The Regional Transporation Authority will decide tomorrow whether to create a new bus route along 31st Street that would help students reach Little Village Lawndale High School.
The board, which oversees budgets for the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and suburban bus operators, will also consider more than 40 other projects, including transit studies, capital improvements, and a new route along 83rd Street.
Transit advocates in the Little Village/Pilsen area have spent the past few months working with the CTA to re-establish the east-west 31st Street bus route, says Michael Pitula, public transit community organizer for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.
“Some (students) travel as far as 18th Street or Roosevelt and they’re having difficulty getting to and from school,” he says. “This lack of connection to the high school has been an issue.”
The route would also help residents reach their jobs, he says.
CTA planners have proposed a 31st Street route to run from to Cicero to King Drive from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. The CTA operated a similar route until 1997, when it was cut due to low ridership, says CTA spokeswoman Katelyn Thrall.
Members of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization say their discussions with the CTA have gone smoothly. However, they lament the proposed route stops short of Lake Shore Drive and is only scheduled to run until 8 p.m. each night.
“We’re ... hoping to have the bus travel all the way to the museum campus. We’re looking for affordable and convenient access to the lakefront,” says Pitula.
About 1.2 million riders are expected to use the 31st Street bus each year, says Joe Voccia, program manager at the RTA. About half of those riders are considered low-income, he says.
He says it’s possible that the line one day could operate during late night hours or extend to Lake Shore Drive.
“My understanding was CTA basically wanted to establish the base of ridership gain before they wanted the route extended to museum campus,” Voccia says. “I know the neighborhood group was very interested in that. I imagine the door to that is maybe open in the future.”
The other proposed projects are located throughout the RTA’s service region of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Transit officials say if approved, $18 million in funding for the 43 projects could be available in January 2009.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at RTA headquarters, 175 W. Jackson.
Amy Lee is a Chicago-based journalist. She covers transit issues for the Daily News.