A Capital Area Transit System trolley could be rolling through the city’s Garden District by late November in CATS’ latest move to warm up riders to the city’s public transportation system.
The $1 million expansion would add three new CATS routes: one trolley running through the Garden District, a bus running from Tigerland to downtown and an LSU express bus starting at the CATS terminal on Florida Boulevard and ending at the university campus.
As for the Garden District trolley, CATS chief executive officer Bob Mirabito said the route could vary depending on what riders want — whether that means going downtown or looping through the Perkins Road or Government Street areas for people to dine and shop.
“We’re targeting some certain areas that people who want to make those locations their final destination will look at CATS as an alternative to getting in their vehicle,” Mirabito said.
Not all of the organization’s moves to increase clients have paid off.
Mirabito said ridership for the recently added O’Neal Lane and Airport Express routes is not as high as he would like, although he hopes a new marketing campaign will be successful in attracting more riders. He said it’s still too early to tell if the new routes are a success or failure.
Mirabito hopes the LSU express route will attract university employees and students, running 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
He envisions the Garden District trolley as a way for some to commute to downtown, for others to have fun in the Perkins Road area and even for Catholic High School and St. Joseph’s Academy students to ride home.
The routes will become more concrete based on public input, which Mirabito is looking to garner at 5:30 p.m. meetings Wednesday, Thursday and Monday at different locations across the city.
Despite the convenience of the expansions, Baton Rouge residents might still struggle to see public transportation as a viable option for them.
“We are so dependent on individual transportation that it will be a bit of paradigm shift,” said Eric Troutman, president of the Garden District Civic Association. Troutman said he will attend the meetings and he has encouraged Garden District neighbors to do the same.
A trolley could make the Garden District an attractive neighborhood for people moving to Baton Rouge from big cities known for their public transportation systems, Troutman said.
He said he hopes the proposed trolley schedule might be expanded to later hours and weekends to allow people to enjoy downtown’s atmosphere, instead of just making it a commuter option with its proposed operating hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Nicholson bus from Tigerland to downtown is the only new route CATS is proposing to run seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Troutman said people in the Garden District seem interested in the expansions are looking forward to hearing more about them.
“It’s created some conversation in the neighborhood,” he said.