NIMBY’s in Westwood Threaten Wilshire BRT Project West of Beverly Hills (Quote from the BRU added, 12:31 P.M.)

Residents along this stretch of Wilshire want this portion of the BRT project removed.  With the support of their County Supervisor and City Councilman, they may get their way.
Residents along this stretch of Wilshire want this portion of the BRT project removed. With the support of their County Supervisor and City Councilman, they may get their way.

Westsiders like to complain that for years their part of the city has been left out when it comes to transit expansion.  Now that Metro is proposing three high-profile transit projects, a rampant strain of NIMBYism is endangering all three in one form or another.

The most recent example is the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)project.  At yesterday’s meeting of the Metro Board Planning and Programming Committee, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Mayoral Appointee Richard Katz grilled staff on whether the one mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard from Selby Avenue to Comstock Avenue needs to be a part of the project or could be exempted from the project altogether.  Currently, the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project,  proposes to install rush hour bus lanes in the curb lane of 8.7 miles of Wilshire Boulevard, mostly in the city of Los Angeles.

Urging the Board Members on are a group of residents who live along that corridor who have paid for their own traffic study that shows, surprise surprise, that the BRT project would do more harm than good for traffic patterns.  What a shocking development, that a study paid for by a community trying to obstruct a project for well over a decade shows that the project does more harm than good.

Ultimately, the committee moved the BRT study and Locally Preferred Alternative recommendation to be considered by the full Metro Board at their December 9 meeting.  However, they added the caveat that staff come back with more information about the impact of removing the so-called Condo Canyon corridor between Selby and Comstock at the Board Meeting.

During the public comment period for the project this summer, the City Councilman for the area, Paul Koretz, wrote a letter asking that this same stretch be exempted from the BRT project because of the “unique character” of this stretch of Wilshire.   However, if removing the project was a non-starter with staff, then he was asking that the curb-cuts and street parking in the area be preserved and that the road undergo a diet to make room for the bus-only lanes.  No, he didn’t use the words “Road Diet.”  You can read his full comments, here.

From left, Richard Katz; Mitch Englander, Chief of Staff to Councilman Greig Smith; Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and Councilman Greig Smith.  Photo:##http://www.mydailyfind.com/tag/greig-smith##My Daily Find.##
From left, Richard Katz; Mitch Englander, Chief of Staff to Councilman Greig Smith; Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and Councilman Greig Smith. Photo:##http://www.mydailyfind.com/tag/greig-smith##My Daily Find.##

While Koretz clearly didn’t get an elimination of the project in the Condo Canyon, the bump outs and street parking will be preserved if the project moves forward.  USC News website Neon Tommy quotes Yaroslavsky questioning the entire project on the basis that car drivers might be mad that buses are wizzing past them while they stew in congestion of their own making, especially in the Condo Canyon section where the rush hour lane configuration will now be narrowed from three lanes to two lanes.

“Omniscience is a very heavy burden to bear, but sometimes you just have to open your eyes to see what’s good for everyone,” Yaroslavsky said Wednesday at a meeting of Metro’s planning committee. “What I fear and what the Bus Riders’ Union should fear is that we introduce a project that is dead on arrival, and we become the laughingstock of the region and this board has to retrench. We don’t want to win the battle and lose the war.”

You see what happened there?  Residents lobbied Koretz’s office to preserve their parking and bulb outs.  The Councilman, being pretty good at his job, lobbied for and won the day.  Rather than savor that victory, they ran to Yaroslavsky and complained that the narrowed stretch of road would be un-passable and create a bad relationship between bus riders and car drivers so the area should be exempted.

Diabolical.

The Bus Riders Union, who have been at the front of the charge for getting the bus-only lanes on Wilshire, responded to the ammendments in a statement earlier today:

We’re opposing the exemption because we don’t want a segmented project and this sure won’t help get Beverly Hills on board who said they’ll see how the city deals with this first.  The FTA has been really patient but with all the delays this exemption request will bring it can compromise the federal funding. This exemption will open the political floodgate for other westside residents to demand exemption.  No one wants to give up some of their driving priviledges unless everyone in the corridor is doing it as well.  

The question of whether or not the Bus Rapid Transit project is worth doing in the Comstock to Selby corridor, or anywhere in the city, comes down to whether you believe the staff report and supporting environmental documents.  The Source summarized them in their write-up of the staff recommendations, but here are some highlights:

Staff estimates that 12 to 17 minutes will be shaved off the trip along the bus lanes and that up to 10 percent of motorists could shift to bus use in coming years. The bus lane, too, should help people using the future Westside Subway Extension reach destinations between rail stations more quickly. Wilshire is the busiest bus corridor in L.A. County.

The project is estimated to cost an estimated $31 million with about $23 million coming from a “Very Small Starts” grant from the Federal Transit Administration. The project could be complete by mid-2012.

The number of people using curb lanes in private vehicles at this time is at about 1,000 people an hour com compared 1,500 or so on Metro buses (although that includes the soon-to-be-eliminated 920 line). The bus lanes could increase that number to 1,800 an hour, according to Metro staff.

So there’s two issues that the Metro Board Members will have to decide when they debate the Wilshire BRT project, including the Condo Canyon corridor, at their December 9th meeting.  The first is whether they believe their staff and the people who put together the environmental documents.  If they do, the savings in time and the addition of new riders is a huge boon for the Wilshire Corridor.  They estimate that the bus lane will actually move more people than a traditional right-lane along the corridor and in that area.  If they believe their staff and consultants, then approving the project should be simple.

If they find their staff to be either incompetent or untrustworthy, then there is a second issue to consider.  Is the overall value, considering the good and bad, worth $8 million.  If the project is altered in a way that wasn’t studied, the $23 million of the $31 million that the federal government was willing to pay could vanish.

A third question, and a more theoretical one for the Board and the entire Westside, is how much power are they willing to give residents to stop or dilute programs that will reduce traffic on their streets.

26 thoughts on NIMBY’s in Westwood Threaten Wilshire BRT Project West of Beverly Hills (Quote from the BRU added, 12:31 P.M.)

  1. So a “traffic study” shows that a Rapid Bus will make car travel suffer and … we care about this because …?

    The whole point isn’t to move cars faster after the project is completed, it is to move people. How many more people, in a less polluting fashion, will be moved along this corridor with the BRT?

    How much safer will the boulevard be for everyone?

  2. What Josef said. There’s no other rapid mass transit project in LA that has more bang-for-the-buck than this one. If we could get BRT lanes on Olympic and Venice too, for $100M total, that would be as transformative as the entire Expo line. Of course, we need all of them.

  3. Our city has reached a point in it’s evolution where we need to diversify the transit options available to us. Continuing to focus resources on a single mode of transportation which had reached saturation and is grossly inefficient during peak usage periods is to frankly ignore the goals we are trying to reach as a society with our transportation infrastructure. How can we move more people, more efficiantly in this modern metropolis?

    As Josef says above, It’s not about moving automobiles, it’s about moving people. If removing a lane for high capacity buses is more efficient then a greater number of low capacity vehicles then the answer for this problem is clear. Obviously, the automobile is king in Los Angeles but in some areas, on some corridors there is opportunity to create other solutions to the problem of moving people. One lane on one road in the millions of miles of roads in Los Angeles; I think we can spare it.

    How many times have you heard it said, “It’s impossible to live in L.A. without a car.” Let us take a few small steps to change that.

  4. So Yaroslavsky’s position can be thus summarized: The bus lane will be too successful at moving people and therefore create conflict with car drivers who will be envious of the speed at which the bus is moving.

    Umm… isn’t that the entire point of BRT? The same reason why Yaroslavsky batted down the NIMBY on Expo and told them to go pound sand?

    WTF is wrong with this guy? We give him credit for pushing thru Expo despite irrational NIMBY opposition but here he does a complete flip flop and obstruct the BRT project for the same exact reason he supported Expo?

  5. Forgot to add…

    This is a call to action! Just like the Beverly Hills NIMBY action on Century City’s subway station, transit supporters can’t take this sitting down. We need to flood Metro with comments to support the BRT in Westwood.

  6. It’s no suprise Greig Smith and Mitch Englander are pictured within an article prompted by NIMBYs – they cater to NIMBYs in their own CD12, irregardless of the moral or legal implications of their pandering. Fortunately, the CD12 seat is up for grabs soon.

  7. While I am a strong supporter of the bus way (and removing car lanes for transit projects generally), I do worry that Yaroslavsky might be right about the danger of “winning a battle, but loosing the war”. The backlash against the project might be great enough to hurt other projects (e.g., the fight with Beverly Hill regarding the Century City Purple line station.) He is a professional politician, maybe he knows his voters. And, they are powerful ones. I hope he’s wrong, and I hope they do the full line, but I’d understand Metro or the city council caving on this one.

  8. So now you are writing about “NIMBY’s” as obstructionist, but where have you been for the past decade(s) including when they fought the subway, Expo Line, and the surface remedy which makes common sense and was supported by a study from the RAND Corp.: the infamous Pico-Olympic partial one-way that would have, horrors, limited street parking an extra hour during rush hour to make traffic move smoother. This was to be a “quick fix” subject to “tweaking” or dumping altogether, until and/or in tandem with the Red Line extension.

    Funny coincidence, it was ZEV who proposed that and then, when Jack Weiss took it on and worked out the details with the community, when these same sorts of NIMBY’s paid for THEIR own study and surprise, surprise, found it was a bad thing, and launched an all-out war, Zev disappeared and let Weiss take the blame. Who might not have been the back-slapping type of pol, or warm and fuzzy, but smart as a tack and he didn’t pander to these people.

    NOW that Zev and probably current Councilman Koretz will, you criticize?

    Too little too late – you have to reward pols with guts instead of letting them be replaced by these bending willows if you want to have this city EVER start looking down the line at the big picture. Right now, it’s a fractious jumble beholden to the noisiest groups of small homeowners who want THEIR way or the highway.

    This wussiness and detriment of public policy is what you all rewarded.

    As for Smith and his heir designee Mitch Englander, their district doesn’t have the vociferous HOA’s CD5 does adjacent to Beverly Hills, nor is that part of the valley remotely as center to the bi-section of the whole city, so what they do is for better or worse, more largely irrelevant to this issue.

  9. Now you know why the original Wishire bus-only lanes in West L.A. lasted about 30 minutes before resentful NIMBYs began successfully lobbying to have them removed.

  10. In South Pasadena they fought the Gold Line tooth and nail, and the result is one of the nicest stretches of light rail, and stations, in the County (in my opinion).

    If this stupidity could be channeled into making the project better (because it’s another MTA project in LA, which means yes it will suck big time), I’m all for it. No need to call people NIMBYs. It is easier to pillory their logic. If automobile traffic is going to get worse SO WHAT? It is projected to get worse anyway, no matter how you slice it. So, if traffic is only going to get worse, this rapid bus treatment will allow more people to opt out of that failing system.

    Politically, I think the case needs to be made in deaths, traffic collisions, etc. in this corridor. If I were a politician in this area, I’d do a “study” the cost of servicing all the crashes, deaths, etc. that our current system incurs. Compare that to the bus line, and tell me how it looks.

    If people argue about the economic pain of “no more street parking”, spend a little money with a local business group to ask customers how they got to the shops and how much they spent that day. In San Francisco they did this and found that 70% of business traffic (and sales) were from walk-in, bus, bike, etc. customers.

    This is bread and butter stuff in small areas: your safety and the pocket books of local merchants.

    If the bus line won’t improve these things, then why the hell should we be installing it in the first place, right?

  11. Even if I lived in Beverly Hills and never took the bus, I’d be pushing strongly for the bus only lanes because it will keep the buses out of the auto lanes on Wilshire. Have they not thought about this?

  12. “We don’t want to win the battle and lose the war.”

    LA’s political weathervane continues to aggravate and confound. Might Zev’s current move to appease Westwood NIMBYs be aimed at simply offsetting lost support from BH residents pissed-off about his failure to to support their preferred Santa Monica Blvd subway alignment?

  13. “Might Zev’s current move to appease Westwood NIMBYs be aimed at simply offsetting lost support from BH residents pissed-off about his failure to to support their preferred Santa Monica Blvd subway alignment?”

    —————-

    Bingo. That’s a great question, John.

  14. @ Jason Saunders: “the automobile is king in Los Angeles…” – says who?? Says the automakers and oil companies, which is nothing but enormous car-propaganda. The automobile domination was artificially created in the mid-20th century for huge-huge profits – by the car industry itself and the oil companies. But… this is not the golden rule, this is pure propaganda which is thankfully coming to an end. We have to change our mentality and stop listening to those BS statements that propagate the car usage. Public transportation is finally making a come-back. I hope NIMBY’s would stick their heads out of the sand, and join the rest of the people in support of creating a reliable mass transit system.

  15. Zev may also be gearing up for another fight about the subway routing between Century City and Westwood, whill will pass under the very same homes that is affected by the BRT. That fight was under-reported by the press that focused on the louder (and crazier) BH NIMBYs fighting the Century City subway station placement. So Zev is offering up the BRT as sacrificial lamb to get the subway build under Westwood/Condo Canyon?

  16. @ bzcat: I was wondering about resistance from Holby Hills to the subway tunneling west of Century City. They came out early in their resistance to tunneling under their homes. I think that makes it even more imperative that Zev and Metro not allow BH to dictate where the Century City station goes. If Beverly Hills succeeds, it will only strengthen the hand of Holmby Hills residents, jeopardizing the remaining alignment to the west in the process.

  17. Shows you the difference between NIMBYs opposed to the Expo line when they’re poor and middle class protestants and the NIMBYs opposed to the BRT when they’re wealthy Jewish West Siders.

  18. Shows you the difference between NIMBYs opposed to the Expo line when they’re poor and middle class protestants and the NIMBYs opposed to the BRT when they’re wealthy Jewish West Siders.

    ———————

    While wealthier citizens who contribute campaign money always seem to have more clout, what does religion has to do with this?

    Was a cheap shot at Judaism really necessary?

    Jews, like Protestants, Catholics, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, new agers, atheists, etc., come in all classes and many races and etnicities.

  19. are there any bicycle riders in LA? i guess not, because none of them seem to oppose this plan. hey, not my city — do what y’all like. i always thought bus travel should be improved before bike travel was even allowed anyways.

    smart.

  20. I’ve posted some sample text for an email to your representative on the Metro Board. Please stand with me (and a growing coalition of activists from LACBC to the Bus Rider’s Union to the Green Transportation Working Group of Move LA to UCLA-based groups like the Bicycle Coalition at UCLA and Bruins for Transit) in protecting the complete project, with no holes cut out for wealthy neighborhoods.

    http://meekadjustments.blogspot.com/2010/12/write-mayor-v-and-your-county.html

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