LINCOLN SQUARE — Proponents of the #11 Lincoln Avenue bus are heading to CTA headquarters one more time to ask board members for a reprieve, calling for a reversal of the planned elimination of service on the segment of the route between Western and Fullerton avenues, scheduled to take effect Dec. 16.
And they're riding the bus to plead their case.
"Get on the bus to save the bus" is a last-ditch effort organized by Liza Martin, director of the North Center Senior Satellite Center, and Nick Alex, owner of the Golden Apple restaurant, who are renting charters to transport residents to the Dec. 10 CTA board meeting.
And, yes, Martin is well aware the #11 Lincoln stops at Lake and Wells streets, a four-block walk to CTA offices.
"This is for people who can't walk four blocks," she said. "And that's the point."
When CTA announced its "Crowd Reduction Plan" in August, the agency touted increased service on a number of rail lines and bus routes. Tucked into the same release was the news that a dozen bus routes and partial segments of three others were on the chopping block. The #11 was included in the latter group, with the Western-to-Fullerton leg deemed redundant with Brown Line service, according to CTA, which noted that rail stations are typically located within a half-mile of Lincoln Avenue.
"They're claiming this is redundance," said Alex. "It's not. We're dependent on the Lincoln bus."
With his restaurant situated at the convergence of Lincoln, Wellington and Southport avenues, Alex said, "We get a large percent of our business from the Lincoln bus," but he's equally concerned about the impact on older riders. "Somebody who's 70 or 80 years old and it's 10 below zero — I'm giving the worst case — instead of walking one block ... . That's why I'm fighting this. A lot of people are fighting this."
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the CTA's plan, even offering up 47th Ward Tax Increment Finance dollars to fund the route.
"The elimination of this bus takes away the ability of people to navigate the community freely," he told those in attendance at a recent meeting of Forward Chicago. "CTA doesn't seem to understand. If you're carrying groceries or not able to walk four to five blocks, that could be the tipping point to becoming less active or moving to the suburbs."
Pawar was one of dozens of speakers who appeared before the CTA board at the group's September meeting, calling on members to retain the #11's current level of service. Heather Way, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, presented a petition with 2,000 signatures in favor of the Lincoln bus. A week later, the board voted to accept CTA's proposal, cuts and all.
At the time, Pawar commented, "The CTA got this one wrong."
Martin has worked tirelessly ever since to maintain a steady drumbeat of protest directed at CTA President Forrest Claypool. That original petition now boasts 11,000 signees.
The #11 is a "very, very important thing" for the seniors she serves, said Martin. "It's going to be a wound they won't recover from. It will put some of these seniors back in their homes and they won't come back out. It just makes me crazy."
The CTA board meeting is set for Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at 567 W. Lake St. For those who would like to reserve a spot on the buses being chartered from the Senior Center and Golden Apple, contact Martin at 773-520-8015 or 312-744-4029, or Alex at 847-219-2153.