LINCOLN SQUARE — On Monday morning, the No. 11 bus made the turn from Western Avenue onto Leland Avenue and prepared to head southbound on Lincoln Avenue.
Riders cheered the approaching bus. They'd had a long wait — more than three years.
This inaugural run of the No. 11 signaled the start of a six-month pilot restoration of service between Western and Fullerton along the Lincoln Avenue route, which was cut in late 2012.
"Oh my god, we prevailed," said Liza Martin.
"This is so historic," she said. "When I saw the [No. 11 bus] sign this morning, I just cried."
"It's a blessing," said Rosalind Morris, a Rogers Park resident who's had to cobble together a route involving three separate buses to get to destinations on Lincoln Avenue.
"It's been stressful," Morris said, especially during the winter. "This is much more convenient."
"We're excited we're reconnected with Lakeview, Lincoln Park and North Center," said Rudy Flores, executive director of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
It was back in summer 2012 when CTA first announced its plan to axe the Western-to-Fullerton leg of the Lincoln Avenue route, declaring the service redundant with nearby Brown Line stations.
That decision spurred a four-year fight to restore the No. 11. Led by Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), community members like Martin, and chambers of commerce stretching from Lincoln Square to Lincoln Park, supporters packed CTA board meeting after CTA board meeting asking the transit agency to reconsider.
In May of this year, CTA acquiesced, agreeing to a six-month pilot that will run through the end of 2016.
"I think this community has convinced us that Route 11 is something special," said CTA board member Ashish Sen.
Lee Crandell, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, urged residents to "get on the bus while we've got it and make sure we keep it."
CTA has set a target of 1,500 riders per day during the trial period. Given the route's truncated hours of service — 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays only — some have said the pilot is doomed to fail.
"We're going to keep momentum going," said Pawar, who's working with community leaders to schedule ridership events aimed at meeting the target.
Martin, for one, doesn't plan to rest until the No. 11 route is fully restored to nights and weekends.
"We're tenacious," she said.
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