It is a good thing he likes a challenge. Dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina may have taken over his agenda in the last year but CTA has always been challenging covering such a large service area with a diverse ridership. CTA serves three coastal counties, providing fixed-route and ADA/paratransit services to Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.
With such a large coverage area, keeping the demand response service effective and cost effective has been demanding. "We take senior citizens to day centers everyday, we take them grocery shopping once a week and we'll take them to doctor's appointments up to three times a week." Coggin adds, "It's an excellent program, we're very proud of it." CTA also takes mentally disabled adults to day work centers. Coggin says, "All these senior citizens and all these adults, we provide the means for them to continue as productive citizens and it really means a lot to them. They really are happy with what we do for them, they really like it."
Rebuilding a Community
Coggin talks about the challenges of rebuilding and stresses, "Our biggest challenge is to be a part of a community, to grow the public transit system, to be responsive and to be a part of the growth of the community from the rebuilding of Katrina.
"The communities want public transportation to be planned as part of the growth, not an afterthought," Coggin says. A governor's commission kicked off the recovery plan and each individual city, community and county is going through the planning and rebuilding efforts.
CTA was the lead provider of evacuation transportation prior to Hurricane Katrina but as Coggin explains, it has become more organized post Katrina. "We're now an integral part of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency and we are the transportation coordinator for the county not just for evacuation transportation but for emergency transportation period." He stresses, "There is a plan. It is more structured, more organized."
A year-round registration system for people in Harrison County is just one part of the planning process. People that think they may need evacuation transportation are screened and preregistered. CTA provides the out-of-town transportation but not the buses. "Our equipment stays local; we're managing the coordination effort, the state agency, to bring in buses and to take people out of the county."
There are still 30,000 to 40,000 people living in the area in FEMA campers. Much of the displaced population has moved out of the coastal area and into the upper part of the three southern counties. "We're working now to put together a work transportation program to fi nd out where all the folks are and provide a transportation link from where they're living to the jobs that are reestablishing on the coast," Coggin explains. "We have a lot of manufacturing, a lot of shipyards, a lot of casinos, a lot of major employers." He adds, "We want to keep people connected to the coast, those jobs.
"If we can keep them employed on the coast and interested in the coast, we're hoping they'll move back home." The housing shortage means there are not enough workers and businesses are struggling. Many companies are busing in workers and CTA is developing programs to assist with that.
Staff of the Year
Listening to Coggin talk about the damaged community and working at getting workers to jobs on the coast it is easy to forget CTA still has problems of its own post Katrina. "Our employees suffered just like the rest of the community. Many of them lost their home, lost everything," Coggin says. "They showed up for work the very next day. The maintenance department started cleaning up, getting buses ready to run, straightening up the maintenance facility so that we could support operations.
"Bus drivers showed up the next day. They recognized the condition the community was in and how important the services are that we provide." He emphasizes, "People needed us more after the storm than they ever did. They desperately needed transportation, public transportation."
Coggin described how one of the CTA drivers was living out of her van and coming to work every day. "She could have been down at the FEMA desk trying to get a trailer to live in but she was at work everyday because she knew that her folks that she carried every day, she knew what kind of condition they were in."