PULLMAN — Back in March, Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted the new Pullman Wal-Mart set to open on Wednesday as the crown jewel of his targeted neighborhood redevelopment project on the Far South Side.
But if you want to get there on the public transit — either for work or for groceries — get ready for a long walk because CTA buses won’t take you there.
Earlier this year, CTA bosses eliminated bus service on 111th Street east of Cottage Grove — which means the last stop is nearly a mile walk from Wal-Mart, located at 10900 S. Doty Ave.
And so far, the transit agency has balked at adding bus service to the Pullman Park strip mall anchored by the Wal-Mart Superstore despite a written promise to do so.
In July 2011, the CTA agreed to extend the 111 Pullman bus route to the strip mall at 111th and the Bishop Ford Expressway as part of the agreement with the developer, according to a document obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.
During the planning process, the CTA asked that bus stops and a bus turnaround be added to the $135 million development. About a month ago, the developer added sidewalks connecting bus stops to the Wal-Mart parking lot at the agency’s request, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives president David Doig said.
“We’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do as a far as installing infrastructure and our expectation is that bus service will be extended. We have an agreement that says that,” Doig said. “Public transit is very important for people being able to get here from the west … employees and customers in Roseland, West Pullman and Altgeld Gardens.”
Sources told DNAinfo Chicago that a City Hall official asked Wal-Mart to foot the bill for a “shuttle” to run from 111th and Cottage Grove to the store.
Neither CTA officials nor the Emanuel administration responded to questions about the request for a Wal-Mart-funded shuttle.
On Friday, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) was fuming with frustration.
“I’ve been talking to CTA for weeks about getting this done and it’s like talking to a wall. No results,” Beale said. “This is just common sense, the right thing to do and we have a signed contract. I don’t know why they’re trying to get out of it."
Beale, chairman of the City Council transportation committee, said he fired off a letter to CTA boss Forrest Claypool — and sent a copy to the mayor — in hopes of getting bus service started, but has yet to hear back.
“The bus route should have been going at least a month when workers started going there to stock the store. There’s 400 employees and over 250 of them take public transit,” Beale said.
CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said in an email that the development agreement “requires construction of a [bus] turnaround and six-months notice to the CTA of the store open, neither of which occurred. However, we have been in discussions with both the alderman and the developer about the timing and scope of bus service in that area."
Doig, however, said the bus turnaround has been completed and was inspected by the CTA about three weeks ago.
And Beale said his calls haven't been returned in weeks despite the months-long anticipation of Wednesday's opening.
“It doesn’t take that long to reroute a bus three blocks to turn around and come back the other way,” he said. "It's a no-brainer."
On Friday, Wal-Mart employees said some staff members have been harassed and victims of robbery attempts while walking to work from 111th and Cottage Grove, the closest bus stop to the store.
At a staff meeting, Wal-Mart store manager Darryl Bowles told workers that he had hoped bus service would have started already, but he wasn’t sure when that would happen.
“I hope it's soon,” Bowles said. “We really need it.”