CATS and NxGen hope to save capital bus system
BATON ROUGE - A new mass transit advocacy group hopes to "raise awareness" in order to the increase the number of bus riders in the capital area.
NxGen Mass Transit formed from local business and community leaders. Through public forums and social media, the groups plans to get the word out that the stigma about public transit in Baton Rouge isn't true.
"I think the assumption is that it's for the poor people, it's for just those who use it, but it has the potential to be one of the biggest economic drivers for out city as it is in other major cities," Brian Marshall, CATS CEO said.
Some riders are not so confident. Many question how CATS can repair their image after cutting key routes and increasing fares.
Carol Bieri's primary source of transportation is a city bus. She likes what NxGen has planned, but she's skeptical the plan is nothing more than more rhetoric.
"People can't buy what they can't afford! Just don't go up on the rates, it's tough enough now," Bieri said.
CATS officials are excited about NxGen's plan to increase rider ultimately increasing revenue. Group members are looking for guaranteed funding in order to keep CATS afloat and eliminate the possibility of another bus fare increase. Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said, for some families, mass transit is the only way to get around. That's why she has endorsed NxGen's efforts.
"We're going to be singing this sond all over the entire parish that CATS has to have a dedicated source of revenue in order to continue to operate. I think it's critical... As we do grow, it's imperative this city has a good public transit system," Collins-Lewis said.
Officials warned of the possibility of asking the city for another tax, but they say that will only happen if NxGen's efforts to receive dedicated funding fails.