Faced with protesters’ fears that the limited schedule of a 31st Street bus pilot could doom it to failure, a top CTA official said Wednesday he will consider adjusting the route after it launches in September.
CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. said he wanted to get the long-awaited 31st Street bus pilot “up and running” and then “absolutely” would consider tweaking the route “to maximize its success.”
Carter’s comments came after CTA officials received a petition signed by more than 200 residents who questioned why the six-month pilot was running during the coldest months of the year; did not include the busy morning rush hour; and failed to include weekend service.
To survive beyond the six-month pilot, the bus must hit a service target of roughly 830 riders a day.
“I don’t think it was intentionally set up for failure,” said Rene Paquin, who joined about 20 other 31st Street bus supporters at Wednesday’s CTA board meeting. “But I question if it’s going to succeed,” given the current schedule and route.
The Rev. Tom Gaulke of the First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Bridgeport told board members that more than 200 people had signed a petition asking that the test route to include the popular 31st Street beach and museum campus; run for a year to embrace the “beach season” and not just cold-weather months; and provide service during the weekend and the morning rush hour.
The petition called the pilot a “slap in the face” to residents of Bridgeport, Chinatown and others who have pushed for the resurrection of the route for more than a decade.
As Gaulke spoke, four protesters popped up from their seats to shout out things they couldn’t do with the current schedule of Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.: make it to morning classes; attend Sunday services; attract customers to evening entertainment or go to the beach. Others complained that Chinatown seniors needed the bus for early morning doctor or hospital appointments.
Later, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the route’s ridership target was adjusted for the time of day and year the pilot will run. Its first two months — September and October — normally yield the CTA’s highest ridership, he said. Plus, Steele noted, the route will service two high-connector areas — the 35th Street Red and Green Line station and the Lake Meadows shopping center.
A similar test pilot of a restored No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus started in June, but CTA officials Wednesday had no details on how it was progressing.
Carter said Wednesday that CTA officials will continue to talk with the community as the 31st Street pilot moves forward, and once it launches, “We’ll make determinations on what to adjust and tweak to make sure to maximize its success.”
“The ultimate goal here . . . is to make sure this thing is a success,” he said.
Carter also said he expected to end the year with a balanced budget, no service cuts and no fare increases, even though the state has yet to produce any portion of CTA’s $28 million annual subsidy to provide free and reduced fares.