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No. 11 Riders, Businesses Anticipate 'Domino Effect' of CTA Cuts

Regulars on the No. 11 bus know they will soon be forced to find alternate ways of getting to work, meeting friends and running errands. Despite an outcry from residents and business owners, the CTA approved major cuts to the route earlier this month.

Anna Lucero is still trying to figure out how she'll get from point A to B this winter without the No. 11 bus. 

"I don't really have a plan because I'm not going to be an all-weather biker. I know that about myself," said the 28-year-old, while enjoying a cup of coffee at a Lincoln Avenue business. "It'll probably turn into cabs, which I'm not happy about."

Lucero now takes the bus daily to get to and from work at State Street Barbers. She'll likely resort to walking from her Lincoln Avenue residence to the Wellington Brown Line stop in West Lake View—a distance that mirrors the length of her current bus ride. 

All that shlupping because despite a public hearing earlier this month where dozens spoke against eliminating service on the No. 11 route between Western and Fullerton avenues—not to mention a petition signed my more than 2,000 residents—the Chicago Transit Authority board rejected a bid to spare it while approving its "Crowding Reduction Plan." All changes go into effect this December, CTA documents state.

CTA officials argue that transit riders are already served by duplicate Brown Line stations, said Allan Mellis, a Lincoln Park resident who testified at the Sept. 5 hearing. But while some stops along the line dump riders right onto Lincoln Avenue, others are as far as 1 mile away from it.

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"This is not a very low ridership route," said Mellis, who sits on the board of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association. "It serves more than 5,500 weekday riders, which is more than 52 percent of the CTA's 139 bus routes." 

He's now working with the office of State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) to see if grant money or additional resources are available to save the route. The annual operating expense for it is around $3.2 million, according to the office.  

"We need to consider the economic impact and irreversible harm (cutting the route) will do to Lincoln Avenue from Lincoln Square to Lincoln Park," Mellis said, noting that the bus takes riders to key spots including the Old Town School of Folk Music, Sulzer Regional Chicago Public Library and on weekends, the Chicago History Museum. "If you're going to locate a business, one of the things you look at is the transportation available, and when people are on the bus and they don't get off, they see your business as they pass."

Both the Lincoln Park and Lake View chambers of commerce have echoed those sentiments.

“In neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Lakeview, North Center and Lincoln Square, where the No. 11 bus is a connecting, arterial bus route, the perception of many Chicago residents is that parking is impossible," Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce Spokesman Padraic Swanton said, in a written statement. "This perception contributes directly to the success of local restaurants and businesses. With access via bus and train, our neighborhoods are provided with options that do not include driving and are thus (welcoming) to more residents and families.”

"It’s very unfortunate that they pulled the plug on it, but we’ll stay at it. Hopefully they can see the value of this and bring it back someday."

One person who fully understands such ramifications is Mike Salvatore, 31, who owns Heritage General Store, a cafe and custom bike shop at 2959 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lake View. He likened the cuts to a "domino effect" that starts with the riders and ends with the business owners.

"I kind of feel like there's an economic renaissance coming to Lincoln Avenue," he said, adding that he opened Heritage in February. "... If you have more foot traffic, you're going to have more business and if a business is doing well, it means more tax revenue for the area."

Cody Shelley, 27, agreed. He's the assistant manager of Witt's Tavern at 2913 North Lincoln Ave. He recalls seeing many more empty storefronts along the Avenue about two years ago, he said.

"There's been a lot more life in this neighborhood," he said. "I still can't believe that an outlet that can bring more commerce to our area won't be in use. Cutting a bus route for a diagonal street? I really don't understand the logistics behind that."

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) applauded efforts by those like Mellis and Salvatore.

"We had a very short time frame from the point the CTA put that out there to the public to the point where they had the public meeting," he said Sept. 18 at a South Lake View Neighbors Association meeting. "This is very typical as to how the city does things."

He said his staff received documentation that the route wasn't a redundant one and tried pointing out those findings to the CTA.  

"… The decision was made literally a week after they had that meeting, which to us was too short of a time frame," he said. "It’s very unfortunate that they pulled the plug on it, but we’ll stay at it. Hopefully they can see the value of this and bring it back someday."

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