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Hearing Called on Blue Line Restoration

Under pressure from neighborhood groups in the Blue Line Transit Task Force as well as several aldermen, CTA president Frank Kreusi has agreed to testify at a hearing on restoring weekend and late-night service on the Cermak branch of the Blue Line.

Kreusi had refused numerous requests for meetings with the Task Force, said Jaime de Leon of Little Village Community Development Corporation, but he has agreed to testify at a hearing of the City Council’s transportation committee scheduled for July 19.

The Task Force has been working since 1998 to restore service on the Blue Line, the only transit line in the city without weekend service. A recent report by the Task Force found strong demand for restored services among riders. The study compared ridership on other CTA lines and other factors and concluded that Blue Line service cuts discriminate against low-income minority communities.

“There are people here who have to turn down jobs because they can’t get to them,” said Maurice Redd of the Lawndale Neighborhood Organization. With an average family income of $18,000 and a 50 percent poverty rate, there are a lot of one-car and no-car households. “The census showed 15 percent of our community works third shift,” said Redd. “In parts of the community, after 12 or 1 there’s no way to get around at all.”

Many Little Village residents work in the hospitality industry downtown or around O’Hare, said de Leon. Students attend high schools and colleges downtown. And there’s no way to get to city events downtown, which are funded by residents’ taxes, he said.

CTA officials have said they won’t consider restoring service until reconstruction is completed in January. Task Force members say reconstruction is ahead of schedule and may be complete by October — and that what work remains is comparable to the scope of the Brown Line reconstruction, which is being carried out without service disruptions. “We need more accountability,” said Redd, welcoming the City Council’s intervention.

The Task Force had hoped to restore service by this summer. “Every day it continues, people are denied access to jobs, people can’t get to festivals,” said Alejandra Ibanez of the Pilsen Alliance.


While Task Force members focus on restoring “24-7″ service, other community groups are worried that if service is restored, it will be rerouted into phase one of a new Circle Line.

The CTA is finishing up a $33 million project refurbishing an old section of elevated tracks and running test trains, while working on a plan to divert the Blue Line’s Cermak branch trains at Polk and Paulina up to the Green Line before routing them downtown, said Jacqueline Leavy of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group.

It’s described as phase one of a Circle Line which would link gentrifying neighborhoods around the Loop with the downtown, and which would ultimately cost billions of dollars. “And nobody has asked for it, and there’s been no discussion of it,” Leavy said. She points out that the CTA would be building a new system in areas already well served by public transportation, while “huge swatches of the city are underserved by rapid transit.”

“It means the Red Line won’t be extended to 130th, the extension of the Orange Line to Ford City will get no priority, and the South East Side will continue to have no access to rapid transit,” said Leavy. And it means the long-standing proposal for a Mid-City Transit Way, linking O’Hare and Midway as well as existing CTA and Metra lines, will languish.

“We’re very comfortable with the way [the Cermak branch] is set up, with direct access to downtown,” said Jo Ann Bradley of the Community Action Group of North Lawndale. “We don’t see a benefit to the circle line.”

Bradley scores CTA for lack of transparency. “They say they haven’t decided [on the Circle Line] but they’ve already spent millions of dollars on it.”

“They make their plans in secret and come out and hold what I call puppet hearings and slant everything to make it look like people want what they’ve already planned,” said Bradley. “Nobody out here is asking for the Blue Line to be rerouted up to some Circle Line,” she said.

Noting that as now configured, the Cermak branch connects the major Latino communities in the city, Miguel Turnil of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization said, “They are not doing this to benefit the community.” LVEJO is collecting signatures on petitions and postcards saying “24-7 and no reroute,” Turnil said.

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Category: Lawndale, Little Village, Pilsen, transportation


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