When football season began in Baton Rouge last year, flood recovery had only just begun. Government agencies were stretched thin as many employees trying to restore normalcy to the city-parish were also rebuilding their own homes and lives.
For the Capital Area Transit System, 20 percent of its employees were directly affected by the flood. Extra vehicles were being used to transport people in the throes of recovery.
CATS announced at the time that its popular Touchdown Express service that ferries fans to and from LSU football games would not be possible for the 2016 season.
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But this year the service is returning and will bring fans to watch a new LSU football coach lead a new group of players into Tiger Stadium, while a new Mike the Tiger is expected to roam his habitat.
"We're not in the same position of being short of a reliable fleet as we were last year when we couldn't stretch and do all of it," said CATS spokeswoman Amie McNaylor. "We always knew we wanted to come back and do it, though."
For each home game that LSU plays this year, fans can park at one of four spots downtown or at the L'Auberge Casino and Hotel. Starting three hours before the game, LSU and opposing team fans alike can hop on the shuttle to LSU, and the shuttle will bring fans back to their starting points for one hour after the game ends.
Along with L'Auberge, fans can get on the bus at Hotel Indigo, Hampton Inn downtown, Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and the Interstate 110 underpass downtown.
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Round trip tickets are $10 per person, and people can buy them at the CATS terminal on Florida Boulevard starting Aug. 10 or online starting Aug. 14. On game days, CATS staff will also sell tickets at the Hotel Indigo and L'Auberge pickup spots.
Frequent touchdown express riders can buy six-game season passes by Sept. 9 for $50.
Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer said the Touchdown Express has been particularly good for tourists who come to Baton Rouge for LSU games, especially those staying in downtown hotels. He said he's seen the convenience of game day shuttles in other cities, including Green Bay, Wisconsin, and South Bend, Indiana.
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"Downtown has ample parking," Rhorer said. "A lot of people really do depend on this for access to the stadium because they can't walk that far. It removes a lot of the stress people might have about traffic."