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Town of Baker, CATS launches on-demand transportation service; it’s free until June | baker

A new form of public transit is underway this week in Baker thanks to a fleet of minivans and a new service provided by the Capital Area Transit System.

LYNX by CATS is an on-demand transportation service that will provide rides to and from key locations around Baker for $1.75 or less.

The City of Baker, in conjunction with CATS, announced the launch of the new LYNX service Monday at Baker City Hall.

“LYNX by CATS will enhance the services CATS currently provides to the City of Baker, using microtransit technology to expand access to convenient, affordable and sustainable transportation for residents and visitors,” said Dwana Williams, CEO acting from CATS.

Starting Tuesday, Lynx will operate Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. A single ride for a single person costs $1.75. Additional passengers will be charged 35 cents.

To book a ride, Baker passengers can use the LYNX by CATS mobile app or call 225-267-9080. Once a trip is entered with pick-up and drop-off locations, the system provides trip options.

When a destination is selected, passengers are directed to a nearby “virtual bus stop” within a short walking distance, and a driver is dispatched to meet them there.

Although the service does not take passengers directly to their destination, it has several designated points around Baker where passengers can be picked up or dropped off.

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“You book your trip on an app and then we have points of interest because we can’t afford to just go and pick someone and take them 10 blocks from their aunt’s house” , said Cheri Soileau, director of planning and program development at CATS. “But what we can do is get you to medicine, shopping, recreation like the senior center or the south.”

Soileau said the microtransit works as a “demand response” for residents of a less populated area like Baker, who won’t need buses or other transit options.

“A place like Baker where there’s not a dense urban area or downtown, but they’re part of our system and we have to give them full service,” Soileau said. “So microtransit, using a van, can also get into neighborhoods, especially because big buses can’t make those tight turns and it’s very tricky.”

Using LYNX as a pilot program, CATS communications director Deanna Wallace said the route system could expand microtransit services to outlying areas around Baton Rouge in the future.

“One of the really good things about it is that it connects them to the fixed route system so they can get from where they are in Baker to our transfer station (Scotlandville) and then they can drive through all of Baton Rouge, Wallace said, “We’d like to see outlying towns more connected to the main CATS system and this is a great way to do that.”

LYNX is free to all riders through June to encourage more Baker residents to take advantage of microtransit services and foster a better relationship with public transit.

Soileau said getting rid of the “negative connotation” of buses and creating a positive relationship with public transit of all sizes is what LYNX stands for in the long run.

“It allows us to increase ridership and get people used to understanding what transit is,” she said. “Sometimes what comes out of that is put a fixed route bus in an area because you can’t put enough vans. What it will do is open the door and that’s the first step in giving many people independence and choice.”