Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (CBS) – After a 13-month test, the CTA’s board Wednesday approved permanent extension of its No. 35 31st/35th bus route along 31st Street between Kedzie and Cicero, but that’s not what a roomful of protesters wanted.
The protesters wanted full restoration of the old 31st Street bus route, discontinued in 1997 because of low ridership. They claim times have changed, and that there are schools, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Mercy Hospital, a senior citizens’ high-rise and a number of stores, particularly east of Ashland on 31st Street that deserve better service.
They claim CTA focused mainly on those already riding its buses and not on the rest of the neighborhood along which the bus would run.
Residents jeered as CTA Vice President/Service Planning and Scheduling Michael Connelly said he came to the conclusion that the average bus would only carry about 23 riders an hour, while he said it needed 55 or more riders an hour to make it viable.
Connelly said he believes that east of Kedzie Avenue, there are enough north-south bus routes that connect east-west to make an easterly extension on 31st unnecessary. The board approved an eastward extension that would run summer weekends to the 31st Street beach, but protesters said that’s not what they wanted.
“Who did this study?” asked an exasperated Rev. Thomas Gaulke, of Bridgeport’s First Trinity Lutheran Church. “They couldn’t find any other places along the route? Are you serious? They didn’t even look. People can’t even get to Mercy Hospital, for God’s sake!”
Maria Alicia Ibarra has a young daughter and said she is dependent upon public transportation.
“This is not just about the beach, and it’s not just about the weekends in the summer,” she said. “This is about jobs, schools and the hospital. What if my daughter got sick or hurt? We deserve more in our community. This is crumbs.”
Claudia Hajdas said she is too weak to walk consistently from her home at 31st Street and Aberdeen Avenue to 35th Street and needs the bus to take her to shop and go to church.
“With a bus here I can get on the bus and make that distance and go these places without calling relatives and friends,” she said.
Despite the findings, CTA Chairman Terry Peterson said the vote was on the westerly extension, and did not preclude an easterly extension, if the need is shown. CTA President Forrest Claypool said he was open to additional surveys in the corridor along 31st that would focus on those who are not currently mass transit users.
The westerly extension, which was put in place on an experimental basis in September 2012 and renewed in March, will continue to operate from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m.