BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The CTA's newest bus route in the city of Biloxi faces an uncertain future.
Route 32 was opened last December on a six month trial basis. It connected the Cedar Lake and Popps Ferry Road corridors to the rest of the CTA buses. "The understanding was we needed to be close to seven riders per hour. That's the sustainable level for a route," said Kevin Coggin, CTA director.
Coggin said The trial started nearly eight months ago, and despite an extension, it has averaged less than three riders an hour. "I'm surprised it hasn't worked out, but the fact of the matter is the community is not using it at a level to sustain it," said Coggin.
If the route goes away, there will be some unhappy frequent riders. "We have about 12 regular residents from the Santa Maria alone that I can vouch for that get on the bus on a regular basis just to go to the neighborhood market down the street to go grocery shopping and get their groceries," said Judie Reardon.
Reardon lives at the Santa Maria Del Mar complex, which was expected to be one of the big customer draws for the bus route. It's not just grocery shoppers that will be impacted. This route connects to other buses. "I would be devastated if they took the 32 away where I couldn't get to the 34 and go to school," said Sharon Harper, who also lives at the Santa Maria.
One idea proposed by several riders is having the route transport passengers to the city next door, where Sophie Roboubiat says she does a lot of shopping. "If they connected with D'Iberville and traveled along this corridor, they would have lots more traffic," said Roboubiat.
But Coggin believes it may be too late to risk another trial run. "We don't know for certain that that would put us at the level that it would be sustainable. We don't know that it won't, but we don't know that it will," he said.
The city of Biloxi already put $40,000 towards the first trial run, and Coggin said the route is being run from the CTA's funds now after the city requested an extension.
City officials are willing to find another way to keep it running. "We're still going to look at maybe limiting the route to maybe five days and the rest of the council is very open to see what we can do," said councilman Kenny Glavan, who worked to bring the route to his ward.
Other than that, chances don't look promising for the the route to continue. Coggin said if the CTA decides to terminate route, there will be at least two weeks notice. There are a group of concerned riders planning to ask the city of D'Iberville officials to help in any way they can.