31st Bus Pilot Extended to June

But, with limited hours, will ridership be high enough for the route to be made permanent?

The launch of the 31st Street route in September. Photo: Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community
The launch of the 31st Street route in September. Photo: Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community

In November 2015 a coalition of North Side and South Side transit advocates won their campaign to get the CTA to test restored bus service on the #11 Lincoln Avenue and #31 31st Street bus routes, and the pilots launched in September 2016. But in August 2017 the CTA canceled the Lincoln test due to low ridership, which residents blamed on the relatively anemic service hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays only. However, today the 31st Street line, which has the same hours but has seen better ridership, got a new lease on life as the transit agency announced it will be extending the test through June 2018.

The South Side route runs between the Ashland Orange Line station and 33rd Street/King Drive, with stops at Red Line and Green Line stations and multiple north-south bus lines. In July 2017, when the route had been averaging about 75 percent of its daily ridership goal of 830 rides, the pilot was extended through March 2018

Ridership on the #31 route averaged 674 rides each weekday in November 2017. That’s 81 percent of the ridership target, and a 23 percent increase over November 2016, according to the CTA.

“Extending the pilot service will allow CTA to further evaluate ridership trends and gather additional feedback from the surrounding community before a decision is made whether to conclude the pilot, extend it or make the service permanent,” the CTA said in a statement. The transit agency was been working with local community organizations, such as the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community and the Bridgeport Alliance, to get the word out about the service, including two marketing campaigns so far.

Of course, if the CTA really wants to boost ridership on the #31, the obvious solution would be to add morning rush hour and/or weekend service. However, that would require additional funding and available rolling stock. At any rate, hopefully ridership numbers will be high enough come June to convince the transit agency to make this route permanent.

  • If it is a ridership route then yes it needs to live or die by ridership numbers. And yes rush hour service is important to boosting those numbers.

    If it’s a coverage route then ridership numbers must be weighed along with other criteria. Not having a robust rush hour service suggests that it could be a coverage route to serve say elderly riders for occasional shopping trips or doctor visits for one instance of a coverage route. In that case ridership numbers are relevant to decide if this coverage route is more important than some other coverage route. Again boosting the rush hour schedule to pump up ridership is counter productive. It raises costs without benefitting the intended coverage population.

  • Jeremy

    Regarding the #11 Lincoln test, there is a TOD being built at Lincoln and Wrightwood that isn’t complete. Also, Alderman Smith is blocking a TOD from being built at 2670 N Lincoln. The development at the old Children’s Memorial site (Lincoln/Fullerton/Halsted) is also being built with fewer residences than initially requested.

    If Alderman Smith wants the CTA to bring back the #11, she shouldn’t stand in the way of housing construction that would put residents along the route.