By Quinn Welsch
“Our goal is to put the buses where [passengers] want them, not where we want them.”
For most fans at Tiger Stadium, the Saturday night walk back from the last home game of the season to the parking lot was a long one – figuratively and literally. While many of the estimated 160,000 people on LSU’s campus that night for the Tigers’ heartbreaking loss to Alabama would sit in midnight traffic into the early hours of the morning, a couple thousand fans filed into the Touchdown Express, a fleet of 18 buses and four trolleys, for a ride home.
For LSU’s season finale, the Capitol Area Transit System (CATS) put its Touchdown Express service back in full swing with unlimited tickets after a 1,000-ticket limit in the beginning of the season due to the postgame traffic complications on Nicholson Drive. The Touchdown Express provides public transportation for fans after home games during the football season to the downtown area and to the L’Auberge Casino. Last season, the service sold an average of about 7,000 tickets. For $10 for a round trip ticket, it’s a profitable service.
Though the ride to the stadium was quick and easy, the bus full of moody LSU fans at midnight on the return trip was a different story. Additionally some passengers complained that the Touchdown Express routes were not permanent and were therefore not being used effectively.
CATS CEO Bob Mirabito said the service is still relatively new and is still evolving to the city’s traffic needs. The routes might not be permanent, but the Touchdown Express is flexible to the public demand, Mirabito said.
“Our goal is to put the buses where [passengers] want them, not where we want them,” Mirabito said.
There is talk of providing service to the eastern portion of the parish and to the Baker in the north, Mirabito said. CATS will provide a similar service will be used during Bayou Country Superfest in May.
There are no definite plans to expand the service yet, but CATS hopes to make the service more visible to the public next season, Mirabito said.
With this season’s contraflow, the LSU Police and CATS were both learning how to best deal with the game day traffic problems, he said.
“We have to gear our patterns to get [fans] out of there as quickly and safely as possible,” LSU Police Capt. Cory Lalonde said.
Those fans include about 40,000 to 50,000 vehicles, he said.
“I think everyone is starting to realize there is an option to help with the congestion on campus,” Mirabito said.
The 25-30 minute drive – in spite of the traffic around campus – between downtown Baton Rouge and the campus makes easy access for local Tiger fans.
“If you’re not tailgating, this is the way to do it,” said one passenger.