BRIDGEPORT — The CTA has approved a permanent extension of the No. 35 bus route and added seasonal express service to the 31st Street Beach.
But community activists hoping for a bus route from the Southwest Side all the way to the lakefront via 31st Street say the measures don't go far enough.
"We were completely snubbed," said Joe Trutin, a Bridgeport resident and longtime vocal proponent of restoring the original 31st Street routes, which were split in two and cut through Little Village, McKinley Park, Armour Square, Bridgeport and Bronzeville. The routes were axed in 1997 after a decline in ridership.
The CTA on Wednesday approved the extension on the far west end of No. 35 route, which travels 31st Street between Kedzie and Cicero avenues in Little Village, after a yearlong ridership study.
Beginning next summer, the CTA will also start a new seasonal bus service to the 31st Street Beach via the No. 35 bus route. From roughly 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays, the 35th Street bus will continue north to the beach. The route will run from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The moves were lauded by community leaders who said they would help connect the neighborhood with Downtown.
While the news is considered a win for commuters in Little Village, the CTA's decision left backers of re-establishing a full 31st Street route reeling.
In the last few months, they've rallied to gather support from politicians, established social media pages soliciting support for the bus route and hit the streets with bike rallies and "photo petition" sessions along the corridor.
And they arrived by the busload at Wednesday's CTA board meeting hoping for good news.
But transit leaders said that extending the route from Little Village to the lakefront wasn't feasible, citing a study (available here) that concluded there wasn't enough demand to support the route east of Ashland and Archer avenues.
Michael Connelly, vice president of planning for the transit agency, also said the CTA couldn't find any "trip generator" destinations along the eastern stretch of 31st Street.
That left activists fuming.
They say a 31st Street bus could whisk riders to churches, laundromats, senior housing facilities, cultural destinations and Mercy Hospital.
"Who did this study? They couldn't find any places around the route? Are you serious? They didn't even look. People can't even get to Mercy Hospital for God's sake. And I say that as a pastor, for God's sake," said the Rev. Tom Gaulke, pastor at Bridgeport's First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, located along the potential route at 643 W. 31st St.
The CTA has said restoring the full route would cost $3 million annually.
Activists with the Bridgeport Alliance will meet with CTA leaders in the coming weeks to discuss the possibility of conducting a new ridership study.