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31st St., Lincoln Ave. Bus Advocates Hope To Make Case to New CTA Boss

By Ted Cox | April 27, 2015 3:46pm
 Ald. Ameya Pawar leaves a meeting with North and South Side activists in an attempt to revive the Lincoln Avenue and 31st Street CTA buses.
Ald. Ameya Pawar leaves a meeting with North and South Side activists in an attempt to revive the Lincoln Avenue and 31st Street CTA buses.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — About a dozen activists seeking to revive the 31st Street and Lincoln Avenue bus lines hope a new CTA president will be more sympathetic to their cause.

"There's an opportunity here," said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who met with the activists Monday at City Hall.

The Crosstown Bus Coalition formed earlier this month in a bid to join forces and increase their numbers to get the two bus lines revived.

Pawar said the new coalition will press an "advocacy" campaign to both have a say in who gets appointed head of the CTA and to have that person pursue a revival of the bus lines.

The CTA, meanwhile, will need a new president after Forrest Claypool agreed to return to City Hall to serve as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's chief of staff to open his second term.

The coalition sees that move as creating a spot for leverage, but its arguments for reviving the bus lines remain consistent.

C.W. Chan, chairman of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, said providing access to businesses along the lines, of course, is an issue, but "the buses are really a civil-rights issue. It's not business" alone.

"It's about people," said Dara Salk of Pawar's 47th Ward office.

Pastor Thomas Gaulke, of the First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, 643 W. 31st St., said the primary question was "how will this affect the poor and the most vulnerable," especially senior citizens along the discontinued routes.

"It does need to come back," said Jeff DeLong, marketing director at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. DeLong said that if the city is serious about diminishing its reliance on cars, "you've shot yourself in the foot" by halting the bus lines.

The CTA has countered that if though the groups joined forces, it won't keep the agency from treating them as separate issues. The CTA maintains that ridership surveys have shown there isn't enough need to bring back the 31st Street bus, while the Lincoln Avenue corridor, it says, is amply served by the CTA Brown Line. It pleads reduced resources, especially with budget cuts threatened by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Pawar said the coalition would be hitting CTA meetings in a bid to influence the selection of the next president and to push for the bus lines to be reinstituted, adding, "We just want a seat at the table."

Karen Kolb Flude, of Forward Chicago, said, "It's about equity across ages, across areas of the city and across baseball teams," as the Lincoln bus ran close to Wrigley Field while the 31st Street bus did the same for U.S. Cellular Field.

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