You can’t beat free. But it’s one thing to have something offered for free, and another thing to have people take you up on the offer. Schedules and habits have an impact on usage, not just price.
That’s why we don’t see a strong conflict between the city-parish bus service and LSU running a shuttle downtown on weeknights.
The Tiger Trails buses run during the day to serve the campus and its surrounding area. One route runs through downtown, as many students have internships or work at downtown offices or the State Capitol.
The LSU shuttles are funded with student fees, but anyone can use them. The extension of one of the LSU shuttles’ nighttime routes to downtown does somewhat compete with the Capital Area Transit System buses.
However, students and staff already ride CATS buses at no cost with a valid ID from LSU. True, that helps CATS’ ridership numbers a bit. And true, some of CATS’ paying customers might take the downtown shuttle — but how many? The shuttle is apt to be used by LSU students and staff almost exclusively. The daytime service already is available to anyone, but is largely used by students and staff.
Regular CATS riders in the downtown/LSU area likely are going somewhere other than the Third Street corridor where the LSU buses operate. Many will be going on to the 22nd Street terminal for a transfer bus. So regular CATS riders are apt to remain so. Is this more than a marginal impact on CATS?
We like the idea that a student indulging in a drink has a way to get back to campus without driving. CATS buses also have very long waits; the city service gets pathetically inadequate public funding.
We also like the idea that more people might be exposed to public transit. Either via CATS or the LSU shuttles, it’s a far better way of negotiating the parking-challenged campus area, day or night.
And maybe any additional transit riders attracted by the LSU shuttles will be advocates for CATS funding in the future.