CTA Celebrates Rise In Ridership

Riders on the Casino Hopper got a pleasant surprise on their morning commute Wednesday.

"The fare is free today," a Coast Transit Authority bus driver told entering riders.

Free rides on every route was just one of the Coast Transit Authority's gifts to its riders.

"And you get free coffee and cake today," Richie Siegel of Lady Lake, Florida said.

The CTA's management and staff were on hand at the new Biloxi Transit Center to personally thank their customers for what Executive Director Kevin Coggin calls "a great hurricane recovery success story."

"We've exceeded out pre-Katrina levels in fixed route ridership by several thousand a month, and also our system ridership, which is our demand response and fixed route ridership," Coggin said.

According to Coggin, many of those new riders include people who took advantage of CTA's free service in the months following the hurricane.

"Many people lost their cars and were in a desperate situation."

But, Coggin says, it's the affordable price and convenience has helped keep those numbers up.

"It's a really, really good service, because sometimes you don't want to drive the car from here to there," construction contractor Parvez Khan said.

Tourists represent another growing segment of public transportation users.

"We're here to gamble," Elizabeth Eisch of Clearmont, Florida said. "I'm taking the bus to go shopping for a break in the gambling, because you can't gamble 24 hours a day."

"It's air conditioned," Rosie Mitchell, also of Clearmont, Florida, said. "The driver knows where he's going and you don't get lost."

If you missed your free ride Wednesday, there's something else free on Thursday. A free open house will be held 5-7pm at the CTA'S Gulfport office on Debuys Road.

You can tour the facility, meet the staff, talk to local officials, and get a look at CTA's 25 year Transit Development Plan. That plan includes refurbished facilities, new buses, and more routes for the growing public transportation using population.