GULFORT, MS (WLOX) – Public transportation in South Mississippi is taking a big blow from budget cuts. The Coast Transit Authority is proposing some route reductions to cope with a 25-percent loss in local funding. That means some CTA buses may be pulling out of east Biloxi, Long Beach and D'Iberville.
"The two most significant things we're talking about doing is eliminating service on the Seabee Base. It is averaging one person per hour riding, which is not very good. And we're proposing to eliminate the Beachcomber service in Long Beach," said CTA Director Kevin Coggin.
Under the plan, the Beachcomber route at Casino Row would also be eliminated. However, the Casino Hopper trolleys will continue to roll. And the CTA could also put the brakes on the D'Iberville Express service.
The cuts will affect more than just the people who ride the buses. CTA is also making some internal changes, which means the employees will also feel the pinch.
"Everybody is not getting a raise. Everybody is having to pay for their health insurance. Some of these positions are being converted from full-time to part-time. We're not doing any layoffs. We're going to do that through attrition," said Coggin.
Coggin said the cuts in positions and benefits, along with fewer bus routes, will save the agency about $250,000.
"This is the first time that we have done a retraction in the system since Katrina. We've been growing it since then. It's unfortunate that we're having to do this at a time when we just experienced our second consecutive year of record ridership," said Coggin.
Last year, 855,000 people rode CTA buses and trolleys. This year, the ridership jumped to 960,000.
"We're a victim of the economy and we understand the local governments and their challenges. We're doing some belt tightening as well," said Coggin.
The CTA will hold two public meetings on the proposed route changes. One meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday at 5:00 p.m at the Biloxi Transit Center on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The other is on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. at the CTA office on Debuys Road in Gulfport.
If the changes are adopted, they will go into effect sometime in February.