In an effort to further improve bus service in the Baton Rouge area, the Capital Area Transit System is implementing quarterly customer satisfaction evaluations.

The first review, done to set a base line, was conducted before the major system expansion kicked off at the end of March. In that review, customers said the bus system’s biggest weaknesses were being on time, frequency of buses on routes, bus maintenance and cleanliness, and the call center.

But customers were generally pleased with the fare prices and with the knowledge and friendliness of bus operators.

The customer satisfaction report was conducted by TransPro, a Tampa, Florida-based firm, with a focus group on February 26 and 511 surveys administered between March 8 and March 13.

CATS unveiled a service expansion at the end of March with more bus frequency and additional routes.

CATS CEO Bob Mirabito said the surveys will be conducted quarterly throughout the year to demonstrate the agency’s commitment to improving customer satisfaction.

While the expansion is expected to address some rider concerns, like frequency of buses on routes, Mirabito said, the agency will start focusing on such issues as cleanliness, on time performance and the call center.

The study found that one-third of riders had contacted the CATS call center with an issue, and 36 percent of those people did not feel their issue had been resolved.

The study also looked at rider demographics.

It found CATS has a loyal customer base, with more than 65 percent of riders who have used the system for more than a year and 80 percent of customers riding at least three times a week.

But most of CATS ridership are low income people. About 75 percent of riders earned less than $25,000 a year, and 95 percent of riders earned less than $50,000 a year.

About 85 percent of riders are black, and about 12 percent are white.

CATS buses are on time at about 75 percent of route stops, and officials are aiming to improve that to 80 percent. “On time” is defined as within 10 minutes of being late, or one minute of being early.

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