CTA restructures routes as part of de-crowding initiative

By Kaley Fowler

In an effort to accommodate growing ridership, the Chicago Transit Authority plans to restructure its bus and rail services as part of a de-crowding initiative.

The CTA announced its intention to alter 48 bus routes and eliminate 12 in an Aug. 22 press release. CTA officials anticipate that the route restructure will accrue $16 million in savings that will be allocated toward increasing bus and rail service during rush periods.

“This route restructuring, based on comprehensive review of the entire transit system, is long overdue,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool in a written statement. “This is the first systemwide, holistic review of CTA’s bus and rail service in 15 years.”

The CTA formed the plan in collaboration with the Northwestern University Transportation Center, which has been analyzing ridership data since November 2011 to create a list of route recommendations, according to NUTC Director Hani Mahmassani.

“The CTA took [our suggestions] and came up with their own set of recommendations that are generally in line with what we recommended,” Mahmassani said.

Most transportation agencies review their service on a route-by-route basis rather than all at once, which the CTA has done, Mahmassani said. Although the approach is less common, it is “mathematical fact” that a systemwide analysis is a more efficient method, according to him.

While Mahmassani maintains that the recommendations are in accordance with ridership trends, some affected communities argue otherwise, particularly those serviced by the No. 11 Lincoln/Sedgwick bus route that the proposal would partially eliminate.

“One of the arguments the CTA is making is that the Brown Line serves Lincoln Avenue just fine, and that’s debatable,” said Heather Way, executive director of the Lakeview

Chamber of Commerce. “At Lincoln and Diversey, the closest Brown Line stop is almost a mile away. That’s not the kind of accessibility we need.”

Way also expressed concern that elimination of the No. 11 route between Belmont Avenue and Diversey Parkway could adversely impact neighborhood businesses.

Patrons of the No. 11 route are expressing opposition through an online petition accessible at iPetitions.com. As of press time, the petition has surpassed its goal of 1,000 signatures by 128.

“The most significant impact is this is an established route that a lot of people depend on,” said Bill Higgins, a spokesman for Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th Ward). “Because of the expectation of the Lincoln bus being there, there are greater impacts to other populations [such as the elderly] that aren’t really being considered.”

The CTA’s proposal also calls for eliminating the No. 1 Indiana/Hyde Park bus service south of 35th Street. Hyde Park residents are more open to the proposal, however.

According to LaVonte Stewart, chief of staff for State Rep. Kimbery du Buclet (D–26th), the CTA has suggested the Green Line and the No. 29 State Street bus as two alte rnatives for riders traveling south of 35th Street.

“As of now, we think the CTA has a very sufficient plan in terms of alternative routes, safety, accessibility and comfortability,” Stewart said. “We want to commend CTA on doing their homework on this. The representative seems firmly in support of the CTA’s plan.”

A public hearing will be held Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake St., where the community will provide input regarding the proposed service changes.

The CTA Board will vote on the proposal at its Sept. 12 meeting. If it passes, the changes will go into effect on Dec. 16.

“We realize it’s the CTA’s decision ultimately,” Higgins said. “We hope that they listen to our constituents and the alderman about the concerns we have. Cutting [this] route just seems counterproductive to us.”