CTA expects to give 1 million rides in 2011

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Coast Transit Authority is looking to give one million rides this year. CTA officials said they set a record in May when ridership hit 68,515 along the fixed routes. That's the most ever in a one month period. So far this year, CTA's total ridership is up as well.

People have different reasons for hopping the bus. Some ride for fun. Some for convenience. For the people who don't have any other way to get around, the Coast Transit Authority makes life a lot easier.

"If we couldn't utilize the bus system then we'd be walking," said Paul Sellers, passenger. "I'm a caretaker of a 60-year-old man. It would be really hard."

"Of course, I'm getting on up there in age myself. With the heat already here at 104 yesterday my gosh, thank God for the air conditioned buses or we'd be stroking out."

CTA officials said much of the spike has been in the fixed routes but total ridership is also up thanks to increase demand for services like carpools and disabled transportation. Officials said as the price of gas rise, more people are jumping on board.

"All the things that are happening in the community," said CTA Director Kevin Coggin. "The oil spill, the economy, the recession, the jobs. People are really suffering and they're turning to us to help provide some low cost transportation. We're glad we're in a position to be able to do that."

CTA isn't resting on its success. Officials said several new bus shelters are on the way in Biloxi and another at the airport in Gulfport. Next year passengers should see new state-of-the-art buses.

"They'll be a heavier duty. They'll be more comfortable to ride in," said Coggin. "They'll take more standees as our capacity grows, these buses will be able to carry more people."

Coggin said one million total riders is a goal CTA has had for a long time, and he has no doubt 2011 will be the year to finally celebrate that accomplishment.

CTA officials said the extra riders have helped them offset the increased price in fuel.

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