CTA Garage Struggles To Park Cars

Arnisha Gamble had an appointment in downtown Gulfport. So the Stone County woman pulled into CTA's Gulfport Transit Center.

"I was trying to get over to the federal building," she said.

The federal building is directly across the street from the park and ride center.

Six months ago, Coast Transit Authority took a calculated gamble when it used federal, county and city money to open the nine million dollar garage.

Kevin Coggin is CTA's executive director.

"I wouldn't call it a success at this point because it isn't being utilized like it could," he said.

Coggin showed WLOX News CTA's monthly parking report since the 550 space garage opened. Through May, 1,321 cars used the covered parking. The $4,079 they paid was well short of what CTA needed to cover its annual $20,000 share of the parking garage costs.

But, Coggin was still confident that in time, the garage would fill up.

"There is great potential for it to be utilized like it could," he said. "It's a good economic development resource for the city."

The CTA director believes an upcoming change to hybrid buses will make Gulfport's garage more attractive to people who work or eat in the area.

"Downtown business people are telling me to keep the faith," said Coggin. "It's a good economic development asset for the city. And I feel that way about it, that sooner as opposed to later, it will be used."

If it is used, Coggin expects plenty of cars to pay a dollar an hour, or seven dollars a day to park in a garage that right now is just about empty.

Next January, CTA will turn some of its Gulfport transit center into retail and office space. The bus company expects those tenants to steer traffic into the garage.