LINCOLN SQUARE — The No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus is back.
Three years after the Chicago Transit Authority axed the Western-to-Fullerton leg of the No. 11 route, CTA President Dorval Carter reversed course and announced a "pilot" return of the bus come spring 2016. The No. 31 route on the South Side is also making a comeback.
Carter shared the news at Wednesday's meeting of the CTA's board. He said he had a "productive dialogue with the community" leading up to the decision.
"I can't speak to the process that occurred four years ago," Carter said. "I can speak to what I've heard from the community and the aldermen."
"This is a huge victory," said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), whose ward covers much of the route's footprint that was cut.
"The board members spent a lot of time working with us," said Pawar. "It's a real change in the relationship."
Wednesday's win, Carter noted, is only the first step toward potential permanent restoration of the No. 11 and No. 31 routes.
The announcement of a pilot doesn't mean the route is back for good, he clarified.
"They believe there is tremendous demand," Carter said of the route's supporters. "What I'm really doing is saying, 'Let's see if that's true.' The community continued to make the case. Let them prove it."
Ridership targets, yet to be determined, will be pegged to the pilot.
Carter said he will continue to work with the community and the alderman to determine what service will be provided during the pilot — weekdays, rush hour, weekends, etc.
"I literally don't know" what it will look like, Carter said.
The pilot will be paid for out of a fund reserved just for such test cases and won't require additional budgetary resources, Carter told the CTA board.
It's been a long road for No. 11 advocates, who've been protesting since 2012 the CTA's determination that the Lincoln route was "redundant" with Brown Line service. Eliminating the Western-to-Fullerton leg was part of a broader effort to funnel resources from duplicative or low-performing bus routes into rail service and routes experiencing growth.
"Bus and rail are complementary," Carter said. "The key is trying to find the right balance."
Pawar and other No. 11 supporters, including Ald. Michelle Smith (43rd), continually disputed the notion that Brown Line service met the needs of Lincoln bus riders. At board meeting after board meeting, residents clad in bright yellow "Save #11 Bus" t-shirts argued their case.
"You fight for things you believe in," said Pawar. "You create your luck by working at it."
The alderman credited Carter, appointed in May, and CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson for "listening to the community."
Though supporters of the No. 11 route — including several chambers of commerce, advocates for senior citizens and various elected officials — initially focused their efforts on the return of the Lincoln Avenue route, in April of this year a crosstown coalition was announced that brought proponents of the No. 31 bus into the fold.
"We made this about citywide bus equity," said Pawar.
The alderman said he's planning a communication campaign to coincide with the No. 11's revival.
"We'll make sure everyone knows it's going to come back," he said. "Now we need people to ride."
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