BRIDGEPORT — The campaign to bring back the CTA’s full 31st Street bus route was steered a little closer to reality after the agency pledged to study the restoration of the east-west route.
But many of the South Side activists who packed the transit agency’s Wednesday board meeting say that's a road they've traveled before.
“They promised us the same thing they promised us last time,” said Paul Zickus, 60, of Bridgeport, a disabled Vietnam War veteran who spoke at Wednesday’s CTA meeting.
The original 31st Street routes, which cut through Little Village, McKinley Park, Armour Square, Bridgeport and Bronzeville, were axed in 1997 after a decline in ridership.
The CTA restored part of the route in the fall as part of a six-month test run, an extension of the No. 35 bus to 31st Street between Kedzie and Cicero avenues in Little Village.
The CTA said ridership was up during the first four months of the test — with an average of 570 rides on weekdays, 386 on Saturdays and 271 on Sundays — but that's still short of their projections.
That could be due to a few factors, including the Chicago teachers strike in September and an overall decline in bus ridership in the fall and winter.
At Wednesday’s CTA meeting, the board renewed that test for another six months, which will allow the agency to collect a full year's worth of ridership data.
Claudia Ayala, an organizer with the Little Village Justice Organization, said her neighborhood was happy to get another six months of service, but said the test route’s hours — 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily — weren’t enough to serve the area’s night and overnight workers.
“We’re definitely not a 9-to-5 community,” she said.
Proponents of the full route hope to one day ride a bus that would take them from Cicero Avenue to the lakefront and up to the museum campus. Along the way, the bus would shuttle commuters to Mercy Hospital, senior homes, new businesses and the renovated 31st Street beach.
Ald. James Balcer (11th) and a host of other South Side politicians have backed the effort.
“The community has expanded. There are more people living here. There are more businesses. It’s as simple as that,” Balcer said. “Bring it back.”
The CTA has said restoring and operating the route would cost $3 million.
The transit agency’s pledge to study a potential restoration of the full route — they’ll look at census information and economic impact — has drawn skepticism from community leaders and activists from the Bridgeport Alliance, a grassroots group that's made the 31st Street bus one of its main causes.
The transit agency, they said, has been promising the same study since the community campaign began last year. CTA president Forrest Claypool pledged again at Wednesday's meeting to conduct the study, they said.
"They promised it to us last time but didn't give it to us," said Joe Trutin, of Bridgeport. "Claypool was the one who said there will be a study, but they were as vague as possible" about when it would be complete.