CTA should put population before profit

By Editorial Board

A trial run of what could be a permanent 31st Street bus line is in the works, after years of advocacy from groups saying the Little Village neighborhood had inadequate transit options. Community groups pushed the Chicago Transit Authority to apply for a grant, which it received, that supports alternative transportation initiatives in low-income neighborhoods where residents need transportation.

While the initiative to reinstate the 31st Street bus took a long-term community effort, the CTA has conducted ongoing ridership studies to plan rail expansion projects in more affluent areas like Evanston and Skokie, and has begun construction on a new Morgan Street el stop in the West Loop.

The grant for the 31st Street route will cover half the estimated $2.2 million cost to run the bus for one year. The route was eliminated in 1997 as part of a budget cut, leaving Chicago’s third most densely populated neighborhood with no public transit to downtown.

It’s no mystery: Bus lines aren’t profitable.  While newly renovated el stations boast wine stores and coffee shops, bus service is consistently scaled back or eliminated. In the CTA’s notoriously cash-strapped state, it’s not surprising attention is focused on developments that can incorporate real estate opportunities and have potential for profit, but these additions leave entire communities without adequate transit options.

The necessity of building a new el stop half a mile west of an existing el stop pales in comparison to the necessity of providing one of the city’s largest neighborhoods with a convenient bus line. An estimated 31,000 weekly riders would be connected to South Lawndale/Little Village High School, three el stations, the Museum Campus, U.S. Cellular Field and 26th Street—the bustling economic hub of Little Village with city tax revenue second only to the Magnificent Mile, according to the Little Village

Chamber of Commerce.

If the CTA were considering potential ridership over the profitability of a neighborhood, surely a proposal for a United Center el stop would have been approved years ago. The Green Line stretches for a mile and a half past the sporting area with no station.

The CTA cannot make up for the lack of service in some areas by providing exceptional service in others. Pubic transportation needs to serve the entire public, not just the profitable public.