CTA Moves Ahead With Park And Ride Plans

CTA's current mission is to pick up passengers at bus stops and take them around the coast. It's eventual goal is to solve downtown parking woes. CTA wants to build park and ride garages, so workers like Allytra Nunley park there, and then take a bus to their downtown offices.

Nunley said it often gets frustrating trying to find a place to park. So, "If the parking was secure," she said, "I would use the park and ride system."

Federal grants will pay for most of the park and ride construction.

Reid Hopper is CTA's executive director. In his office are conceptual drawings of the park and ride facilities. "At this point, we're looking at a two level operation," he said, "a ground level and one parking deck on top."

Hopper said if the park and ride facility works, additional floors could be added later. So you know, the Biloxi park and ride will be on Washington Loop. And the property could be purchased by September.

In Gulfport, plans are still up in the air. "We think we've narrowed it down to two possible sites," said Hopper. "One site will be close on the east side of town over in the proximity of the new federal courthouse. And on the west side of town, we're looking at somewhere where the new north south connector would be coming in through MDOT."

CTA has already received a grant to build the maintenance garage and buy the five hybrid electric buses that will roll through the downtown areas. Each park and ride garage will cost about seven million dollars.

But don't forget, federal grants will pay for most of the construction.

By the way, CTA lost riders in 2001. According to Reid Hopper, about 800,000 passengers used the bus line last year. The year before, ridership was at 1.2 million. Hopper said much of the dropoff came after September 11th, when Keesler prevented his buses from getting on the base.