Critics See CTA Plan For 31st Street Buses As Failure Before It Begins

CHICAGO (CBS) — After 18 years of organizing, meetings, lobbying and demonstrations, CTA buses are returning to the 31st Street corridor. But some activists in the long-running fight are beginning to wonder if CTA is setting up the pilot project to fail — two months before the first bus runs.

“I don’t think the way it’s set up that it’s going to succeed,” said Rene Paquin of the group Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL).

Paquin cited the 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. hours that the #31 bus will operate beginning in mid-September, saying that won’t help people going to work, school or nightlife.

“Sure, they can get home, but ‘getting to’ is important, too,” she said.

The coalition of groups that back the 31st Street bus pilot said they would like to see it run at minimum from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, or later at night.

CTA President Dorval Carter said the pilot project’s hours address community priorities.

“It makes sense, given the initial feedback we got from community, where we heard that the majority of the rides that they were interested in taking were either late morning or early afternoon,” he said.

Paquin also questioned the planed eastern end of the route at the Lake Meadows Shopping Plaza; the activists have long said that placing the eastern terminal in the Museum campus would be a job generator. The current route has buses going from the Ashland Orange Line station at 31st and Ashland to the Lake Meadows Shopping Plaza at 33rd and King Drive. Buses also will stop at the Sox-35th Street Red Line station, and at 35th and State streets, near the 35th-Bronzeville-IIT Green Line station.

The activists also said they would like the pilot extended from six months to a year, so that ridership patterns could be observed in all seasons. Carter did not rule that out.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said its ridership is the heaviest in September and October, although the activists said the 31st Street route during the summer could, and should, have access to the 31st Street beach. The current route only goes as far east as 35th and Rhodes, and with the 35th Street bridge over Lake Shore Drive still under construction, it’s at least a mile from the last stop on the 31st Street bus to get to the lakefront.

Carter said changes could occur once the six-month test is rolling.

“As the pilot moves forward we’ll continue those conversations,” he said.

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