Alderman fights to save CTA bus route
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com December 7, 2012 1:26PM
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47Th) | Sun-Times files
Updated: January 9, 2013 6:07AM
A Northwest side alderman offered Friday to use surplus funds from a local tax-increment-financing (TIF) district to save a CTA bus route he called a “lifeline” for local seniors.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) vowed to descend on a CTA budget hearing Monday night with bus loads of Lincoln Square, North Center and Roscoe Village residents in a last-ditch effort to save the No. 11 Lincoln/Sedgwick route that runs from Western to Fullerton.
The CTA board voted in mid-September to eliminate a dozen bus routes and shorten two others to generate the $16 million needed to “de-crowd” more popular routes. The savings will be used to add service on 48 bus routes and six rail lines.
“I’ve got a large senior population. Part of the reason it’s possible to age in place in my community is the Lincoln Avenue bus. It keeps people active and going to local stores, to the Old Town School of Folk Music and to Sulzer Regional Library,” Pawar said.
“[CTA President Forrest] Claypool talked about para-transit and how, if it continues to rise, it’s gonna impact other CTA services. Well, cutting this bus will exacerbate para-transit ridership at much greater cost because there are no other options. This bus is a lifeline for people in my community.”
Pawar acknowledged that using $1.5 million in TIF surplus funds is a “long-shot” that would require legislation and a distributive share to the schools and other taxing districts. But the alderman said he’s “willing to try anything” to save the route.
“We always prioritize public transit for people going downtown and young riders. It’s always about the kids. How about the people who made it possible for those kids? It’s like we cast seniors aside,” he said.
Liza Martin, director of the North Center Senior Satellite Campus, said many elderly residents will be unable to get to the senior center without the No. 11 bus that serves 5,700 riders each week.
“They’re gonna be isolated totally. They won’t go out of the house. They’ll just be laying around the house,” said Martin, a 30-year resident of North Center.
“They live near the Brown Line. But, it doesn’t go to the Jewel or to the library. They’ll have to walk four or five blocks instead of having the bus stop right in front of the door. A lot of people can’t walk four or five blocks. It’s a travesty to [cut] this bus line. We’re pleading with them to please listen to us and not to be so arrogant and disrespect us.”
Claypool said the same complaints were aired months ago before his congestion-reduction plan was approved by the CTA board.
“That is one of the most transit-rich areas in the city and we’re adding service to it. There’s a frequent bus or train within a couple blocks of any place in that area,” he said.
Claypool noted that the 48 bus routes and six rail lines that stand to benefit from his congestion reduction plan serve 76 percent of CTA riders.
“Those customers today are experiencing uncomfortably crowded conditions during morning and evening rush hours. This plan will reduce crowding between ten and 15 percent and offer more frequent service,” he said.