CHICAGO (CBS) — CTA over the weekend undertook its biggest service reshuffling in three years — without changing its bottom line. As a result, some riders Monday will see additional service, while a dozen bus routes are eliminated and service will be curtailed on 16 others.

There has been more than a little controversy attached to the decision, which CTA characterizes as an enhancement or “de-crowding” tactic.

Angry riders argued most vocally against dropping the mid-section of the popular 11/Lincoln route, which is losing service between the Lawrence and Fullerton Brown Line stations, and against a reshuffling of some of the lakefront north side express bus routes, in which the 145/Wilson-Michigan Express was eliminated.

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Activist Allan Mellis turned out at public hearings and spoke before the CTA’s board, to no avail.

“If you’re a businessperson looking to invest in a community, and part of your decision is based upon public transportation going right in front of your store, now the bus is cut, you’re going to think twice about where you want to locate,” said Mellis, predicting that shoppers would go where stores are convenient, and businesses would relocate or go under.

Mellis said it makes no sense to force 11/Lincoln riders onto an already-overcrowded Brown Line, while CTA President Forrest Claypool contends that multiple bus options exist in the area, although not the one-seat ride the Brown Line offers.

Opponents contend that some who could get off in front of businesses or homes before the switch now will have to walk four to six blocks to get alternative service, and said that places an undue burden on the elderly and those with disabilities.

Some say they expect costs for additional paratransit service along the Lincoln corridor alone to far outstrip any savings achieved.

Paratransit is under the umbrella of Pace, not the CTA.

Claypool said far more riders will benefit.

“CTA will offer more frequent bus and train service and less crowded conditions during rush hours and on bus and rail routes that are used by three out of four customers,” he said.

CTA hopes to decrease crowding on the 48 heavily-patronized bus routes and six rapid transit lines by as much as 15 percent.

Ridership has trended higher on CTA bus and rail lines, despite the weak economy, and has increased in 19 of the past 20 months.

CTA developed the plan in conjunction with the Northwestern University Transportation Center. Ironically, as part of the reshuffling, Evanston will lose all transit service in the early-morning hours. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that CTA “informed us. They didn’t consult us” about the elimination of the poorly-patronized N201 Owl service bus.

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