CTA board approves decongestion plan, cuts Evanston bus route

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The CTA's Crowding Reduction Plan cuts 12 bus routes, including Evanston's 201 Night Route. (Mariam Gomaa/The Daily Northwestern)

Susan Du, City Editor

The Chicago Transit Authority board on Wednesday approved a decongestion plan that eliminates the only bus serving Evanston after the Purple Line closes.

The CTA’s Crowding Reduction Plan, which was drafted with the help of Northwestern’s Transportation Center, calls for adding $16 million in bus and rail services for high-traffic and discontinuing 12 bus routes that have been plagued by low ridership.

Among the slashed routes is Evanston’s 201 Night Route, which runs between Howard Street and Central Avenue during the Purple Line’s off-hours.

The decrowding plan is the first holistic assessment of CTA efficiency completed in 15 years. Since June 2011, CTA ridership has risen by 22 million riders, resulting in overcrowding on popular buses and trains such as the Red, Blue and Brown lines, according to the Transportation Center’s study.

Earlier this month, more than 100 CTA customers showed up at a public hearing about the Crowding Reduction Plan. The Chicago Tribune reported that most attendees who commented opposed the proposed changes, especially the bus routes on the chopping block.

Allan Mellis, who represents the Wrightwood Neighbors Association, spoke out again at Wednesday’s board meeting against plans to cut the No. 11 bus along Lincoln Avenue, which he said would inconvenience seniors and people with disabilities living in the area.

“We’re taking 5,500 riders off the No. 11 bus and putting them, as I understand your recommendation, onto the Brown Line, which you’re adding service to because it’s overcrowded,” Mellis said. “It makes no sense to me. It’s not like this is low ridership. I would understand that, but this is a very heavily used route.”

Terry Peterson, chairman of the CTA board, said prior to the vote that he sympathizes with the plan’s opponents, but the service changes are unavoidable due to budget constraints.

“When I said we would take (public comment) into consideration we did,” he said. “We met right after (the hearing) and I took four pages of notes. Those were heartfelt stories that we heard. It would be great to be here talking about adding service instead of moving around service. That is not an easy decision to make, but the fact of the matter is unfortunately we don’t have the resources we need.”

Although the board ultimately voted 6-0 in favor of the crowding reduction plan, some members said they reached their final decision with reluctance.

“I’ve thought about it a lot, and this is a very agonizing decision,” said board member Ashish Sen. “But some of the routes that are overcrowded really need a lot of help, and after the staff analysis I can see no better way.”

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