Metro Rapid Service Coming to Venice Boulevard

5_26_10_rapid.jpgRapid buses near Staples Center. Photo: LA Wad/Flickr
Amidst the excitement of Bikeside Speaks (covered in great detail by Stephen Box here), Bikerowave’s own City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl dropped a juicy bit of information during his presentation.

Starting next month, the MTA will roll out its Metro Rapid bus service on Venice Boulevard. Replacing the existing 333 limited stop service along Venice will be (wait for it) a Rapid 733 line running from Centinela Ave. Downtown Santa Monica to Patsaouras Plaza in Downtown Los Angeles (Thanks for clarifying, Jerard.) For those sitting at their computers constantly hitting refresh on the Metro Rapid Updates Page, you’ve already seen this news buried in a list of bullet points as “Venice Blvd. (Metro Rapid Line 733, June 2010).”

With services set to begin on Sunday June 27th, it is unclear why Metro has not been advertising this change more aggressively, given that part of Rapid’s genesis was to increase the visibility of Metro services. The only mention on The Source is a January notice of proposed services changes on fourteen routes.

On a visceral level, adding Rapid service to Venice Boulevard makes sense. Take a quick glance at the Metro Rapid Service Map (Wikipedia’s map is apparently more up-to-date than Metro's [huge PDF warning]). You can see a nice series of parallel routes running east-west along Wilshire, Santa Monica, Olympic, Pico, and then a big jump further south to Rodeo Rd./Vernon. Adding the 733 line helps fill out the Rapid system, increasing access to one of Metro’s trademark services and the destinations it serves.

However, those hoping for all the trappings of the initial Rapid lines along Wilshire and Ventura shouldn’t hold their breath. According to Paul Backstrom, Deputy Planning Director for Councilmember Rosendahl, at present there is no money to build bus shelters, “next bus” displays, or other improvements along the route, despite it being a “key attribute” of the Rapid service.

Asked if there were any plans to give buses dedicated lanes on Venice Blvd. – like those about to be installed on Wilshire – Backstrom expressed support for the idea, but added that nothing was in the works. If dedicated bus lanes were to be employed going forward, Backstrom hopes that lessons could be learned from the Wilshire experience, specifically to avoid the series of hang-ups that have slowed the implementation process.

Further Reading: For an in-depth analysis of the Metro Rapid system, check out Jarrett Walker’s piece over at Human Transit, where he discusses how the service has changed (for better and worse) in its transformation from a specialized service on two corridors to an expansive, if more diluted, system of nearly 30 lines traversing over 440 miles.