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Ald. Ameya Pawar rallies CTA board members to try to save No. 11 bus line

MonikMcComb (left) 61 Kathleen Ijams 64 Chicago wait board Number 11 Lincoln Avenue CTA bus Wednesday December 12 2012. McComb

Monika McComb (left), 61, and Kathleen Ijams, 64, Chicago, wait to board a Number 11 Lincoln Avenue CTA bus Wednesday, December 12, 2012. McComb and Ijams, both dependent on this bus route, are among those fighting to save the bus from a Sunday shutdown. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 14, 2013 7:36AM

Five of seven Chicago Transit Authority Board members said Wednesday they would be willing to convene a special board meeting to reconsider the planned Sunday shutdown of nearly half of the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus route.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) called members about a special meeting before seniors in his ward lose their transportation to the doctor, pharmacist, grocer and church.

Although five board members told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday that they would be willing to attend a special meeting before Sunday, several said they had no idea how to go about convening such a meeting.

“In my two years on the board, we’ve never done anything like this,’’ said CTA board vice chair Jacquelyne Grimshaw. “I wish I had some experience.’

Grimshaw said she was absent when the board voted unanimously in September to kill half of the No. 11 route — part of a set of service cut to bankroll extra service on crowded bus routes. The Western-to-Fullerton stretch of the No. 11 was targeted because several other transit options are available in that area, CTA officials say.

A CTA spokeswoman was unable to explain Wednesday what would be required for CTA board members to hold a special meeting. CTA President Forrest Claypool and CTA Chairman Terry Peterson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Grimshaw said Claypool told her that one glitch in canceling the planned cutback would be that the CTA “can’t redo’’ a set of bus route picks completed by union drivers months ago and set to start on Sunday.

That’s “a load of baloney,’’ said Javier Perez, trustee of local 241 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

“They don’t have to cut the route at all. They are the ones that made that decision,’’ Perez said. “If they want that route to run Sunday, it can run Sunday.’’

“Why wouldn’t we do that? It’s adding a job. We support the riding public,’’ Perez said.

Perez said the CTA could use “extra board drivers’’ who fill in for sick drivers temporarily until driver route picks for the next three months are redone.

A parade of senior and disabled citizens who defended the No. 11 as their “lifeline’’ at a public hearing on Monday — and a pitch by three elected officials for time to piece together funding to avoid a cutback — apparently made an impression on the majority of CTA board members.

“I’ve been praying since then,’’ the Rev. Charles Robinson, a CTA board member, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday. “I know how people felt. I really don’t want the No. 11 taken away.’’

Robinson said he didn’t know if he would vote to save the line, but he would show up at any special meeting about it.

Pawar has proposed that No. 11 service be reduced but kept alive through the inclement months ahead while he works on tapping tax-increment financing district funds to fund the line at least temporarily. Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey and State Rep. Ann Williams (D-11th) also pledged to try to find funding for the No. 11.

“I think we think we should give the alderman, state representative and Cook County commissioner an opportunity to try and save the line,’’ Grimshaw said. “According to the staff, it costs $1.5 million to continue No. 11 like it is. That’s not an insurmountable amount of money if there’s the political will to provide it . . .

“I never understood why you would cut a line in half, or at least cut out the middle chunk of it,’’ Grimshaw said.

Kathleen Ijams, who is on 10 medications after heart surgery, was among the sea of yellow-shirted No. 11 supporters at Monday’s public hearing. Without the No. 11, Ijams said, she’d have to take three buses to get to the doctor.

“Take three buses? I’m a heart patient. That’s ridiculous,’’ Ijams said. “I might have to change doctors and I don’t want to do that.’’

Robinson, Grimshaw and CTA board members Ashish Sen, John Bouman and Kevin Irvine all told the Sun-Times that they would be willing to attend a special meeting before Sunday’s cutback.

Sen said he voted “very reluctantly’’ in September to kill off part of the No. 11, but Pawar’s recent offer to seek TIF funds for the line constituted a change in circumstances.

“If it is feasible, I would vote to save the route,’’ Sen said.

Bouman and Irvine would not say how they might vote, but both said they would do their utmost to attend a special meeting. Bouman called Monday’s presentation “well done and effective.’’

Irvine said the No. 11 supporters were “very compelling’’ and the Lincoln Avenue bus was “a really important part of the community.’’

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