Although time may be running out for the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus, support for its route surely isn't.
Advocates for keeping the public transportation outlet, which the Chicago Transit Authority board voted to cut in September, are kicking awareness efforts into high gear in preparation for a Dec. 10 hearing on the CTA's proposed $1.39 billion budget for 2013.
That spending plan was presented last week and Board President Forrest Claypool says it "maintains current service levels, freezes base fares and calls for modest reductions in discounts for CTA passes to bring them in line with other major U.S. cities."
The budget also neglects to include the $1.2 million needed to keep the No. 11 bus running between Western and Fullerton avenues. Changes are expected to take effect in December, CTA documents state. But many North Side business owners, like Nick Alexopoulos, who's at the helm of Golden Apple, are fighting it, tooth and nail.
"I'm planning to yell and scream as loud as I can," he said while discussing the route's impact on his business at 2971 N. Lincoln Ave. "This is not a joke. This is our livelihood. We've been in the area for 55 years and now they're chopping off our legs for no reason."
Alexopoulos will speak at the Dec. 10 public hearing, he says. He looked over a petition Thursday that sits on a counter in his restaurant. It asks that those residents who oppose the No. 11 cuts sign their name. So far, it had racked up 2,300 signatures.
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A similar effort at Heritage Bicycles, 2959 North Lincoln Ave., has generated about 1,000.
"I'm definitely a strong proponent for keeping it," Heritage owner Mike Salvatore, 31, said. "It doesn't necessarily affect me directly, but we need it for the economic development of this area. There's a thousand reasons not to and only one reason to cut it. There's no explanation for this other than that nobody's listening. We'll do what it takes."
CTA officials argue that transit riders are already served by duplicate Brown Line stations. But while some stops along the line dump riders right onto Lincoln Avenue, others are as far as 1 mile away from it. Riders say they're committed to making such facts known.
READ: ‘Lincoln Biking District’ May Offset No. 11 Bus Cut
Paul Sajovec, Ald. Scott Waguespack's chief of staff, says there's been no shortage of phone calls flowing to the 32nd Ward office in opposition to the cuts.
"People are still very upset about it and still very concerned about the implication of it, given the fact that Lincoln is a pedestrian-oriented retail street," he said on Thursday afternoon. "Lincoln doesn't have surface parking lots or driveways. This is a major issue."
He said recent research gathered through the office suggests that people don't simply ride the bus to get from one end of Lincoln Avenue to the other.
"(The data) shows really clearly that people are getting on and off throughout the route," Sajovec said. "They're not just using it to get to the Brown Line or using it to get downtown. ... (This) counters the argument that the CTA has been making that it's a duplicative commuter route. … They're sort of discounting the importance of it in serving the businesses that are along the way."
Waguespack is working with State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and Ward 47 Ald. Ameya Pawar to approach the issue, Sajovec said, noting that, "They're still trying to figure out what their best strategy is to try to convey the importance of it to the people who can most directly influence the decision."
It could mean rallying to bring attendees to the upcoming budget hearings, holding an independent forum, or another plan, he said.
Lincoln Park Allan Mellis, who sits on the board of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association, is calling on his neighbors for help, broadcasting the issue and circulating e-mails that state this is the "last chance to save the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus."
He's urging that riders write a letter or send an e-mail to the CTA prior to the Dec. 10 hearing to explain how they would be personally affected by the route's elimination. People should also testify at the meeting by expressing that they wish to make a statement, he says.
"We rallied before and we weren't successful. That's no reason to stop," Mellis said. "If you talk to any business owner to the shops that have popped up on Lincoln Avenue, they'll tell you the bus is really helping. … Sure, the CTA says people can walk a few more blocks to a train rather than getting on the bus. That's easy for a 22-year-old, but how about our seniors?"
The bus serves around 5,500 riders each week—2,500 of which would be directly affected by the cut—and many of those riders are 55 years old or older. Just ask Liza Martin, director for the North Center Satellite Senior Center at 4040 N. Oakley Ave., where about 300 seniors live and thousands visit to take advantage of available resources.
"For seniors, it's not easy to walk," she said. "But this is for people of all ages. Do you want your high school student to walk five blocks by themselves rather than have the bus stop almost at their campus door?"
She said many senior citizens, in particular, consider the bus their lifeline to various social scenes.
"(The CTA board) members wouldn't be so arrogant if they were being elected," Martin, 61, said. "But they're appointed so they don't care. The board is going to be isolating these people and they're not going to be going out anymore. … This is the backbone of our entire area. It encompasses Lincoln Square, Northcenter, Lake View and Lincoln Park. I don't understand."
Other petitions circulating include one through the Northcenter Neighborhood Association—a similar effort in September gathered 1,700 signatures—and an online campaign through the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce which had generated about 2,500 signatures as of Thursday.
Upcoming CTA budget hearings include: 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10 at 567 W. Lake St. and 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17 at 3223 W. Franklin Boulevard.
Those interested in writing letters can address them to:
Chairman, Chicago Transit Board
567 West Lake Street
Chicago, Illinois 60681
President, Chicago Transit Authority
567 West Lake Street
Chicago, Illinois 60681
Letters can also be emailed to: Greg Longhini CTA Board Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org.