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CATS board meets with transit union after Thursday crash

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BATON ROUGE - The Capital Area Transit System hosted a public meeting Monday morning to discuss concerns safety issues with the union representing local bus drivers.

The meeting with the CATS Board of Directors, requested by the Amalgamated Transit Union, comes after three people were hurt when a bus hit an SUV and then crashed into a nearby home near the intersection of Acadian Thruway and North Blvd. on Apr. 14.

The timing is coincidental after the meeting was scheduled weeks before last week's crash.

"We're here for the long haul to make sure during this transition period that this system is reflective of a model city," Anthony Garland representative with the national bus drivers' union, ATV, said. "Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana.  This transit system should be a model of all transit system's in the state.

The principle concerns on the minds of union members revolve around the safety of buses that have been on the road too long and are starting to show the inevitable wear and tear. The meeting opened with the CATS Board of Directors pointing out that the meeting was not a hearing about that wreck, rather the union brought up general concerns like training, bus maintenance, privatization and the system's budget.

During the meeting, CATS was quick to point out that 12 new buses will be going into local service by December. They’re also removing all Bluebird buses from service by the end of year. The aging buses once made up half of CATS’ entire fleet.

"We have several that are 15, 14, 17 years old, so those 12 buses that are coming in we'll be able to retire those buses," interim CATS CEO Bill Deville said.

A representative from the Amalgamated Transit Union pointed out that lots of CATS buses have cracked windshields, and there are even a number of buses that flood with rain sometimes falling on the driver. The rep went on to say he's never seen conditions like those present in the CATS system, and he said CATS is a long way from being acceptable.

 Union representatives say it's going to take more than new buses to get moving in the right track.

"CATS has a long way to go they're not even 70 percent of where they need to be," Garland said.

ATU representatives will hold a rally on Tuesday outside of the CATS board meeting at the BREC Administration building. The meeting starts at 4:30 pm.

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