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Riders to CTA: ‘Please don’t take the No. 11’ Lincoln bus away

The audience listens speakers during first public hearing proposed budget fare increases CTA headquarters Chicago Ill. Monday December 10 2012.

The audience listens to speakers during the first public hearing on the proposed budget and fare increases at the CTA headquarters in Chicago, Ill., on Monday, December 10, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 12, 2013 6:24AM

In words and through yellow T-shirts, defenders of the No. 11 bus line begged Chicago Transit Authority Board members Monday night to “slow down’’ plans to kill off nearly half of the Lincoln Avenue route.

Three-quarters of the seats at the CTA public hearing on the agency’s proposed 2013 fiscal budget at one point were filled with commuters wearing yellow T-shirts bearing the words “Save #11 Bus.’’

Seniors with doctors’ appointments, elderly wanting to go to one of the five churches on the No. 11 line, shoppers needing groceries — all insisted the No. 11 Lincoln bus was their lifeline.

“Tomorrow I am going to a doctor’s appointment, and this is the only route I can take,’’ a disabled Alenka Kordish told board members. “Please don’t take the No. 11 bus away.’’

Lisa Martin, director of one of several senior centers serviced by the No. 11, outlined how some seniors would have to take two buses and walk up to seven blocks to get to a grocery store or library if the No. 11 is trimmed back under a “decrowding” plan due to begin Dec 16.

During the first of two public hearings on the CTA’s proposed budget, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), state Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), and Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey all asked the CTA to amend the $1.39 billion operating budget and temporarily save the No. 11 route while elected officials try to piece together funding for a long-term fix.

Pawar suggested trying to tap surplus funds from one of at least four tax increment financing districts that intersect his ward to spare the line, at least temporarily. Fritchey asked for a six-month No. 11 reprieve.

“The T-shirts you are seeing folks wearing are yellow not red,’’ Fritchey told CTA board members. “They are telling you to slow down, not stop.

“We need time to get this done,’’ Fritchey said. “Give us that time. Let us see if we can find an answer. If an answer is not there, the response you will get is ‘thank you’ for giving us a chance.”

Others objected to CTA plans to increase the one-day trip from O’Hare on the Blue Line from $2.25 to $5 for those riders who do not have single or multi-day passes. The $5 O’Hare tab would bring Chicago more in line with other big cities around the country, CTA officials say.

“It is discrimination to raise the O’Hare line only,’’ O’Hare Airport worker Marge DeMora told CTA board members. “That increase of $2.75 a day hits us airline employees.’’

Others charged that plans to raise the cost of fares on passes used by 55 percent of riders unfairly put the brunt of increases on those least able to afford it and most affected by the recession.

However, Laurence Msall of the watchdog Civic Federation supported the CTA’s budget plan, saying it maintained base fares and only raised “targeted’’ ones.

“This is actually the CTA’s first structurally balanced spending plan in seven years,’’ Msall said.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele questioned some of the distances speakers claimed they would have to walk to transit if the No. 11 was killed off between Fullerton and Western, as proposed.

“All of the senior centers between Fullerton and Western are within a block or two of other transit,’’ Steele said. “This segment of the No. 11 was picked because it has multiple transit options, going both east to west and north to south.’’

Steele conceded some riders might have to use two forms of transit instead of one under the proposal, but said other riders are doing that right now in the same corridor.

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