CITY HALL — North and South Siders are uniting in a bid to bring back two long-lost Chicago Transit Authority bus routes.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said he's rallying support on the South Side in an attempt to open a two-front attack on the CTA and bring back the 31st Street bus line along with the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus in his North Center and Lincoln Square neighborhoods.
Proclaiming themselves the Crosstown Bus Coalition, they'll begin a campaign immediately on the way to building up public pressure for annual CTA budget hearings in the fall.
In uniting residents close to Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field, Pawar said, "It's kind of like the Crosstown Classic, only we're not at odds with each other."
Pawar is trying to join North Side groups that have been fighting to reinstate the Lincoln Avenue bus for more than three years with South Side groups like the Bridgeport Alliance, the Coalition for a Better Chinese-American Community and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation that have been fighting to revive the 31st Street bus for over a decade.
Pawar said it's not just about doubling their voices, but about finding common ground in areas underserved by the CTA.
"We have so much in common," Pawar said Monday. "You can see, whether it's a North Side or a South Side neighborhood, we're all fighting for equitable and fair access to mass transit."
Pawar said his own community needs the line to bond Lincoln Square with Old Town and parts in between, but also to give students better options to get to and from Lincoln Park High School.
Pawar is uniquely positioned to serve as the go-between, in that he remains the City Council's first and only Asian-American alderman and said he has close ties with Asian-Americans in and around Chinatown. He said Chinese-American residents are expanding to the south along 31st Street, including many retirees who could use a more convenient transit option.
"Without the bus, a lot of people feel like they're trapped," Pawar said. "Life is significantly more difficult," he added, and that's true for residents along 31st Street as well as those along the Lincoln Avenue corridor.
Pawar is concentrating on community groups, but colleagues in the City Council may jump on board. Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said the 31st Street bus remains a key issue to her Bronzeville residents. "I support the 31st Street bus coming back," she said. "I'm open to talking about it."
The CTA said that while groups can join their voices to make them louder, that won't keep the agency from taking the service issues one at a time.
"We really have to look at each route separately," said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase.
"The CTA routinely listens to and considers all service requests from community groups and elected officials," Chase added. "In making a determination on whether additional service is needed, CTA takes into consideration a number of factors, including analysis of census and ridership data and surveys."
Chase insisted that the 35th Street bus had added loops along 31st Street to the west between Kedzie and Cicero avenues and to the east at the lakefront in summer. She said a CTA study had "determined there was insufficient demand to support a new route on 31st Street east of Ashland and Archer" avenues.
Likewise, she said the CTA has "no plans" to restore the 11 bus service south beyond the Brown Line stop at Western Avenue, adding that "the Lincoln Avenue corridor is one of the most transit-rich areas of the city."
Chase also emphasized that the agency is already facing a potential $133 million cut in funding in Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget proposal.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: