Coast Transit Authority Prepares For Future

"This is going to be our springboard for the future right here, the hub of our operations," said Kevin Coggin, as he admired the new CTA station in downtown Biloxi.

The new $2 million transit station will be home to both CTA buses and Greyhound.

Those gathered for the dedication Tuesday morning learned of transit plans beyond buses. A new service called "Coast Commuter Program" will use passenger vans to transport employees back and forth to work.

"Local businesses are struggling to provide an adequate workforce. So, that's designed to help provide transportation to help support businesses in recruitment and retention of employees," said Coggin.

Public transit can be an economic development issue. Prospective businesses want to know about transportation.

"Who can get around? Are they worried about themselves? Not particularly. They're worried about their workers' families. Transportation is something that is absolutely critical," said Mike Strojny, who chairs the CTA board.

While public transit may be critical to development, it often faces an image issue. Potential riders need to be convinced to use it.

"I think you start first of all by having good quality service. And you have to have consistent service. If people will learn to depend on those buses being on time, taking them where they need to be on time. So, starting there is the first hurdle. And success breeds success," said Yvette Taylor with the Federal Transportation Administration.

Bus routes and ridership have changed since the storm. Before Katrina, the beachcomber line on Highway 90 was CTA's busiest bus route, carrying some two hundred fifty thousand passengers a year. But that busy route disappeared overnight.

Since the storm, much of that ridership has shifted to the growing Pass Road route. It's yet another change, for a CTA that's positioning itself to meet the transit needs of a changing coast.

CTA is also about to launch a new bus service aimed at tourists and casino customers. Called the "Casino Hopper," that specialized transit service is expected to begin in late March.