A Baton Rouge-area congressman and an East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council member who’s running for mayor have pummelled city transit authorities who recently announced plans to rebrand their trolley line. Transportation leaders, meanwhile are preparing to begin extended service on it to try to entice more riders.
The route formerly known as the Garden District Trolley is now operating under the Red Stick Trolley name, though the stops have stayed the same. The line began at the start of 2015, but by the first two months of 2016, ridership had dropped to about three people per day, assuming individuals paid outgoing and incoming fares. Now, politicians are calling for a change at the Capital Area Transit System.
“If they’re dead-set on having people drive empty vehicles around, give them scooters,” Congressman Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, told the Business Report this week. “The CATS system is a disaster. … It should be blown up, and we should start over again.”
District 12 Metro Councilman and mayoral candidate John Delgado echoed the sentiment and said the city should dissolve CATS leadership and put the system under the Metro Council’s control. In a news release, he said he took a CATS trip two years ago that should have taken 20 minutes but stretched into two hours and 15 minutes.
“In addition to rider fares, CATS collects $18 million in taxes and serves about 4,500 riders; for that price, we could buy each of those citizens a car or provide them with Uber rides,” Delgado wrote, referencing the ride-hailing app.
CATS authorities did not return requests for comment on the latest criticisms, but CEO Bob Mirabito has said the new branding will include a marketing campaign. He says transit systems have to promote and evaluate routes before they can determine whether they are successful.
However, he has also said that generally speaking there’s not much else that authorities can do once a line has been designed, launched and marketed. Other routes with low ridership have closed in the recent past.
Meanwhile, CATS announced Friday that trolley service would be extended for six weeks beginning Sunday. Through May 8, the trolley will run hourly between 7 a.m. and 9:55 p.m. on Sundays, when it is normally out of service.
Mirabito said CATS will “assess interest in the route after the six-week run,” adding that he hopes residents of the Garden District and the surrounding neighborhoods will take advantage of the service to enjoy springtime events like the free Sunday in the Park concert series.
Ascension DA spruces up office and website
Ricky Babin, district attorney for Ascension and two other parishes southeast of Baton Rouge, has embarked on a bid early this year to put some polish on his operations.
A bigger brick-and-mortar office in Gonzales, a new, updated website and a new spokesman for his office have helped put a fresh face on the 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office for 2016.
Babin’s Gonzales attorneys, back in February, moved from cramped space on South Burnside Avenue the parish government had leased for his office. They moved into the old parish president’s office. The space opened up with the completion late last year of the new parish governmental complex on East Worthey Street.
In addition to general information about his office, the new website now has news releases about recent pleas and convictions and a frequently asked questions page for those unsure about the legal process.
“One of our biggest complaints was people not knowing what’s going after they (defendants) initially are arrested,” said Tyler Cavalier, a criminal investigator for Babin who recently started working also as his spokesman.
“And we’re getting a lot of positive feedback so far.”
The DA’s website is at www.23rdda.org/district-attorneys-new-website/.
Advocate staff writers Steve Hardy and David J. Mitchell contributed to this report.