CATA out of bag: Now Rock Region Metro 

METRO MAESTRO: Central Arkansas Transit Director Jarod Varner with one of the new natural gas-powered buses.
  • METRO MAESTRO: Central Arkansas Transit Director Jarod Varner with one of the new natural gas-powered buses.

CATA in Little Rock has quit pussyfooting around: The Rock Region Metro has rolled out, with 15 snazzy new compressed natural gas buses and the entire fleet of 58 equipped with free Wi-Fi. Plus, starting in September, you'll be able to text the Rock Region Metro or download an app to let you know when the next bus will pull up to your stop. New bus stop signs will tell you more than you're standing at a bus stop: They'll show route maps — what a concept! — and information on how text to get your schedule.

Trolley stops showing the new Rock Region Metro branding have been unveiled and the new buses hit the streets Tuesday. Jarod Varner, CATA director, is aiming for bigger improvements: He wants a bus system with a "hierarchy" that fits the needs of Little Rock commuters. That means a bus rapid transit (BRT in CATA-speak) routes that would shuttle people between downtown and points west with pickups only 10 to 15 minutes apart, stopping at stations instead of shelters; "flex zones," where travelers could schedule pick-ups on smaller buses from mini-hubs to the larger transit system; and more buses in North Little Rock so that people trying to travel from east to west — say from Pulaski Tech to McCain Mall — don't have to go to Little Rock first. "It's all about modernizing," Varner says. If RR Metro can "put the service where it needs to go in a format it needs, we will generate more demand."

Varner also believes that an improved public transit system would have a positive impact on economic development, and the transit authority board agrees: It has approved a plan to seek a referendum on a ¼-cent tax that would provide $23 million for the new plan. CATA's new website will reflect the new name: rrmetro.org.


Speaking of The Rock Region Metro, Jarod Varner

  • Freedom ride for Rock Region

    February 18, 2016
    Dedicated tax will give bus agency flexibility to improve. /more/
  • AFP strays from conservative party line in opposition to bus tax

    January 22, 2016
    David Ray, the state director of the right-wing anti-taxation group Americans for Prosperity, which is placing hangtags on people's doors warning "Pulaski County Residents will Pay the Price" if a proposed .25 cent tax raise on the March 2 ballot passes, said in an email yesterday that "our activists have knocked doors across Pulaski County, we hear many people ask why the county insists on raising taxes to expand bus routes when there are severe problems with roads and underperforming schools. Folks living in Pulaski County should understand how local government is raising revenue and spending it." /more/
  • AFP launches fight against Rock Region .25 cent

    January 20, 2016
    Americans for Prosperity has launched an attack on the quarter-cent tax increase that would provided $18 million a year to improve public transportation in Little Rock. The hang-tag above is being distributed. The tax vote is set for March 1. You can bet no one associated with AFP rides a bus. They may not even drive themselves. /more/
  • Thumbing down on that I-30 ride

    November 12, 2015
    Ten-lane plan invigorates opposition, ideas for better way. /more/
  • Rock Region Metro seeks quarter-cent sales tax

    November 9, 2015
    The board of Rock Region Metro, formerly the Central Arkansas Transit System, voted today to ask the Pulaski County Quorum Court to call a referendum on a quarter-cent sales tax that would provide dedicated funding to the public transportation agency. The tax would be voted on March 1, 2016. at the same time as the primary elections. /more/
  • Jarod Varner picked to lead Central Arkansas Transit

    May 21, 2013
    Jarod Varner, who's been vice president of transit operations for the Denton County (Texas) Transportation Authority, where he's worked since 2005, has been selected to be the executive director of the Central Arkansas Transit Authority. /more/
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