The CATA Thread

edited September 2008 in Regional
CATA seems to come up quite a bit in other threads, but I thought it was about time that it got it's very own.

Two notable items:

1. The November Millage: the agency predicts a rather doomsday-esque scenario if voters fail to approve a 0.787 mill increase for operations for the next five years (2008-12). From their site: "For a $100,000 home, that equals $39.35 per year, or less than most people pay for a tank of gasoline. All the money raised would be used to operate the CATA system."

More info here:

Meanwhile, #2: Record Ridership -- over 0.5 million rides just for the month of July.

Given the failed library millage, I'm concerned about CATA's chances for success. That, and I really haven't seen much PR on it, aside from direct marketing on the bus. What does everyone else think about it's chances? I'd love to see them shore up operating money so that we can start bugging them more about their five to ten year vision.


  • Millages haven't done well lately. And with this millage, as I understand it, there will be no real improvements, it's simply an operating millage. That really doesn't help it's cause much. I'd say the chances of this passing are up in the air, but it will be a tough sell.
  • Actually, that's its simply an operating millage will probably help its chances. Lansing doesn't have a problem with operating millages; Lansing occasionally has problems with expansion millages.
  • I hope so LMich...for Lansing's interest as well as my own selfish interests. For me, I ride the 14 to work everyday; and for Lansing, I think to have a thriving urban city with a diverse/international population which adds to the flavor of a city you need good mass transit. International residents sometimes don't have driver's licenses (I have an Indian friend living in E. Lansing who's never bothered to get one...even though he does have a U.S. pilot's license), and also international residents it seems are more comfortable with mass transit as well as many can't afford a car/insurance/etc.

    What I've heard from people around Lansing, seems to support what LMich said, that operating millages are as big of a sell, it's the large expansion millages that are trickier. And hopefully the increased ridership means there will be more people who will vote Yes because they are using it; and unlike the library, for those who use CATA on a regular basis it is more of an essential function and thus most of them would vote Yes. And if I had to guess, I would say the actual number of regular CATA customers is a much larger group than library users, in addition to the number of regular CATA customers being a much larger number than regular library users. I pick the library as a comparison only because it's a memerable and recent millage failure, although that millage was an expansion on top of being a very large expansion amount.

    In conclusion, I'm probably just trying to rationalize why CATA will pass for selfish reasons, but even if I'm in denial, I think these are pretty legit pieces of evidence.
  • I was just reading the CATA press released, and this sounds quite a bit like hyperbole:
    What happens if the millage fails?
    If the millage fails, CATA will have to make deep cuts in service. Weekday evening service likely will be cut. So will all Saturday and Sunday service on most routes. Some routes will be eliminated. Others will run less often. Cuts will also be made to Spec-Tran bus service for persons with disabilities. Some of the service cuts will come as early as this winter, with additional cuts made next year. This all adds up to reducing a healthy system to service levels last seen in the mid-80s.

    I suspect they'd just raise fares like they did, recently.
  • I'd like to see a breakdown of where most of their funding comes from. If the majority isn't coming from fares, fares need to be raised anyways. CATA Fares are reasonable compared to many other bus systems, they are often cheaper.
  • edited September 2008
    They should only raise fares if they absolutely have to. One of the huge selling points of the system is that it's one of the cheapest in the state in terms of fares. No, they don't need to be raised just for the hell of it.
  • Yeah, I would be opposed to fare increases unless absolutely necessary. Mass transit systems to my knowledge RARELY cover expenses with fare. Plus, as I already noted in my previous post, although people like myself could easily afford a $1/ride hike (and it would still be a cheaper option than buying a 2nd car), many of the customers of CATA couldn't. On a less rational note, I take pride in the fact that until this year, CATA fare was the same fare they started with when they began, and their first ever increase this year was only $0.25/ride ($5 increase for monthly passes; $30 increased to $35).

    For comparison, if I remember correctly, the "L" in Chicago is $2.5/ride? I know for sure that it was in the $2 range, so CATA is still a good price. And when I read the article LMich mentioned, it reaked of trying to scare people in voting for the millage in my mind. However, I can't say that I wasn't at least a little scared by it thinking that maybe there's a small chance it could happen.
  • edited September 2008
    Yeah, CATA's low fare prices have always been a selling point. For comparison to the other major systems in the state:

    DDOT: $1.50
    The Ride (Ann Arbor): $1.00
    MTA (Flint): $1.25
    The Rapid (GR): $1.30 (weird number)
    Metro Transit (Kazoo): $1.35 (another weird number)

    We used to be able to brag about having the lowest fares (along with Ann Arbor), but we're still cheap in comparison.

    Yeah, after I typed that I remembered how little fares actually pay for systems. You know, this wouldn't even be an issue if the state (and the federal government) were to make mass transit a committment instead of gutting it. I know we're going through hard times, but that should, in fact, prod us to properly fund mass transit even more so. I was happy to hear Hillary Clinton sponsored a bill in the Senate, the other day, to put another billion and a half dollars into the federal mass transit authority to be dispersed to states, but that's still crumbs compared to what we need.

    Question, for obvious reasons, CATA doesn't say how much money this will all raise over the five year period. Can anyone find or calculate how large this millage really is in real dollars? I'm trying to compare it to how much the failed four-year millage proposal was to raise that was rejected last year (I'd forgotten about that). I'm beginning to get a little worried myself just having realized that it was just last year that the region rejected CATA's last proposal.
  • The pamphlet that is distributed on CATA buses states the state has cut funding from 50% to 30%. That obviously doesn't help things...the bus driver tonight said that some routes will be cut/decreased frequency, all routes will be cut after 6pm and no weekends. That sounds pretty bad; I can't imagine it actually coming to that, I feel like some government agency needs to step in, but maybe I'm being naive.
  • If thats really their plans they may as well just scrap the whole system, cuts that deep would make CATA virtually worthless. And I fully expect that this millage will fail, people are not interested in paying more taxes at this point.
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