By ALLISON MATYUS
The Bronzeville/Union Station #1 bus route has been a hot topic among community members since the route was shortened in 2012. Senior members of the community have been rallying together since last June to extend the route farther south.
In a December meeting between seniors, Ald. Sophia King (4th) and representatives from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), a pilot program that included an extension of the route was approved to begin in 2017.
“Bringing the pilot program back would help the people living in all type of senior apartments as well as the surrounding community,” said Alphonso Jones, a resident of the North Washington Park Manor, 550 E. 50th Pl., and one of the key players that helped bring the program back.
Jones said that the group’s proposed route would also service Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., and Dyett High School for the Arts, 555 E. 51st St.
Originally, the old route ran from 64th Street and Stony Island Avenue all the way into the city at Union Station. In 2003, the route was shortened to 51st Street at Drexel Square Apartments, 810 E. Hyde Park Blvd. The bus route was shortened again in 2012 to start at 35th Street and South Michigan Avenue.
“The way it is now, you have to take three buses to get all the way to State and Adams,” said North Washington Park Manor resident, Paul Nelson, who also played a role in bringing the pilot program to fruition. “A lot of seniors have to take Pace buses now.”
The pilot program that was approved would begin at 51st Street and Drexel Avenue but the seniors said that they are working to get the entire program back to serving 64th Street and Stony Island Avenue.
“Right now, we will accept the pilot program in an effort to show that the community needs this,” Jones said. “It’s very important that this resource is restored.”
The group of seniors, who have partnered with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), is planning a press conference with King and the CTA in the coming weeks to announce and acknowledge the victory to the community.
“This is a victory that came from the seniors standing up,” said Shannon Bennett, the deputy director at KOCO. “They pushed hard and committed to reviving the program.”
Jones said that they have not been given an exact start date of when the #1 bus route would resume, but have reached out to King to request that information.
King said that she is hopeful a compromise can be reached that would give residents access to convenient and reliable public transit.
“Public transit is vital to the most vulnerable in our community, which includes our elders and our working families,” King said in a written statement. “I have a special respect for the elders in our community, so when the #1 bus was brought to my attention, I immediately wanted to understand the concerns of the residents.”