CHICAGO — Activists hoping to reinstate the long-shuttered CTA 31st Street bus route are taking their campaign to the streets, encouraging neighbors to join a rolling convoy along the corridor from Little Village to the lakefront.
"Last year we had rollerbladers and [one rider] in a wheelchair. Anybody can come. If it has wheels, they can be part of it. I’d like to see a few motorcycles in there," said Joe Trutin, a McKinley Park business owner who made the 31st Street bus proposal a key part of his failed 2010 bid for 2nd District state representative.
The 31st Street Bike/Roll event begins 10 a.m. Saturday at the offices of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, 2856 S. Millard Ave., then follows the proposed bus route to the Trutin's Video Strip at 3307 S. Archer Ave. in McKinley Park, and Jackalope Coffee and Tea House, 755 W. 32nd St. in Bridgeport. Riders are free to join at any stop.
The ride wraps up with a pot luck party and swimming at the 31st Street Beach.
It's the third go-around for the event, which last year drew about 100 participants, organizers said.
This year, there's even more momentum to resurrect the route, disbanded by the CTA in 1997 because of low ridership.
The transit agency started a partial test route — an extension of the No. 35 bus to 31st Street between Kedzie and Cicero avenues in Little Village — after pressure from community groups including Bridgeport Alliance and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.
A long-promised feasibility study by the CTA examining demographics, ridership numbers and population figures is expected to start soon.
Meanwhile, activist have kept the issue alive in recent months by starting a Twitter account, inviting neighbors to a Facebook page and hosting "photo petition" sessions, where residents along the corridor posed for pictures clutching signs depicting where they'd travel along the route.
While the test route is funded by a federal Job Access and Reverse Commute grant, the CTA has said it will cost $3 million annually to operate the full 31st Street route, from Cicero Avenue to the lakefront and up to the museum campus.
Riders say it would be money well spent.
Flora Ramirez, an organizer who's helping lead the push for the Little Village group, said she rides the test route from Cicero to the LVEJO offices every day.
She hopes to prove that the restoring the route would not only improve commuter times for adults, but would also help Southwest Side teens see "that side of Chicago" by offering an easy route to the museum campus.
While a lot of the activists' legwork has taken place behind the scenes — inside politicians offices and conference rooms at the CTA's Downtown headquarters — Saturday's ride is all about visibility.
"Mobility is an issue," she said. "We're trying to raise awareness and help young people get exposed to a world that seems very far but really isn’t."