Six weeks after the discontinuation of the #11 Lincoln bus between Western and Fullerton, it’s just too early to tell whether or not businesses along Lincoln Avenue will be impacted by the service cut.
60625 interviewed merchants along the Lincoln corridor to see if they had noticed any change in foot traffic or sales, and whether or not they could see any clear impact on their business due to the Chicago Transit Authority cutting service along Lincoln.
“I can’t say that I’ve noticed [a decrease in business] in the last month but I think it will affect us over time,” said Lynn Coe, owner of Knit 1, at 3823 N Lincoln Ave. “For my business, a lot of our people drive and parking is easy on this part of the block. But I think it will affect this neighborhood.”
She described Knit 1’s area as a green neighborhood, and one appealing to those who don’t drive their own cars.
“Our neighborhood really appeals to people who ride their bikes, and rely on public transit,” Coe said. “We are urbanites, we use public transportation.”
She said while the Damen bus still provides customers with a way to get to her store, it’s not as convenient as it was to have the Lincoln bus run directly outside her door. She said customers are still giving her feedback about the change. Coe herself misses the bus’s accessibility.
“I do everything on Lincoln,” she said. “What were they thinking? It infuriates me. We’re just starting to come back, how could they take away a bus on a major artery? There wasn’t even that much discussion about it. You knew it was a done deal. They weren’t polling us, they were telling us.”
Mandy Medley, manager of Powell’s Bookstore at 2850 N. Lincoln, also misses her short commute to work.
“I’m in Lincoln Square, so I miss being able to take the bus straight to work,” said Medley. “Students from DePaul used to take it [north to the store].”
She said she had not yet noticed a slip in sales at the store, but she agreed customer feedback indicates displeasure with the cut in service. She also said the CTA’s timing was poor, as her neighborhood had recently been gaining traction as a walking destination.
“It’s so disappointing because the neighborhood was really starting to wake up,” said Medley. “We had Heritage [Bicycles General Store] come in, and a couple of cafés. It was becoming a destination point, and when they stopped running the bus then, that didn’t help [growth]. Those types of customers for the cafés and the bike store were right up our alley, too.”
She said customers are inconvenienced by the walk from the Diversey brown line stop, especially when they are visiting the store to sell books.
“We buy books from people off the street,” said Medley. “When customers came to sell books they loved taking the bus, since they were carrying boxes and bags of books.”
She said the trek from the train is manageable, but can be daunting.
“We’re about a ten-minute walk from the brown line,” Medley said. “But it’s far enough when it’s really cold or you’re carrying or buying a lot of books.”
Mongoanh Buong, manager of Red Eyes Coffee at 4164 N Lincoln Ave., said she is unsure whether a slight decrease in customers this month is due to the bus line ending or the cold snap the city has felt recently. She did say a large part of her customer base is seniors, who are now having a harder time getting to her coffee shop.
“We have customers who are seniors and they usually take the bus and stop to get a cup of coffee,” said Buong, saying some are able to take the Damen and Western buses to get around.
“I’m not sure we’re affected,” she said. “With the weather, it’s winter — summer will be here and we’ll see.”
It’s also unclear whether traffic has been impacted by the loss of the bus, or if cab companies are seeing more business along Lincoln.
A man working in the HR department of the Chicago Carriage Company could not offer a comment about an increase or decrease in the number of cabs called to areas along Lincoln that have lost bus service.
“You’d really have to talk to the individual drivers,” said the employee. “We don’t have data on that information.”
He would not provide his name for this story.
The Conrad Sulzer Regional Library saw a small decrease in patrons from December 2011 to December 2012, but January 2013 data is not yet available for comparison. While the bus stopped running Dec. 16, the data from those latter two weeks is included in the numbers for the entire month.
“It’s hard to say,” said Ruth Lednicer, marketing and press director for the Chicago Public Library system. “The change is small enough we can’t say whether it’s attributed to the bus service stopping or being closed for more days during the holidays [in 2012].”
Lednicer said that foot traffic at Sulzer tends to be between 42,000-43,000 people per month and that December 2013 was down by about 1,500 from this.
Six weeks is not a long time, and with external factors like below freezing temperature and post-holiday retail slumps make it difficult to pinpoint the effects of the cut in bus service on these neighborhoods. A follow-up in several months to a year may lead to more reliable data from businesses.
**UPDATE** After this story was published Tuesday morning, another Lincoln business returned a call for comment.
Nick Alex, owner of the Golden Apple at 2971 N Lincoln, began a petition to save the #11 bus after the CTA announced its plan to cut service.
“I had it going for about three weeks and in that time it had about 3,200 signatures,” said Alex. “I’d say 90-90% of the people who live in the area had no idea this thing was going on.”
Today, Alex said customers still feel the loss. He feels his business may suffer, but he agreed only time will tell to what extent.
“They hate that they lost their bus,” Alex said of his patrons. “With our business, it’s going to take more time to realize what we lost. It’s not a matter of if we have lost business, it’s a matter of how much .”
He criticized the CTA board for not moving quickly enough to respond to the public’s outcry over the service cut and believes if there had been more time, the decision would have been reversed.
“Five out of the six board members said they needed to reconsider and find a way to save the bus, but the timing wouldn’t allow for that,” said Alex. “It was very tight. I’m pretty sure that in all fairness this area needs the bus back. This is uncalled for.”