Route 31 Bus starting at Cicero travels across the Lawndale and Little Village areas and continues service to Museum Campus in the South Loop, while hitting various points of interest along the way. The travel from West to East was not always an easy one for the residents of Lawndale. That is until 2008 when Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and the community pushed to gain access to reasonable public transportation, a campaign that lasted until September 2012.
The campaign for the 31st street corridor bus route was initiated by LVEJO in an effort to create reliable transportation for better opportunity. El Cilantro, Active Transportation Alliance and The Metropolitan Planning Council all accompanied LVEJO in their struggle for better transportation.
[pullquote]A bus with its own Facebook Page[/pullquote]
Claudia Ayala knows the challenges facing her community and teaming up with LVEJO has helped drive goals and missions to the community and even extending beyond. The overall goal of LVEJO is to provide Little Village residents with opportunity and equality especially in terms of climate and pollution justice, said 26 year-old Public Transit Coordinator, LVEJO, Claudia Ayala.
“We are talking about a community that has almost 90,000 people in a five mile radius. We have to think of ways to make it work in the constraints of our little district,” said Ayala.
With such a large community and no public transportation Little Village faced struggles and hardships for 15 years. CTA was not convinced that ridership was high enough to cover the cost of operation, according to LVEJO article database. Around 1998, CTA discontinued the 31st Street Bus Service, leaving thousands of people isolated from the rest of the city. After a decade of no public transportation route the Little Village community began to develop. In 2008, LVEJO collected 2,000 petitions and thousands of surveys in support of a new bus route. While CTA was in support of installing a new route, the organization needed a financial plan.
With Little Village still in development, the Federal Surface Transportation Authorization was not going to grant money where little to no attractions existed, said Ayala. Newer developments such as a shopping mall, Saint Anthony’s Healthcare facility and Little Village Lawndale High School gave impetus to the drive toward an extended bus route, said Ayala. Both parents and students campaigned for accessible transportation to and from Lawndale High School. Even when they finally got the transportation they asked for, they had to fight again. The newly established bus route operated on restrained hours, leaving little room for after school activities. The short hours not only affected high school students, but working members of the community also, said Ayala.
Another driving force on LVEJO’s side was the collaboration of Occupy Chicago and the 31st street bus campaign. During Occupy Chicago in 2012, many members of the community and LVEJO protested public transportation officials and policies. Some members of LVEJO even got on podium to speak and create awareness for their cause, like many other groups during Occupy Chicago.
Broadening access to public transportation is vital especially in the Little Village community, with its numerous immigrants and cultures. The need to efficiently and continuously provide public transportation to residents is becoming increasingly important to job stability, opportunity, and access to resources, said Ayala when speaking about the importance of route extension 31 to Little Village.
At last, in September of 2012, Extension 31 to bus route 35 was granted and service began. With a new extended bus route established members of the Little Village and Lawndale community have greater access and equal opportunities to resources and jobs, Ayala said. The 31st street extension also makes connections to the orange, red, and green line el trains.
“This campaign was to turn into a community run bus service, it was and still is up to the community to keep this extension running,” said Ayala