GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - What does the Coast Transit Authority have to do with economic development?
That question was answered today at a meeting of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce. Kevin Coggin, the executive director of CTA, addressed a crowd of about 75 business leaders.
The sign at the CTA transit hub says it all, the authority keeps the gulf coast rolling. In doing so, the economy is kept rolling as well. Especially for people on a budget.
That's the word from executive director Kevin Coggin. "We offer an opportunity for families trying to make ends meet and they only need to have one car instead of two," he said.
That can save about $9,000 a year on gas and maintenance for a single car. The authority also employs 105 people with an annual payroll of $3 million dollars.
However, CTA is also facing challenges. Ridership is now about 900,000 people per year.
It was more than a million a couple of years ago, according to Coggin. "The trend is down now, as it is all throughout the United States because the economy is up. People's personal financial positions are better. When it's a down economy, more people ride transit," Coggin explained..
Another challenge is the mindset of people who love their cars.
Adele Lyons is the coast Chamber director. "People just aren't accustomed to public transportation as you are in larger cities, particularly in the north. I think it's something of a necessity and we hope we always have it in our community."
The service widely benefits tourists who visit the coast, who often want to hop from attraction to attraction without the hassle of driving.
One of them is Tracie Klawiter. "I like it because we can stop at any casino and play for a little or a long time, and we'll always get a ride to the next stop, where another casino is," Klawiter said.
The greatest impact is on jobs, since 30% of all riders are either going to or from work.
That's critical for an operation like Goodwill Industries. Richmond Vincent is the CEO.
He stated, "Public transportation is one of the most important factors for our clients. Because for many of our clients, the biggest challenge is getting to our services. Not only getting to our services, but we help people find jobs here along the coast."
With that mission being accomplished daily, CTA will continue to keep the coast rolling for a long time.
CTA has an annual operating budget of $6 million dollars. Of that, about $4 million comes from federal, state, and local grants. On an average year, the authority usually breaks even.