On their side stands Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th), who said he recently asked the transit authority for a feasibility study of the bus corridor between Ashland and the city’s Museum Campus to measure ridership.
“I think it’s a great first step,” Thompson said to the 10 Bridgeport Alliance members in attendance at the group's general meeting at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity Thursday night. “I appreciate what all of you are doing.”
If the CTA approves the request, the study could be underway by the middle of 2016, Thompson said.
The CTA eliminated the route — which once took riders from Cicero Avenue to the lakefront and up to the museum campus — in 1997 because of low ridership, prompting activists to fight for its reinstatement.
At a public meeting at City Hall in April, CTA bosses claimed ridership surveys have shown there isn't enough need to bring back the 31st Street bus.
In 2012, the CTA restored part of the route as part of a 180-day test program and extension of the No. 35 bus to 31st Street west of Kedzie Avenue to Cicero Avenue in Little Village.
During the first four months of the test, the CTA said, ridership was up — with an average of 570 rides on weekdays, 386 on Saturdays and 271 on Sundays — but the numbers were still short of their projections.
Though the CTA permanently extended the western leg of the route the following year, transit bosses said the eastern leg of the route to the lakefront wasn't feasible, citing a study concluding there wasn't enough demand to support the route east of Ashland and Archer avenues.
Still, in 2014 the CTA announced a new weekend service to 31st Street Beach via the No. 35 bus route. The seasonal addition made it so riders on the route's far west end could board a bus in Little Village and go straight to the beach — something that wasn't possible before.
At Thursday’s meeting, the Rev. Thomas Gaulke shared an update on the group’s fierce campaign to reinstate the long-disbanded route.
For the past several months the Alliance has attended the CTA’s public board meetings. The last meeting, on Oct. 14, featured Ald. Thompson standing in support of the grassroots group.
“The boardroom was packed,” Gaulke said. “It was a pretty great meeting.”
Though the possibility of a feasibility study shows progress, Gaulke said the battle is far from over.
“Sometimes feasibility studies are where campaigns go to die,” Gaulke said.
That’s why it’s important to keep the pressure on the CTA by attending meetings, making the campaign’s voices heard through buzz on the internet and keeping the community updated and involved, he said.
“This act of solidarity is the right thing to do,” Gaulke said.
The next CTA board meeting is 6 p.m. Nov. 16 at 567 W. Lake St.
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