Bus-Only Lane for Wilshire Boulevard Still Years Away

11_13_08_wilshire_bus.jpg

Last night Metro and LADOT updated bus riders and travelers along the Wilshire corridor of their efforts to bring Bus Rapid Transit to Los Angeles’ West Side.

If everything goes well, the project could enter its design stage in about a year.  In the meantime the agencies will be placing the project under an environmental review, select a final project description and approval from the Federal Transit Administration.  After a successful pilot program that ended last year and given the FTA’s high opinion of Bus Rapid Transit projects; advocates hope that the nearly ten years of discussion and study will lead to bus only lanes from Valencia Street in the Downtown to Centinela Boulevard just outside of Santa Monica excluding the section in Beverly Hills.  Also, federal, state and local funds are already allocated for the project.

So what would Metro’s BRT project actually do to Wilshire Boulevard?  The plan is to re-stripe Wilshire Boulevard to make the curb lanes in each direction bus only lanes.  In some areas the lanes would require no paving and in others there would need to be a slight widening of the street.  Seventeen intersections will be redesigned to improve timing and expand signal priority for buses.  Non-Metro buses would be able to use the bus-only lanes as well as Metro buses.

By removing buses from the snail’s pace of rush hour traffic, Metro will be able to sweepingly reverse the trend of longer commutes for transit riders along the Wilshire Corridor.  Rex Gephardt, who oversees the Rapid Bus program for Metro, noted that bus speeds are declining by .5% to .75% every year in the corridor.  In 2007, LADOT experimented with a pilot program for 1 mile of the corridor and, unsurprisingly, the buses moved faster and ridership increased.  While the pilot program was canceled, the segment will be part of the final BRT project if approved.

Unsurprisingly, upper-class enclaves Santa Monica and Beverly Hills seem uninterested in putting bus-only lanes on the parts of Wilshire Boulevard that run through their cities.  While both have expressed interest in moving forward with a bus-only lanes after seeing how they fare in the City of Los Angeles and County parts of Wilshire Blvd.  Both municipalities followed a similar pattern when the city and Metro worked together to bring signal prioritization for buses to Wilshire Blvd.  Prioritization has been operating on Wilshire in Beverly Hills for nearly a year
and will be in operation on other Beverly Hills streets  within the next 6 months.   Given the rave reviews BRT has gotten around the country and locally, it’s too bad we won’t see a full BRT route along Wilshire until after the city and Metro re-prove its worth.

The handful of speakers who spoke last night were excited about the project and, if anything, wanted to see it expanded.

Both speakers testifying on behalf of the Bus Rider’s Union spoke about the joys of bus riding and want to see the bus-only lanes be added to the road quickly.  Joe Linton, speaking on behalf of Green LA, commented that bus-only lanes need to be supported by an attractive, walkable pedestrian environment and the lanes need to be well marked as open to bicycles to avoid the confusion that occurred when bus-only lanes opened in the Downtown.  Others testified that the bus system in the surrounding areas will need to be bulked up to support the BRT system just as it supports the subway and light rail systems.

In addition to the three meetings next week, people can give their opinions anytime by emailing wilshirebrt@metro.net.  The draft environmental review will be available for public comment in March of 2009.

Photo: LA Wad/Flickr

  • Any sane person knows what needs to happen: instead of removing a lane of parking, a travel lane for cars should be removed to make room for buses.

    I guess we haven’t reached the LADOT’s threshold of dead people on the road to have them consider inhibiting private car travel on Wilshire. It only took a couple dozen gruesome deaths in Eagle Rock for them to time the lights to slow cars down on Colorado Blvd. (not that that alone works to slow cars).

    What if we just allowed them to shoot a bunch of people at random at the start of every year? That way they get their fatality numbers where they need them to be. In exchange, they can plan and design roads that serve the interests of people (and not just people driving cars).

  • Josef,

    Am I right in thinking that cyclists would have full access to these lanes. Section 21 of the CVC and what have you?

  • They would. Joe was referring to some of the confusion that happened in the Downtown with their bus-only lanes appeared sans “bikes allowed” signs.

  • Joe

    It wasn’t entirely clear… some cities (Philadelphia) build bus-bike lanes. When I asked one of the traffic consultants last night what they were thinking in regards to bikes, he looked a little confused and responded “good question!” We’re still not on their radar… grrrr.

  • Damien: Perhaps I was unclear when I spoke last night and, if so, I apologize. What I had hoped to say is that the signal priority for rapid buses started first in the City of Los Angeles when Metro began running Rapid service in June 2000. Since then, the signal priority has expanded to other jurisdictions. It has been operating on Wilshire in Beverly Hills for nearly a year and will be in operation on other Beverly Hills streets (Santa Monica, La Cienega, Beverly Blvd) within probably about 6 months. I know things are moving along with signal priority in Santa Monica as well though don’t have the time frames at my fingertips.

    For the record, neither Beverly Hills nor Santa Monica have ever indicated that they are opposed to bringing the BRT into their jurisdictions. As a matter of fact, they have both expressed interest in how the Wilshire BRT project proceeds in the City and County portions of Los Angeles and then considering what actions they may take. Thank you for your comments last night on this matter recognizing that often projects start up in phases and then expand.

    Jody Litvak
    Wilshire BRT Team

  • That’s nice of you to allow for the possibility that you didn’t make it clear as opposed to me writing it down wrong. I appreciate that.

    I’ve corrected the paragraph above, and while I’ll allow that they’re excited to watch other people to do something cool, BRT is a proven technology at this point. That they aren’t as excited enough to move forward so we get a straight shot from the Downtown to the Beach is sad.

    Let me also say that this is one of my favorite projects to write about because nobody things it’s a bad idea.

  • Wad

    Damien wrote:

    BRT is a proven technology at this point.

    How so?

    BRT is a fundable idea. The problem, though, is that BRT is the Mad Libs of public transportation. Essentially, transit agencies are allowed to use a list of technologies and concepts, submit an application, and call it BRT.

    Orange Line is BRT. So are the El Monte and Harbor busways. So are the Rapid Bus lines.

    These three things have nothing in common, except they all use buses. Yet all of these are BRT.

  • anonymouse

    And none of it is still rapid transit. I wonder how the 20, 720, and 920 would all interact, when the bus lanes are relatively free and the traffic in the main roadway is jammed. I suspect that it will work a whole lot better once the subway is running and the 720 and 920 are eliminated as redundant in favor of some actual rapid transit.

  • I wouldn’t really consider the Rapid Lines BRT because there isn’t a dedicated bus lane, which I guess in LA are actually dedicated bus/bike lanes. Without the dedicated lane it’s just a bus with less stops and some fancy technology. Not that rapid lines aren’t important in their own way, but calling the 720 BRT is a stretch to me.

  • anonymouse

    And yet, in the MTA’s planning documents, one sees the term “Metro Rapid Transit” to refer specifically to those Rapid bus lines, and it’s pretty clear that the MTA considers it to be a form of BRT.

  • Wad

    Rapid is Metro’s greatest confidence game.

    What Metro succeeded in doing was essentially getting a capital campaign for a marketing gimmick.

    Metro Rapid is limited-stop routes (lines 300-399) with red buses.

    The Magic Light Wizards(TM), based on actual operational observation, have little to do with the increased speed. The better speeds come from the reduction in stops, which is what non-Rapid limited lines are.

    The one key difference between limited and Rapid, though, is that Rapid explicitly promotes the speed of a limited line. Limited lines aren’t promoted for their speed, even though riders perceive them as faster. This is primarily because Metro uses limiteds as overcrowding relief, and it doesn’t really care how fast the buses go. The criteria for limited routes are heavy local ridership and heavy transfer activity.

    Take away the red buses and there are no appreciable differences between a 300 service and a 700 one.

  • One helpful thing about the bus only lanes in London is that the pavement is a different color. Therefore, it is really clear which one’s they are. A one-way street may have 2-3 lanes of traffic in one direction with a bus-only lane going in the opposite direction, such as Tottenham Court Road.

    In Berlin, the bycicle lanes are a different color pavement. This works too.

    I completely support bus-only lanes. There is one catch. The 720s are still going to be weaving around the 20s and the 920s will be weaving around both. That might cause some resentment by motorists who are not allowed to drive the bus lane but the buses are allowed to drive in their lane. That’s not a concern to me because I don’t think we can plan our transportation future based on the welfare of single-occupancy automobiles. But there might be some blowback.

    The bus-only lanes in Brentwood were great, but they seemed to last about 30 minutes before lobbying started to have them removed.

    Bring on that subway! :)

  • There is one catch. The 720s are still going to be weaving around the 20s and the 920s will be weaving around both.

    Don’t forget the vehicles making right-turns…which will have to wait for the pedestrians.

    Maybe I just spend way too much time observing pedestrian/vehicular movements at our intersections (by nature of the Fix Expo work), that I just can’t be anything but skeptical of any dedicated BRT curb-lane on Wilshire.

    Traffic frequently backs up to Wilshire at most of the major cross-streets, there are heavy pedestrian movements, and the rapids are going to have to wait for all of it, or bob-and-weave out of the lane — pretty much like they do today.

    At a minimum one would think that Wilshire would need:

    a) far-side cut-out bus stops for each of the local stops (so the lane doesn’t stop each time a local has to stop)

    b) far-side cut-out bus stops at the shared stops

    c) dedicated right-turn lanes with adequate queuing space for vehicles at practically every intersection (and still that requires cars to transition from the through lane on the left of the BRT lane to the BRT lane, then to the right-turn lane)

    Do all that and every property owner along Wilshire will have an attorney.

    Curb-lane BRT is a phony substitute for real BRT – median-lane BRT. But that’s not possible on Wilshire, without lane drops and sidewalk cuts…like oh the Eastside LRT.

    Why is it so difficult for our transportation agencies to actually explore the details of why certain systems are successful, when evaluating how/whether it can be implemented in LA or on a particular corridor?

  • Wad

    Damien, you beat me to the punch. You outlined exactly why BRT will not work on Wilshire. It’s a failure by design, because it introduces too many choke points to allow buses to move.

    What you ask for is not the ideal BRT system, but the bare minimum required for it to work. Not only that, but it needs to be available all the time — not a 4-hour solution to a 24-hour problem.

    Let’s not forget the spillover problems. Not only would traffic get so bad in the remaining Wilshire lanes that buses can no longer leapfrog, but some of the vehicle traffic will shift over to other major arterials (Third, Sixth, Eighth, Olympic, Santa Monica and Pico) and slow down the local buses on those streets. Every trip might have 10 minutes added to it.

    Here’s another thing few people are considering: “BRT” might be perceived as an improvement, and more people will ride. Surprisingly, that is the last thing we want or need. The ridership is so high that buses are no longer physically capable of carrying the load. Besides, the Orange Line has shown that even for the most ideal BRT design, it exceeded capacity the day it opened. So the effective capacity of buses only is ridership somewhere under 20,000 boardings.

    And, I have a rather blunt answer to the question you posed:
    Why is it so difficult for our transportation agencies to actually explore the details of why certain systems are successful, when evaluating how/whether it can be implemented in LA or on a particular corridor?

    Answer: Because L.A. is stupid.

    Everything is stupid. Everybody is stupid. Period.

    I am expecting that I have insulted a great percentage of the Streetsblog by reading this, and I want to avoid having to continue a hand-to-hand flame war with anyone on this board. So let me try to make my stupidity thesis clear in a single narrative.

    L.A. is difficult because L.A. doesn’t make the wrong choices, it makes choices wrong. To clarify: in the former, we’d assume that out of a set of solutions to a problem, we end up choosing the wrong one and might have been better off if we had dome something else. Uh-uh. That’s making a wrong choice. In L.A., if we choose the path of an alternative, no matter which one we embark on we will mess up. That’s making a choice wrong.

    Or, in short, we “L.A.-up” things.

    Here are some of the most common ways to L.A.-up things:
    1. Rear-guard remediation. This is the MO of the Metro board. All decisions are framed around implementing a new policy that corrects an old failed policy — without anticipating the problems a new action lies ahead.
    2. Compromise, Los Angeles-style. We practice something that is the polar opposite of the zero-sum game. In L.A., we avoid zero-sum games and compromise and just give every stakeholder everything they want. We then involuntarily impose compromise because giving everyone everything is financially or physically impossible. So, L.A. screws up at every phase of the way. We broker a deal where every stakeholder is now vested in false hopes. Then, we begin to implement the idea and realize we are running out of money or something becomes impossible or dangerous to construct. Our alternatives become cut-and-run or impose compromise. So we end up compromising, leaving all stakeholders upset. When the project is done, it comes in late, over budget, and left to resentful constituencies. The perfect example is L.A.’s pendulum-like swing on the subway issue.
    3. Entitlement syndrome. Without hyperbole, L.A. has the most chronic case of civic penis envy in perhaps the history of human civilization. How can a population so big and so diverse have their expectations and capabilities an ocean apart? Southern California has a pool of some of the world’s best and brightest architects … yet Southern California cannot unyoke itself from strip malls. Southern California also attracts creative types from the world over … yet the glut of talent real and imagined in such a small pocket of the world is less a creative Babylon and more of a creative Skid Row. This glut is not conducive to the artists and audiences, and the creativity does not spill over in a way that makes L.A. more livable. So, let’s first examine how come we pissed away every opportunity to harness our brains, muscle and money to make our home happier. Then let’s realize we must figure it out ourselves rather than having something wonderful blindside us.
    4. The tendency to dumb down rather than smarten up. This is not unique to L.A., but seems to be endemic in the human brain. We don’t seek to understand a problem, though many dimensions, but instead desire to compact problems down to the simplest level of understanding. Doing it just a few times is fine, but going through life searching for truth through reductionism yields little and ends up stultifying true brain power. For instance, the blogosphere may make journalism obsolete but down the line people are going to wonder how both authors and audiences are going to understand anything when the medium thinks and responds in snark. Or, how would anyone get on to solve L.A.’s transportation and other problems if they need to be told what the problems are in four steps? ;>

    How is it solved? Well, I had always framed everything by discovering a counterargument to each of the four problems. I then anticipate the problems and craft solutions that cover the contingencies, too.

    Then again, I am from L.A. too, so by trying to fix any problem I L.A.-up things, too. :>

    I’d be glad to hear of anyone else’s successes.

  • Marcotico

    Wad, your comments on the nature of LA style political compromise are spot on.

  • Damien said:

    “Don’t forget the vehicles making right-turns…which will have to wait for the pedestrians.”

    This talk of L.A. politics is great – but you guys are treating the interests of private motorists on our most choked highway as a huge priority.

    For what it is worth, and you can quote me, “I don’t care about right turning cars.” They should have to wait as long as they have to for pedestrians and buses. Someone abusing the right of way by driving down it in a single occupant car should have THE LOWEST priority on the transportation totem pole.

    Single occupants automobiles pollute the most (greater numbers), their drivers shop the least (limited parking in the urban core), and they kill more people than are murdered in L.A. each year.

    As transit advocates, I’d think you guys would feel the same way.

    “The bus with 45 people may slow down 20 single occupant cars!”

    Big deal! Let ’em wait!

  • Wad said:

    “Let’s not forget the spillover problems. Not only would traffic get so bad in the remaining Wilshire lanes that buses can no longer leapfrog, but some of the vehicle traffic will shift over to other major arterials (Third, Sixth, Eighth, Olympic, Santa Monica and Pico) and slow down the local buses on those streets. Every trip might have 10 minutes added to it.”

    Dude, you’re employing one of the biggest fallacies in American transportation planning: the “traffic-is-like-water” fallacy.

    Traffic is not like water. If you cut off access to certain types of modes, travel by that mode tends to drop off. People either change modes, change destinations, or simply stop traveling.

    Traffic is not like water!

  • Wad

    Brayj wrote:

    Dude, you’re employing one of the biggest fallacies in American transportation planning: the “traffic-is-like-water” fallacy.

    Then tell me, where are those cars going to go?

    It’s almost certain the drivers will not go on the buses. Plus, the Wilshire buses already have too many riders as it is. You don’t want a perceived improvement like bus lanes bringing more riders into buses that do not have room for them.

    For any driver that has to stay on Wilshire, you have to fit one lane’s worth of traffic into the two remaining lanes. If traffic can barely move as it is when vehicles can use all the lanes, what now if they are clamoring for space when one lane is taken out?

    You say “Damn the cars.” I say “Fine. But how is a 720 or a 920 supposed to overtake a 20 without passing?”

    Turnout lanes are not possible in most parts of Wilshire. A bus is 102 inches wide. A turnout would need to be about 120 inches wide. That’s essentially the width of a highway lane. Most sidewalks aren’t wide enough to allow that.

    So the buses will have to contend with traffic, even with their own lanes. Whatever traffic Wilshire cannot hold, it will spill over onto intersecting streets (slowing down turns) or drivers will alternate onto parallel streets. The arterials have bus routes, all of which have high ridership. The added traffic will slow down these routes.

    Brayj also wrote:
    Big deal! Let ’em wait!

    Transportation planning out of spite helps no one. Taking over lanes for buses just to flip the bird to motorists doesn’t improve transit service.

    We make a huge step, yes, but also make several steps back. The bus lanes cause too many problems: trapping Wilshire buses in the lanes and slowing down intersecting and parallel routes because of spillover traffic.

    Bus lanes just will not work on Wilshire. They will not work if they had their own lanes. They will not work if they had to share lanes with bikes and right-turning cars.

    Bus lanes just will L.A.-up Wilshire.

  • Wad,

    The “traffic-is-like-water” fallacy is not true no matter how many times you repeat it.

    In general, if we reduced a road’s capacity for cars we would also reduce the total number of car trips taken in a day. It is that simple. Car trips don’t magically sit at a fixed number every day, woe unto the engineer that dares to allow traffic to “flow”.

    Quite the contrary, car trips in L.A. are heavily induced by free parking, wide streets, and local, state, and federal subsidies of private automobile trips (both directly and indirectly).

    If we stop inducing car trips, the cars won’t need “somewhere else to go” – they won’t be on the streets in the first place!

    Again, traffic is not like water! If you block up a path for traffic, after a few days it will NOT pool until it spills over.

    Think of it this way: A bridge between two places exists, and people use it to travel from Point A to Point B. The brdige is removed, and on the first day after the removal people go to the place of the bridge. The day after the bridge is removed, people do not continue to show up, waiting for the bridge to re-build itself. They change the way they do business and get around.

    And this whole quibble about the 20, 720, or 920 – uh, what is up with your guys on this one? If there is a protected right of way for the bus, why would there need to be three types of service running on this corridor in the first place? Don’t you think that one bus line, plying a dedicated right of way, ought to suffice? With the improved headway of a bus in its own dedicated lane, who gives a crap wht number is slapped on the front? What makes you guys so sure that the current regime of bus lines would remain static after such a significant change is made to the right of way?

    With transit advocates like this, who needs the AAA?

  • Having just finished reading traffic, it does seem that simply cutting out a particular route or lane for cars does not necessarily make things worse. There are actually occasions when too many route options results in worse traffic, it’s hard to explain off the top of my head but the book goes through the reasons.

    I think this bus lane might help a little, but I think this proposal as it is currently envisioned, is going to be like putting a band aid on a gushing wound. The 720 is constantly crowded to capacity and then some, and if it moves along a couple minutes faster, that isn’t going to do a whole lot for the capacity problem. We need the Wilshire subway done yesterday.

  • Wad

    Brayj wrote:
    The “traffic-is-like-water” fallacy is not true no matter how many times you repeat it.

    Well, what about the theory that traffic is more like a gas (It will disperse to any volume that can contain it)? Witness how congestion on the 405 has now spread to the Canyon roads.

    And this whole quibble about the 20, 720, or 920 – uh, what is up with your guys on this one? If there is a protected right of way for the bus, why would there need to be three types of service running on this corridor in the first place?

    Re-read number 4 of my comment in number 14. Now look in the mirror.

    Bus bunching is a problem even if you can’t grasp it.

    And there’s an answer to your question, too. There’s a 720 because there’s a 20. All limited-stop lines are added to locals to manage overcrowding. There’s a 20 because there are distances too great to walk for most bus riders (La Brea to Fairfax, Santa Monica to Westwood, Alvarado to Vermont). There’s a 920 because a limited-limited line had to be added to manage the crowding on the Rapid.

    With transit advocates like this, who needs the AAA?

    Snark backfires when this statement can also be taken as a compliment. But I thank you anyway. ;>

  • In general, if we reduced a road’s capacity for cars we would also reduce the total number of car trips taken in a day. It is that simple.
    [….]
    Quite the contrary, car trips in L.A. are heavily induced by free parking, wide streets, and local, state, and federal subsidies of private automobile trips (both directly and indirectly).

    If we stop inducing car trips, the cars won’t need “somewhere else to go” – they won’t be on the streets in the first place!

    Your assumption is predicated on the theory that a significant number of people are driving out of recreation and have a reasonable alternative that they’re not exploring, as opposed to driving out of NEED that has nothing to do with “the convenience” of the automobile. I have to disagree.

    I lived in Cambridge, the model city for all of these concepts thrown around: traffic calming, bike lanes, smart growth, etc., and the reality is, like my comments on the flawed belief that “what’s good for Curtiba would be good for Wilshire” without diving into the details of why Curtiba BRT is working, there is a whole lot more going on in Cambridge that contributes to it’s success. It’s not just a repudiation of the automobile. And it goes without saying that Cambridge-Boston are laid out differently. Their regional commuting challenges are no where near as complex.

    I question whether people understand how unique our traffic challenge is in L.A. There isn’t another city in this country that has SO MANY major economic centers so dispersed. We’ve got the studios in Burbank, the high rises in Westwood/Century City, Downtown LA, LAX, Warner Center and El Segundo with moderate residential density everywhere.

    In most other cities in the country, and I would venture to guess in most European cities, traveling from El Segundo and Downtown Glendale would require crossing a state line!

    It is 27 miles between El Segundo and Downtown Glendale. And in those 27 miles of travel you’ll be hard pressed to pass through a census tract without 10K/sq mile density.

    Understand the distance between El Segundo and Downtown Glendale is almost the same as the distance between Greenwich, Connecticut and Times Square!!!! (31 miles)

    We’ve got unique problems in LA people.

    People are driving for a reason.

    People ain’t on the bus/train/bike for a reason.

  • Turnout for the meeting last night held at Southwestern Law School was quite healthy–30-40 people, including a significant BRU presence. The BRU speakers early on stated strong support for the bus lane. Oddly they then emphasized alleged environmental benefits of the project–it felt like again they are shoehorning everything into being about kids and air pollution. In my comments I stated given the heavy demand in the corridor this action is long overdue (the 1995 Long Range Plan included an undefined 101 mile network of arterial bus lanes, which of course never happened). I even exhorted the BRU folks to go back to their uber shadow master, Eric Mann, and ask him to get some of the Westside liberals who fund the Mann advocacy empire to besides writing checks to assuage guilt to have them call their city council members expressing support, as I have heard the folks near Westwood living in the canyon of Condos along Wilshire are somewhat opposed to the bus lanes. This would be more helpful than Mann’s usual solution to everything–holding a protest.

    I live and work on Wilshire and will take my day to day experience about conditions over the various lengthy bricks posted on this blog that seem to substitute vehemence and alleged expertise (“observing pedestrian/vehicular movements” — oh, please!) for anything substantive. BRT is a good idea and will help move people faster.

  • “Your assumption is predicated on the theory that a significant number of people are driving out of recreation and have a reasonable alternative that they’re not exploring, as opposed to driving out of NEED that has nothing to do with “the convenience” of the automobile.”

    In defense of that theory, I don’t think that it’s about recreational driving, but more about using driving more efficiently and sparingly by prioritizing. If driving is more difficult or less cost effective (time and money), then you will try to combine trips, reduce some, and possible reprioritize what is wants and needs. Is making a special trip to Target for some new curtains a need? I guess that depends on who you ask, but I feel that many more car trips are made then is necessary because driving is made so convenient.

    Los Angeles is in fact a unique environment, however that doesn’t change the fact that we induce more car trips then is necessary by overly subsidizing conveniences like ample free or under priced parking.

  • Gary:

    Maybe it’s that I put peak hour work-time commutes in a different category than others. The crux of our transportation problem are work commutes, not weekend trips to Target.

    Dana:

    Nothing anyone suggested here was complex to understand and any person has the capability of seeing the implications of rapids, locals, vehicular right-turns and pedestrians all sharing the same limited time in the traffic signal light by just spending 10 mins during peak hour observing the traffic situation at any major intersection on Wilshire Blvd!

    It’s not surprising that you have nothing to contribute to the discussion other than insults. The lack of desire to engage in any type of independent analysis is a trademark of so many “leaders” of transit advocacy organizations in Southern California. Please find better and more productive ways of using your time.

  • “Maybe it’s that I put peak hour work-time commutes in a different category than others. The crux of our transportation problem are work commutes, not weekend trips to Target.”

    The problem with looking at the bigger number, commuters, to the exclusion of all those other car trips, is that small percentage changes in numbers of cars on the road can reap large changes to traffic flow. There is a point where highways and roads reach their peak, and then after that, small increases in traffic create tremendous amounts of slowing on an exponential curve. This is one of the reasons the commute home is often worse then the commute into work, because later in the day more errands, recreational and other non commuting trips are active.

    In some cases a 5% reduction in the number of cars can result in a 50% increase in traffic speeds when looking at the fact that traffic can get as slow as 10 mph in some places. I highly recommend anyone who cares about this sort of stuff to read Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic and the huge index in the back, it’s quite enlightening.

  • While we are talking about commuters, I think it’s worth bringing up the currently unenforced CA Parking Cash-Out Law that has been on the books since 1993. My own company has adopted it after I brought it up to HR, and bicycle, transit and car pool use have all gone up here. I see our 2 bike racks filled every day, and some people bring their bikes into their cubicle.

    Here is some numbers from the small number of firms that have adopted the program in compliance of the law in spite of not being forced to:

    “Still, some companies did comply, and in 1997 Shoup examined eight firms in southern California to learn if it altered employees’ travel behavior. The results varied widely from firm to firm, but overall Shoup found significant changes. On average, solo driving dropped 17 percent, carpooling increased by 64 percent, transit use rose by 50 percent, bicycling and walking rose one-third, and vehicle-miles traveled and vehicle emissions each fell by about 12 percent per employee per year.”

    http://www.its.berkeley.edu/itsreview/ITSReviewonline/july2002/parking_cashout.html

    Official Website Outlining Program:
    http://www.arb.ca.gov/planning/tsaq/cashout/cashout.htm

    So any serious discussion of reducing commuter congestion should include discussion of the Parking Cash-Out Law and the theories behind it.

  • Wad

    Dana Gabbard wrote:

    BRT is a good idea and will help move people faster.

    Dana, I don’t live too far away from you and I also see Wilshire every day. I have to disagree with you about Wilshire BRT.

    For whatever speed advantage it promises, BRT will cause problems with bus movement and traffic flow. There are too many elements that will stall BRT. Just by allowing right turns in the bus lanes negates the point of even having the lanes. What good are the lanes when buses have to wait behind turning vehicles, who in turn have to wait for pedestrians to finish crossing the street. Since Rapids only stop where transfers are made to another bus line, every Rapid stop generates pedestrian traffic.

    A Rapid that would have to wait one traffic light to continue. That’s no better than what we have now.

    The Rapid is also in the unique predicament that it will be a failure even if it succeeds, as paradoxical as it may sound. Bus-only lanes may only encourage ridership on a line that is no longer capable of handling ridership solely on buses. Wilshire has too many bus riders. Metro is already running the equivalent of a division’s worth of buses just dedicated to Wilshire service. If buses were evenly spaced out, you’d have frequencies of 15 to 30 seconds between buses! The Wilshire trunk is practically an escalator.

    Also, look at Metro whining about how Orange Line has been running over capacity ever since it has opened. Orange Line represents the most ideal form of BRT, yet it is over capacity with just a third of Wilshire’s ridership.

    As Mr. Kavanagh said, we need the Purple Line built yesterday. I know how much more daunting that task is, and I know nothing short of a miracle will get the subway expedited, but Wilshire BRT is just unworkable.

  • Once again we have a bunch of seemingly intelligent people writing 400 words of relatively unpersuasive wonkish dribble a piece, and all in the comments where it won’t get seen by anyone who can be persuaded.

    Turn on your brains – these ridiculously long comment wars are a waste of time – GET A BLOG! (and post to it) Jeez, I should call all your moms.

  • Wad

    Alex, if the waves are too high, mayhaps it’s time for you to get back to shore. Else, let the Streetsblog admins shut down the discussion if it’s getting too wily. With Dana, Gary and the Damiens, we’re learning a lot here.

  • Alex,

    I see comment boards as the place where I figure out what other people are thinking and it tends to force me to refine my own thoughts on issues and what points are most debated and what the counter arguments are. Comment boards are the practice that allows me to come up with stronger work for my own writing and discussions later. A lot of the strongest and most viewed material on my own blogs began as or was influenced by comment board participation and observation.

  • Wad, this is an interim measure until such time as the Purple Line extension can be built. Even with the passage of Measure R that will take some time and meanwhile something has to be done to provide relief for the corridor.

    I won’t dignify the condescending Mr. Damien Goodmon and his insults with a response beyond noting I know a demagogue when I see one, especially one whose chief expertise isn’t so much transportation advocacy as it is self-promotion. And I’m especially looking forward to whether Steve Hymon picks up on my suggestion and starts poking around in re the involvement of the Cheviot Hill NIMBYs with the PUC’s hearing on Expo grade crossing issues in South L.A. How about it, Mr. Goodmon–any of the funds in your coffers come from the Westsiders who hope South L.A is going to carry their water? And what do your allies think of that? If I had been dragging myself to a lot of meetings and then learned a shadowy group of folks were really calling the shots from behind the scenes I know I’d be angry at having been manipulated.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/bottleneck/2008/11/things-im-think.html#comments

  • Gary – how much time are you spending on this? Answer me that.

  • Jerard

    If it becomes to much of a political nightmare to get these lanes and restrict right turns during rush hour on that lane on Wilshire. Move this project to Venice Blvd.

    However I can see a few small fixes to the problem of leapfrogging buses along Wilshire.

    First the opertion of the 20-720-920. With the bus lane, the 920 Rapid express becomes redundant and can be eliminated because the lane improves the reliability and trip times so the 920 isn’t needed. So instead of 3 routes, we’re down to two.

    Next with the Route 20, they should make all bus stops near side bus stops with Bus queue jumpers and combine local and Rapid stops. Why is that important if the local bus is making a stop and a Rapid is coming behind it. With the queue jumping the Rapid would gain a headstart on other traffic as to move over a lane and go around the local bus and merge to the dedicated lane. The combined local-rapid stop simplifies boardings and transfers between both types of services.

    The next thing for the 20 is operate only low floor buses. Having all low-floor buses on this local route speeds up loading/unloading at bus stops for both regular and wheelchairs so less time is spent idiling to load a wheelchair passenger or have elderly passengers climb up steep steps on a full high floor bus which reduces dwell time for the local buses and keeps the buses moving. The 720 should take the next step like the Orange Line and have at busier stops fare validators and allow for multiple door boarding.

    In other words, we should be talking about additional elements to the bus only lane instead of just the bus only lane. Like it or not even when we build the Subway to Westwood we’ll need the bus only lane so this project is inevitable.

  • Wad

    Jerard, a couple of points:

    1. Don’t be too quick to recommend canceling 920. Its role is to be a limited-limited, a 300-series line for 720, if you will. Just convert the line to a blue-bus express line and run point-to-point service. Line 920 would not have to run on Wilshire, either. The driver could use any arterial to drive the fastest path. Line 920 can be the Beverly Hills express, stopping only at La Cienega and Beverly Drive. A new Line 921 can be a Century City and Westwood express, stopping only at the hub stop on Constellation and then Wilshire and Westwood.

    Both bus lines can use any other street that happens to be the fastest, just as long as the driver makes those stops.

    There’s no 922 farther west into Santa Monica, because that city has a blue-bus express of its own that works just as well. :>

    2. There’s still the problem of 20s holding up a pack of 720s. Solution: Move Line 20 onto Sixth Street, the next block north. It’s contiguous up to Fairfax (the part between Fairfax and San Vicente is residential and because of parking, narrows to one lane).

    If there are concerns that the residential area between Wilton and La Brea would fight buses on Sixth, busy lines along residential streets have precedent on Melrose, Beverly, Third, Wilshire (sorta) and Olympic.

  • Jerard

    Even with that, why would Metro run a skip stop service away from the corridor it serves and zig-zag between that through a very congested area. In concept I agree with you, in it’s application it won’t work.

    It would work if there are said alternates aren’t as congested to reach from one point to the other, there are more Diagonal streets and the corridors in which it is alternating from stayed in a continuous direction following Wilshire. I can only see one portion of the route that you could veer off of Wilshire by going on San Vicente and Burton way to get around Beverly Hills, but then you immediately hit a wall of Santa Monica Blvd traffic or worse north-south congested corridor like La Cienega or Fairfax which negates any time advantage you have. Also in some stretches between Westwood and Beverly

    The other piece is that 920 is a dog in ridership it’s only carrying 3500 riders with no new riders and it’s ridership is dropping. That is key because all we are doing is shifting existing 720 riders onto the 920 and using more resources to move the same number of people that would be better used for additional 720 trips between Westwood and Wilshire/Vermont.

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