Our Views: A new puzzle at CATS HQ

Edgar Cage has been one of the leaders on transit issues for Together Baton Rouge, the coalition of congregations that took an active role in pushing, and winning, a new tax for operations of the Capital Area Transit System.

CATS’ leaders, both board and staff, ought to listen to Cage today.

The board is divided by politics and cannot muster a majority to extend the contract of Brian Marshall, the president of the bus system, Cage said recently.

“It sends a message of how the board isn’t on the same page about their direction of where CATS should be going and who should be leading,” Cage said. “That’s why everything seems to be in limbo. Stop the politics and start concentrating on delivering service.”

There is an old saying about how some people cannot handle prosperity, and maybe that has something to do with the erratic situation that has never, from our standpoint, been adequately explained.

On the one hand, the bus service is now getting revenues and is poised to flesh out what was “bare bones” services that are needed in the community.

On the other hand, no one seems to know what that plan is, least of all the CATS board. And, the manager since late 2009 is apparently in the market for a new job.

Limbo is not a good place to be.

We are reluctant to say what should be done, because this situation seems so confused that we’re not even sure what options the bus service is weighing going forward. In one recent example of confusion, the financial official of the system said one thing under oath in a tax-related lawsuit and then it was disavowed shortly thereafter as only a draft plan.

But what’s the real plan?

There’s a third hand to this on-the-other-hand situation. There is impatience for better service on the street, but we recognize that ramping up a system that was nearly out of business is difficult. Further, it takes a long time to buy large buses and deploy them.

As Marshall said publicly after the tax was passed, it is only in 2014 that the public will see a full deployment of buses that will make transit more accessible. Yet it doesn’t seem too early to lay out for the public a coherent game plan for making that happen.