Reporting Bob Roberts
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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Transit Authority will test bus service on a portion of 31st Street for the first time in 15 years, beginning next month – but the line won’t go to the lakefront as activists have hoped.
The 180-day test will restore bus service to 31st Street between Kedzie and Cicero Avenues for the first time since 1997.
In addition, the CTA board approved a study of restoring bus service on 31st Street all the way to the lakefront.
More than 100 supporters of the service packed the CTA’s board room. Some came away encouraged, others disappointed.
“That’s 300 businesses that the line will not serve,” said Joseph Trutin, a McKinley Park-area businessman who said service should be restored to the lakefront.
As planned, the service will operate between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily. Activists said they would like to see service between 4 a.m. and 1 a.m., and said an extended route would allow access for students to schools and workers to jobs at McCormick Place, the Museum Campus and other businesses along the route.
CTA President Forrest Claypool said restoring service to the lakefront would cost roughly $3 million a year, while restoring service between Kedzie and Cicero would cost a fraction of that. Costs would be covered by a federal grant for the first year, but Claypool said he fully anticipated the line to become a permanent part of the agency’s bus network.
The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization has championed the route for five years, and transit coordinator Claudia Ayala said it’s not a matter of finding money for a new service, but a matter of setting priorities.
“Are we a priority? I think that we are,” she said.
Operating on an abbreviated schedule, the old 31st Street route carried fewer than 20 riders a day at the time of its discontinuance. CTA officials said Wednesday they expect the extension, which will be linked to its existing 35/35th Street route, to generate an average of more than 600 riders each weekday.