- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The parish bus system is waiving fees for riders for a week at the end of March as it implements a new route structure.

Riders can take a Capital Area Transit System bus for free March 30-April 5, The Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/1gzWQaO).

The move is intended to help ease some of the expected confusion during the transition, as well as create an incentive for new riders to try out the expanded system.

“It’s not just a simple expansion with added routes,” system CEO Bob Mirabito said. “Existing routes are going to change.”

The transit system, known as CATS, expects to lose about $25,000 in revenue for the week.

The changes are expected to be dramatic. There will be 10 new routes, bringing the number of routes to 30, and service will be eliminated in Zachary, whose voters rejected the property tax in 2012 that is funding the system’s expansion.

CATS soon will add several areas to its route system - including O’Neal Lane and Coursey Boulevard, Metro Airport and the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired.

Travel time and waits at bus stops will be shorter, but officials said a promised 15-minute wait at bus stops cannot be achieved during peak ridership times on most routes.

Almost all CATS routes now are directed to and from the Florida Boulevard terminal.

The new routes will pass through three hubs, which officials said should help to cut overall reduced travel times.

The Mall of Louisiana, Cortana Mall and the former Earl K. Long Hospital were initially designated as the new transfer points, but the closing of the hospital has left CATS searching for a nearby location in north Baton Rouge.

Mirabito also said he doesn’t expect Mall of Louisiana to continue as a long-term hub anymore because the mall’s new management opposes use of the property as a bus transfer location.

The mall and the former hospital will serve as transfer points for at least the next few months until CATS permanent hubs are identified.

CATS is publishing new maps and training volunteers to answer questions about the service changes.

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