Proposed bill to give CATS board more freedom

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 3:50pm

BATON ROUGE, La (FOX44) — Edgar Cage with Together Baton Rouge has been at the forefront of bringing better transportation to the Capitol City.

“We are creating a new system, not an old system,” he says. “We need a new set of rules, a new set of guidelines.”

He’s looked at cities across the country to see what works and what doesn’t. One of the things that he’s noticed as being successful in other places is an independent board with qualified members to tackle tough problems.

That’s where Representative Regina Barrow’s bill comes in. House Bill 865 calls for a number of things. First, it gives the CATS board more control over CATS operations, like fares and schedules and day-to-day business.

It also sets new criteria to become a part of the nine-member CATS board.

“This is in line with the best practices of all the successful transit systems across the country,” says Cage.

Barrow says it’s an important issue that needs to be addressed because what’s happening right now, just isn’t working.

“We are looking to be the next great city and transportation is a huge part of economic development,” she says. “They have actually run into a lot of different avenues that they were unable to explore.”

Right now, the Metro Council has the ability to veto recommendations by the CATS board. Barrow’s bill would change that. “It needs a certain level of independence, so the board can explore different opportunities, different options, in terms of how we make this system more robust.”

She says more freedom and a different set of board members will give the transportation system the boost it needs, especially when it comes to finding a dedicated source of funding.

“We’re just looking at bringing more individuals forward who have a vested interest, who may have a higher level of expertise in this,” she explains.

Cage says this is the first step towards making the CATS program bigger and better.

“It’s going to be something new and different, something to look forward to, something that’s very exciting. It’s something that maybe people can’t perceive right now, but its coming.”

He’s hopeful that the bill will make it to Governor Bobby Jindal’s desk. “This is the best thing for Baton Rouge,” Cage says. “It was put forth by Baton Rougians, the city, the community. This is what we want for our city.”

The bill did pass through the Louisiana House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon with a 55 to 44 vote. It goes to the Senate for debate next.

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