Angry employees and riders of the parish bus system criticized its board members and management at an emotionally charged Capital Area Transit System board meeting Tuesday.
Riders chastised CATS leadership for failing to make substantive changes to bus service in the year since a 10.6 mill property tax was approved by voters.
Meanwhile, employees filled the meeting holding poster board protest signs and expressing frustration about failed salary negotiations after going more than four years without a raise.
“You’re not doing things to meet the needs of the people; y’all are just doing things to make y’all look good,” said Josie Bellard, a rider who works with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.
Bellard said her bus has been late getting her to work this week at Capitol Elementary School.
Tony Dunmore, a Baton Rouge rider, called the board rude and disconnected from its ridership.
“You don’t seem like you know what’s going on; you’re like dogs chasing your tails,” Dunmore told the board. “You should be trying to make things better for customers.”
He said he was frustrated that a year after the tax, bus shelters haven’t been installed, noting that spring rains have arrived and riders are “getting soaking wet out there” waiting for buses.
CATS had promised to deliver at least 10 new bus shelters by the first quarter of the year, but delayed action because no comprehensive plan had been developed to place the shelters.
The majority of speakers, however, were disgruntled employees embroiled in union contract negotiations with management for several months.
The international union organization donated $10,000 to the campaign for CATS last year during its tax election, said Katie Guy, union president.
She said employees also actively campaigned for CATS, hoping that once the tax passed CATS would “do the right thing.”
She said at the most recent negotiations, CATS employees asked for a 4 percent raise, but management offered them additional paid time off in lieu of a direct pay increase.
The highest-paid bus operator currently earns $15.01 per hour, and the lowest-paid earns $11.64, Guy said, making them some of the lowest-paid bus system employees in the country.
CATS Chief Executive Officer Brian Marshall said he wasn’t involved directly in the contract negotiations and would not discuss specifics.
Isaiah Marshall, CATS board president, said he understands that riders are frustrated.
“We will do everything in our power to bring resolve to the things they want solutions for,” he said after the meeting. “We’re making the proper decisions to move forward.”