CATS board adds more meetings to address 'big implications' of report

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 7:12pm

The board of the Capitol Area Transit System plans to meet every week to consider changes recommended by a consulting firm.

TMG Consulting presented a lengthy report earlier this month at CATS' request, detailing the organization's flaws and potential restructuring plans. The report stated that CATS is understaffed, has outdated technology, and an old, unreliable bus fleet. Its final recommendation was that CATS contract out its operations to a national transit firm.

"There's some pretty big implications for what the report discussed," said Jared Loftus, president of the CATS board. "And we need to do our due diligence as board members to decide what is our best step moving forward."

CATS got the taxpayer dollars it wanted in last April's election, and made big promises about its future. Many of its riders are angry about the quality of service, but the board is taking a calm approach to reaching its goals. Loftus understands, though, why the report brought a sense of outrage among stakeholders.

"I think any time you have this kind of change introduced," he said, "that's a natural reaction."

The board met for about 45 minutes Thursday morning, but made no decision about whether or not to contract out their operations. Loftus said he and his fellow board members are not close to making a decision about restructuring.

"And we'll keep going until all the questions have been answered and we can get closer to moving in the direction that we feel is the best," he said.

"Best," though, means different things to the different people involved. Since the tax was passed, a much larger group of people care about CATS' future, changing the nature of the board's discussions.

"This used to be about one particular segment of the population," Loftus said, "and now, it's a city-wide, much larger, broader conversation."

CATS self-imposed a deadline of 2014 to make all of its improvements Loftus said it has a lot of issues to correct in the next year, but meetings like Thursday's are the best way to begin to meet the challenge.

"I know how people can feel like, 'oh, this is just another report. Why do we need to bring in consultants? Time to act!' That's what we're doing. We are acting right now."

The CATS board says it will meet every week for the foreseeable future to talk about this report, and decide how it wants to put in any changes.

"A lot of people are paying attention to this," Loftus said, "as I think they should be. There's a lot of people paying for it, there's a lot of people that depend on it."

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