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CTA On 31st Street Bus: 'We Don't Want This To Fail'

By Ed Komenda | June 22, 2016 6:03am
 The CTA Board in May voted to revive both the No. 11 bus on Lincoln Avenue and the No. 31 bus on 31st Street.
The CTA Board in May voted to revive both the No. 11 bus on Lincoln Avenue and the No. 31 bus on 31st Street.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

BRIDGEPORT — Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) assured neighborhood residents at a Tuesday night meeting there will be a campaign to promote the September return of the 31st Street bus to make sure its six-month pilot program is a success and prompt the CTA to permanently reinstate the route.

But the people who fought hardest to bring back the bus say the return of the 31st Street bus has a built-in problem: It's 10 a.m.-7 p.m. service schedule.

“For me, personally, getting home from our clothing pantry will not be an option on Tuesday nights,” said Tom Gaulke, pastor at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity and Bridgeport Alliance member. “Getting home from Bible study will not be an option… All these things we fought for when we came to the board meetings are being cut out.”

Sitting next to Gaulke at the St. Barbara school hall, 2859 S. Throop St., were several other community members upset about the No. 31 bus schedule.

Esau Chavez, a 21-year-old political science student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, won’t be able to use the bus to get to his 8 a.m. class.

“That schedule will not serve me,” Chavez said.

Quade Gallagher, another Bridgeport Alliance member, is worried he won’t catch the bus when he returns to the neighborhood from the suburbs, where he works.

“I’m probably going to miss this [bus] when I get back into the Bridgeport area,” Gallagher said.

David Berman, a spokesman from the Chicago Transit Authority’s Service Planning Department, said there’s a lot of wiggle room to convince the CTA to change the No. 31 bus service hours.

“This is a dynamic process,” Berman said. “Our board has approved the six-month pilot, but that doesn’t mean we can’t extend it, that doesn’t mean the hours can’t be extended. When it comes down to it, this is supportive of the community. My salary is paid by the community.”

Thompson said he’s working with the CTA to expand route hours to make sure “we have hours that are responsive to the needs and demands of the community.”

The Chicago Transit Authority Board in May 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 CTA will restore the routes permanently. The target is 830 rides per day.

Residents at Tuesday's meeting said the current bus schedule will not help the CTA hit its ridership target.

“It feels like it’s set up to fail,” Gaulke said.

CTA officials said that’s not the case.

“We don’t want this to fail,” Berman said. “We’re advocating for this.”

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

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.

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