Baton Rouge, La. (October 28, 2021) – Today, the Board of Directors of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) announced a supportive position on the tax millage renewal of the Capital Area Transit System (CATS), which will appear on the November 13 ballot. Early voting begins October 30, and BRAC encourages voters to support extending transit funding for the city.
As the Capital Region’s lead economic development organization and an advocacy voice for the business community, BRAC has long supported initiatives and efforts that positively impact transportation alternatives and quality of life of the Baton Rouge Area.
Public transit is an essential component of every thriving metropolitan economy. Recent BRAC analysis found that CATS’ past performance largely achieved its goals over the last decade, and its goals over the next 10 years should position it for additional performance improvement. Based on its performance outcomes, BRAC’s support focuses on the transit system’s positive impact on the economy and the crucial role it plays in connecting workers to jobs.
Ralph Bender, BRAC board chair and CFO of Manship Media, said, “For an overwhelming number of the people who use the CATS system, it is their only means of transportation to and from work. Not funding CATS puts significant risk in their ability to get to their jobs. This would create incredible adversity for hundreds, if not thousands of local businesses whose enterprise is dependent upon a reliable workforce.”
BRAC’s Board support is largely based on the following:
- CATS connects to over 225,000 jobs across the route system
- 91% of CATS customers have no other transportation option
- 63% of riders use bus service at least five days per week
- 59% of riders rated the system good or excellent in a recent FuturePAC poll
- Independent economic modeling by the ULL Blanco Center for Public Policy estimated that the agency will contribute $1.6 billion in economic impact to the Baton Rouge Area in the next decade
- Revenue generated from the millage to be renewed represents 60% of CATS’ annual budget
BRAC has asked CATS management and Board to increase and improve its transparency and accountability over its annual performance, by adding clearer, yearly reporting of all metrics and measures related to its new, Board-adopted, 10-year goals. CATS should also increase transparency over its fiscal management of taxpayer dollars, such as publishing its spending and contracts on Open Checkbook BR. It’s important that CATS continue to respond in a timely and transparent manner to clear the record regarding recent accusations, and that all matters be fully reviewed and resolved by its management board. These recent media controversies, moreover, should be viewed alongside and measured against the transit agency’s performance on key metrics over the last decade, as well as the service it provides to those without vehicles who continue to need access to jobs, health care, or family.
For an in-depth analysis of CATS performance and its new 10-year goals, please see this BRAC Public Policy Commentary.
About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) leads economic development in the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area, working to grow jobs and wealth and improve the region’s business climate and competitiveness. Today, BRAC investors include more than 1,400 small businesses, mid-sized firms, large industry, and entrepreneurial startups, as well as individuals and organizations that support business and economic development. In this capacity, BRAC serves as the voice of the business community, providing knowledge, access, services, and advocacy. More information is available at brac.org.