Capital Area Transit System CEO Bob Mirabito did an hour long interview last week with podcast host Clay Young, where he made some revealing comments about the condition of CATS before he took over and his take on the racial divides for staff and riders.
Young previously held the media relations contract with CATS, so he’s familiar with the mechanics of the agency and has worked closely with Mirabito, who has led the agency for about a year and a half.
Young told Mirabito in the interview, that it was obvious there were racial tensions in the agency.
“We’re not going to pretend here on this show it didn’t exist,” Young said. ” It existed. There’s a huge divide there.”
Mirabito said that he “doesn’t see the color of somebody’s skin” but indicated that he wishes his overwhelmingly black staff better represented the demographics of the city of Baton Rouge (which is about 55 percent black, 45 percent white).
“CATS is actually 95 percent African-American. And unfortunately our demographics don’t match Baton Rouge. I would love to have a workforce that matches the demographics of Baton Rouge because I think there are some people out there who may not ride CATS buses because they don’t like the color of an operator’s skin … That’ a shame.”
Mirabito also said he was surprised by the lack of foundation that was in place when he took over.
“I thought it would be better than what it ended up being. I went in there and I did not realize what I was walking into. Nothing came out in the interview process itself that made me believe I’d come in doing a complete 180 turnaround (for the agency),” he said.
He also said he was surprised by lack of accountability for services . For example, there was no accountability for “on time performance” or expectation within the company that people adhere to the printed schedules, he said.
“If you’re going to provide a transit service and put a schedule out there, it’s not a guide. It’s supposed to be a Bible.”
He said in order for CATS to be a truly reliable service, it needs new buses. He estimated that CATS needs $22 million to replace its fleet and $40 million if it wants to grow its fleet in a way that could “win LSU back.”
A few years ago, CATS lost a lucrative partnership to provide LSU’s bus service that had previously been in place for several decades.
Mirabito also discusses his relationship with some of his critics on the Metro Council, his souring relationship with the union and the GPS app, which has not worked reliably since it was unveiled two years ago.