Our Views: CATS needs steady hand

These should be the best of times for the Capital Area Transit System, but an agency recently bolstered by new revenue is without a leader and plagued by division. That’s not in the interest of the system’s patrons — or the taxpayers who now have a deeper obligation to support the system’s operations. Baton Rouge’s public bus system limped along for years, surviving on rider fares and an unreliable mix of funding from state, local and federal sources. We argued in support of a dedicated source of funding for CATS, although we opposed the proposed 10.6-mill property tax on last year’s ballot as poorly designed and inequitable. We didn’t like the special taxing district for the tax, which limited the number of taxpayers who would shoulder the financial responsibility for CATS. That tax proposal passed, and only property owners within the city limits of Baton Rouge and Baker are now required to pay for a service originally envisioned as a parishwide system.

Now that voters have spoken, CATS leaders have a responsibility to do what they promised: improve and expand service for a mass transit system that’s been marginal at best.

CATS Chief Executive Officer Brian Marshall recently resigned after drawing repeated criticism that his agency wasn’t moving quickly enough to implement improvements. We doubt if all of those criticisms were fair, since the changes planned for CATS can’t happen overnight. But Marshall seemed late to the game in promoting the system’s progress, which compromised his ability to lead.

The CATS board is expected to name an interim CEO this month to lead the agency for six to nine months while the board conducts a national search for a new leader.

An open, transparent search for a new CEO is critical in advancing public trust in CATS.