When The Arc Baton Rouge Executive Director Barry Meyer learned that the Baton Rouge Metro Council was considering a vote cutting services and raising prices, he was stunned. Meyer knew that cuts would severely impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Cuts to services and raised fares would hit those that relied on these services most.
The Capital Area Transit System (CATS) faces a $1.2 million budget shortfall. After three decades of providing transportation to Baton Rouge, CATS said it has no choice but to cuts services and raise prices.
Advocates Make the Difference
Thanks to advocates like The Arc Baton Rouge and other citizens, CATS bus fares will not be increased and routes will not be eliminated in February. While the service will continue for the short term, rejecting the money-saving measures means that the CATS bus system may shut down in October.
The Metro Council recently voted 7-5 in support of a motion to reject the service changes. Meyer knew there would be hardship for those that rely on the bus, especially for employment, medical appointments and more. When he first learned of the proposals, Meyer said, “I was thinking maybe as much as 20 percent, but the initial proposal was a 128 percent increase in current rates,” he said.
For those that depend on the CATS system, like Lynette Williams, a resident of Baton Rouge with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, a change in fare and services would significantly change how she gets to work.
For Bobby Martin who works with Williams at Metro Enterprises in Baton Rouge, where he’s been employed for 38 years, says without CATS, he would lose his job. Martin’s aide noted that, “Bobby’s parents are both in their 80’s and they can’t do his drive.”
Currently, a one-way ticket on CATS is $1.75 for individuals covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the new proposal, the price would be $4 for the same ticket.