By Fran Spielman
CITY HALL REPORTER
Date of Publication: July 20, 2004
Source: Chicago Sun-Times
West Side activists demanded Monday that the CTA end the "transit racism" that has left Blue Line riders in Pilsen, Little Village and North Lawndale without night and weekend service since 1998.
"For the last 6.5 years, I haven't been able to go downtown on weekends. ... We are shut off from downtown and from the medical center. We're tired of being discriminated against," said Gladys Woodson, who lives a block and a half from the Blue Line.
"I'm not saying that you're discriminating against us because we're black. I think we're being discriminated against because we're poor. ... It's unfair for the mayor of Chicago to treat us like we're second-class citizens."
CTA President Frank Kruesi agreed that Blue Line riders deserve the same service that other lines enjoy. But he can't promise anything until two things happen: a $482.6 million Blue Line reconstruction project is completed and the Illinois General Assembly agrees to change the way mass transit funding is allocated in the Chicago area.
Without additional state funding, the Blue Line won't be the only line without night and weekend service. The CTA could literally become a rush hour-only system, Kruesi said.
"It's a reasonable standard that the Douglas Branch should be opened weekends as others are -- if others are. My point is, I cannot sit here and commit. We don't know what our budget situation looks like -- that we will in fact be able to be open on weekends," Kruesi said.
"We're going to know what happens in Springfield before the reconstruction of this branch is completed. ... That's something I hope has a happy ending. ... However, I want to re-emphasize: If the funding formula for transit in this region is not changed in a way that gives us additional resources, then CTA will be facing, beginning on Jan. 1 of next year, a serious reduction overall throughout the system in service."
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) countered: "You keep saying that and I understand. The CTA will be hurt by that. But, what do we have right now? Nothing."
West Side activists have been growing increasingly militant in their demand for night and weekend service on the Blue Line.
On Monday, members of the so-called Blue Line Task Force flexed their muscle during a City Hall news conference and during hours of testimony before the City Council's Transportation Committee. Then, they marched up three floors to Mayor Daley's office and staged a raucous demonstration that echoed through City Hall.
Alejandra Ibanez, executive director of the Pilsen alliance and a member of the Blue Line Task Force, noted that the Purple Line operates on weekends, even though it has fewer riders than the Blue Line.
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