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31st Street Bus Pilot Program A 'Slap In The Face': Bridgeport Alliance

By Ed Komenda | May 16, 2016 5:52am
 During a six-month pilot program, the No. 31 bus will run every 30 minutes between Ashland and King Drive from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
During a six-month pilot program, the No. 31 bus will run every 30 minutes between Ashland and King Drive from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
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BRIDGEPORT — The 31st Street bus route is officially making its long-awaited return — but the neighborhood activists who fought hardest to bring back the bus are disappointed.

“It looks like it’s set up to fail,” said Tom Gaulke, pastor at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity and member of the Bridgeport Alliance, the grassroots organization that rallied to restore the route.

The Chicago Transit Authority Board on Wednesday voted to revive both the No. 11 bus on Lincoln Avenue, set to start on June 20, and the No. 31 bus, slated to begin in September.

During a six-month pilot program, the No. 31 bus will run every 30 minutes from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. between Ashland and King Drive.

The CTA plans to monitor ridership. If enough people ride the buses, the transportation authority will restore the routes permanently. The target is 830 rides per day.

Quade Gallagher, co-chairman of the Bridgeport Alliance, said the bus schedule will make that goal difficult to achieve.

“Our understanding was that it would come back in the spring and it would be a full year pilot program,” Gallagher said.

The Bridgeport Alliance had several meetings with Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) and discussed those terms, Gallagher said.

Then — because it would be difficult for the CTA to coordinate a spring route on short notice — the route was pushed to August.

Now the route’s return is set for September, the CTA announced last week.

“It feels like a bit of a slap in the face,” Gaulke said.

Because the pilot program will not include ridership data during summer months, when neighborhood folks are looking to travel to the beach, the route numbers will not be as high.

Even more, Gallagher said, the No. 31 schedule — running from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. — will not be convenient for people with a morning commute.

The alliance is now seeking answers.

"We're not sure how the final decision was made,"  Gallagher said.

Going forward, the Bridgeport Alliance plans to meet with Thompson to figure out how the CTA decided the pilot program's details — and what can be done to change them.

Thompson was not immediately available for comment last week.

The CTA axed the 31st Street route in 1997 because of low ridership, and neighborhood activists have fought for its reinstatement ever since.

At a public meeting at City Hall in April 2015, CTA bosses said ridership surveys showed there wasn't enough need to bring back the bus.

But in 2012, the CTA restored part of the route as part of a six-month 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 its projections.

In November, after 18 years, the CTA approved a pilot program to reinstate the route.

The reinstatement was cheered by groups like the alliance, Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community and Crosstown Bus Coalition, which have fought the CTA to bring back bus routes.

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