The parish bus system is moving toward creating a new route aimed at tourists and would be funded primarily by private sponsorships.
The new route is expected to be piloted during the remaining home football game weekends, and could be used later for tourist-heavy weekends, Capital Area Transit System CEO Brian Marshall said.
Marshall said CATS officials met with parish business leaders who took an interest in the route to spur economic activity.
“The people involved asked, ‘What do we do during game time when we have 200,000 visitors in town and people are just sitting in their hotels?’ ” he said.
“Let’s try to encourage visitors to see the city, spend money and come back to Baton Rouge because they were so impressed with what they saw.”
The route tentatively includes attractions such as LSU, Southern University, downtown Baton Rouge, the Mall of Louisiana and other retail areas and hotels.
Marshall said it would cost $14,000 to run the weekend route for the next five home games, using CATS’ three new trolleys.
Marshall told the CATS board of directors on Tuesday a private sponsor already has committed in writing to $10,000.
Marshall said other sponsors have verbally committed to all but $1,500 of the total expenses of the route through the end of the year.
He would not identify the sponsors Tuesday afternoon.
The fare was proposed as a $10 all-day fee; however, Marshall said the board could opt to use regular fares of $1.75 a ride.
Fares and advertising revenue will fill the operating expense gap of what private sponsorships do not cover, CATS finance officer Gary Owens said.
The board showed its support for the route, but deferred the final vote until CATS staff could get written commitments from sponsors and could confirm from the Federal Transit Authority that CATS would not be violating federal regulations.
Owens said CATS was checking with the FTA to ensure the new route would not appear to compete with private charter bus companies.
Because CATS is relies heavily on federal funds, such a violation could result in a financial penalty, said R.J. Goebel, director of planning for the Capital Region Planning Commission.
Board member Dalton Honoré Jr. said once funding and federal regulations are addressed, a committee of the board will be called to give the final approval of the new route.
The board may at that time decide to send the item to the Metro Council to approve a fare increase for the route.
Without council approval, CATS can charge only its standard fares.
Marshall said the goal is to have the item fully approved before the next LSU home football game on Oct. 1 against Kentucky.
Honoré stressed the new route would be independently funded and would not receive any money from CATS’ already-thin operating budget.
“The board does not want this project to take away from regular neighborhood service in any way,” he said.