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Restored No. 11 Lincoln Ave. bus needs 1,500 riders to survive

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) | Sun-Times file photo

After years of lobbying, a restored No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus route will return for a 180-day test starting June 20, but don’t look for it during the morning rush or weekends.

CTA officials on Wednesday released details of the temporary resurrection of the original No. 11 route, the midsection of which was killed off in late 2012, and the 31st Street bus, which ended service in 1997.

Aldermen key to the return of both routes said their next focus will be to publicize the pilot programs so the two routes hit their ridership targets and survive beyond a test period that does not include one of the busiest times of the day.

The lack of morning rush-hour service “obviously is a concern of mine,’’ said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who led the charge to resurrect the old No. 11.

“But I’m not going to throw the CTA under the bus for that one piece,” he said. “. . . Today there’s a reason to celebrate because when was the last time any transit agency or unit of government said, ‘Let’s take another look at a previous decision?’ That’s a step forward,’’ Pawar said.

Portions of the No. 11 that were killed, from Western to Fullerton, will come back to life starting June 20 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every 16 to 20 minutes, Monday through Friday.

Then-CTA President Forrest Claypool axed that portion in late 2012 in an efficiency cut aimed at moving riders over to the Brown Line, as much as four blocks away. Seniors in particular protested, saying their lifeline to the doctor, grocer and religious services was being stripped away.

CTA map of No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus pilot program route.
CTA map of No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus pilot program route.

Pawar led as many as 100 supporters in yellow T-shirts emblazoned with “Save No. 11 bus” to CTA budget meetings in protest. He finally found “crosstown” success last year with new CTA president Dorval Carter Jr., after joining forces with Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), who was seeking to restore the 31st Street bus to an area that has seen a development burst since its demise.

To safely survive, the No. 11 needs to roughly hit a target of 1,500 riders a day. The target is based on a systemwide average per vehicle hour and is less than when the No. 11’s midsection was axed, CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said.

The 31st Street bus pilot program’s rough target is 830 riders a day. It will debut in September, also from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday.

CTA map of 31st Street bus pilot program route.
CTA map of 31st Street bus pilot program route.

The No. 31 will start at the Ashland Orange Line station, hook south to hit the 35th Street Red Line station and the 35th Street Green Line station, and head back south to 31st Street, as far east as Rhodes.

To completely restore the No. 11 would have cost the CTA about $1.5 million a year when it was cut, Pawar said. The 180-day No. 11 test will cost $385,000 and the No. 31 pilot program will cost $251,000, Hosinski said.

“There are limited resources, such as funding,’’ Hosinski said. “Therefore, the hours that best matched the type of trips that were missed are being provided.”

Also Wednesday, the CTA board approved adding more local businesses to its concession offerings.

A Pilsen coffeehouse called Café Jumping Bean will set up shop at the Damen Pink Line station at 2010 S. Damen.

A pastry shop called Smack Dab is opening at the Wellington Station on the Brown line.

Once the outpost of doughnut chains and newsstands, CTA concession spots have grown to include more than 30 local businesses since 2011 and are now 84 percent occupied, officials said.