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Confusion is the message from signs marking CTA’s old No. 11 Lincoln route

The new #37 CTA Bus Route. Friday January 4 2013. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

The new #37 CTA Bus Route. Friday, January 4, 2013. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 10, 2013 6:05PM

Three weeks after part of the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus route was killed off despite a massive protest, the bus and tow signs left in its wake have been a tangle of confusion.

Mislabeled bus stop signs, what some call unnecessarily harsh tow zone restrictions and incorrect Chicago Transit Authority website information have plagued the new No. 37 Sedgwick Avenue bus since it took over part of the No. 11 route on Dec. 16.

Plus, business owners along Webster Avenue just west of Halsted are irate that CTA officials recently installed a new No. 37 Sedgwick bus stop sign that eliminated about five “pay-to-park’’ spaces used by their patrons.

“They’re idiots,’’ Annelies Panagoulias, co-manager of the Athenian Room, at 807 W. Webster, said Friday as she gazed across the street at the new bus stop.

“They didn’t tell any of the constituents. They should be worried about these small businesses. They should be informed of things that affect their lives.’’

However, city officials said Tuesday that LAZ Parking, which operates the 75-year lease on the city’s parking meters, will be installing pay-to-park spots 35 feet to the west. That would knock out five coveted residential permit parking spots, said Athenian Room co-manager George Poulakis.

Homeowners “won’t be happy at all,’’ Poulakis said. “I just wished they never changed anything.”

Ripple effects of the CTA’s decision to kill off the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus from Western to Fullerton continue to roll in.

Residents said bus signs for that portion of the No. 11 seemed to vanish by the first day of CTA “decrowding’’ service changes — Sunday, Dec. 16. However, installation of signs for the No. 37 Sedgwick bus that took over No. 11 service from Fullerton to Clinton has been far less prompt.

Along Sedgwick at Menomonee Friday, the northbound side of the street held a sign for the new No. 37, with a generic bus tow zone sign barring all parking — even on the weekend when the bus doesn’t run.

The southbound side of the street carried an incorrect No. 11 sign, but a correct Monday-Friday bus tow-zone sign.

New No. 37 signs have since started sprouting up, after a Chicago Sun-Times reporter began inquiring about the route. No. 37 signage changes should be completed this weekend, CTA officials said Tuesday.

Adding to the confusion, No. 37 bus signs along Webster don’t necessarily match those on the CTA website and popular bus tracker app. As of Monday, two stops on the website didn’t exist on the street, while one bus sign at Bissell wasn’t on the website. CTA officials say their website is being corrected.

“It’s still not right after 3 ½ weeks,’’ said former 43rd Ward aldermanic candidate Rachel Goodstein, whose bus tracker app trumpets a bus stop near her home at Webster and Fremont that doesn’t exist. “The CTA put more effort and money into signs for buses that no longer exist than for ones that serve people.’’

For at least a few days last week, on Webster west of Halsted, old “pay to park’’ signs coexisted with a new bus tow zone sign, causing customers to walk into Underthings boutique, 804 W. Webster, scratching their heads.

“My customers have been coming in so confused,’’ said Underthings owner Maria Ashby. “Is it a bus stop or can I park here?’’

Finally, last Friday, workmen removed a parking paybox and pay-to-park signs. Now, the bus tow zone clearly rules.

Ashby questioned why new tow zone signs overseen by the Chicago Department of Transportation prohibit all parking in front of her shop, even though the No. 37 doesn’t run on weekends or after 8 p.m. weekdays. Said Ashby: “It’s insane.’’

CDOT spokesman Peter Scales said the CTA requested “standard’’ bus tow zone signs along the No. 37, and exceptions are “very rare.’’ However, several out-dated No. 11 bus stops in Old Town carry Monday-to-Friday-only tow restrictions.

The CTA worked with Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) on the service changes, said CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski. Holidays and stretched resources prevented signs from being installed earlier, she said. Some 2,000 signs had to be changed due to “decrowding,’’ Hosinski said.

Smith said Monday she’s received “minimal feedback’’ about the changes.

“We work very closely with our local businesses and they always know they can call us,’’ Smith said. “If there’s a difficulty, we can try to alleviate it.’’

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