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CATS ends 40 years of transportation services in Carroll

As July came to a close, Carroll Area Transit System concluded more than 40 years of service in the county as the local company closed its doors and dissolved the nonprofit.

CATS' board of directors sent out a news release Monday acknowledging that services had ceased as of Aug. 1 due to a lack of sufficient new business and reduced capacity to serve the community. According to Gerald Fuss, a member of the board, remaining customers were notified at the end of July, before services were ceased.

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CATS dissolution has resulted in the loss of two full-time positions: the executive director and office coordinator. Fuss said the part-time drivers were also let go.

CATS had served as the county's primary transportation service until 2015. In December 2014, the county awarded a $1.4 million contract to Owings Mills-based Butler Mobility to take over transportation services in the county from CATS. The new service, Carroll Transit System, currently operates demand-response, door-to-door services and five deviated-fixed routes previously operated by CATS.

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For five months, CATS continued to operate the county's Veterans Shuttle, which transports veterans and their caregivers to Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals outside of the county. In June 2015, the Board of County Commissioners decided to change service providers from CATS to Butler Medical, due to commissioners' concerns about CATS' finances.

The loss of these contracts would prove fatal to the nonprofit. Fuss said they attempted to cover the loss in funds by seeking grants and sponsors, as well as developing new business, but it wasn't enough to keep the organization running.

Some ideas to attract new business included transportation for Carroll residents to outside of the county; changing hours to provide people with reliable rides to work, and an inclusion of weekend hours. Fuss said none of these ideas ended up bringing in enough funds for CATS' survival.

"We had over 18 months to try things out," Fuss said. "Those ideas all depended on the amount of business available. You can't run a bus an extra 40 miles for only two people. The future was just not promising for us."

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Twitter.com/Jacob_deNobel

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