Joseph, a Baton Rouge Senior citizen said, “I have lived here for twenty-five years and most of that was spent riding buses where I had to go. There was no way I was not going to try to save our transit.”
The CATS system, which has had a long history of being undefended, was facing a $2.1 million deficit due to neither Mayor Kip Holden or the Metro Council supplying the necessary funds to cover it.
The passage means CATS, which has a operating budget of about $12 million, will now receive an additional $17.2 million annually, bringing its total budget to just short of $30 million.
With this increase in funds, CATS can now make good on the following pledges to its customers with the passage of the tax:
Decreased average wait times from 75 minutes to 15 minutes.
Eight new express and limited stop lines, serving the airport, universities, malls and other areas will be added.
GPS tracking on the entire fleet, with exact arrival times accessible on cellphones. Also new shelters, benches and signage at bus stops are in the plans for re-vamping the system.
Expanding service to high-demand areas and increasing routes from 19 to 37.
Three new transfer centers operating in a grid system to replace the outdated route system, which leads all buses back to the bus depot on Florida Boulevard.
It will also add a foundation for Bus Rapid Transit, where buses get their own right-of-way-lanes.
The vote was also important to the Southern University community as its CATS Southern shuttle would have been out of service with the rest of the CATS in July.
"The shuttle is my only means of transportation when I'm in Baton Rouge,"said Patrice Wilson, a sophomore sociology major from Miami. "I don’t have a car and without the CATS system, I wouldn’t be able to go to work or school.”
Earlier last month Southern University held a Voter Registration contest where the Greek organizations went against other Student Organizations.
The goal was to register at least 300 people to vote with the winning organization would get naming rights to the Southern Shuttle for the next year.
The contest was won by, the Alpha Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
Willie E. McCorkle, a junior mass communication major said, “I’ve been organizing all year long trying to get students involved in this critical issue and how it affects Southern University.”
Many students were very concerned about the issue and did their part to help.
“I don’t ride the bus but I went out and voted Saturday because I have a lot of friends and family who do and they depend on CATS to get around the city,” Reginald Parks, a junior mass communication major from Baton Rouge said.
“I’m proud to say that Southern University’s precinct had nearly tripled this year, as far as student turnouts,” McCorkle said.
Although people from Baton Rouge and Baker successfully saved their CATS service, Zachary wasn’t so fortunate.
With the results being 21 percent to 79 percent, or 623 votes to 2,320 Zachary will still receive limited service.