Battle Lines Drawn in Battle Over Fate of Wilshire BRT in Condo Canyon

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Late yesterday afternoon, the news broke that the federal dollars needed to construct the Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes project would not be put in danger if the one mile just west of Beverly Hills were excluded.

This means that the “Condo Canyon” residents who don’t want bus-only lanes outside their condos and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, their representative to the Metro Board, may be free to remove their “back yard” from the project.  Such a move would widen the hole in the bus only route that already exists because Beverly Hills has already opted out of the plan.  A vote on the final route for the project is expected at the December 9th Metro Board Meeting.

However, now there’s push-back to the push-back.

After it appeared that the bus-only project might be endangered, a group of Bruins, bus riders, cyclists and environmentalists banded together to support the project and counter the pressure being placed on the board by the Condo-Canyon NIMBY’s.

In a letter to the Bike Coalition mailing list, the LACBC’s Aurisha Smolarski makes the case that cyclists should go to the Board next Thursday to support the full project:

The project, which is a proposal by Metro, the City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County, is intending to improve transit reliability, increase ridership, and significantly shorten the commute times of bus riders along 8.7 miles of one of LA’s most heavily used streets during rush hour.

The lane will be a shared bus-bike lane, thus providing cyclists with a designated area to ride in and improved access to Wilshire Blvd.

Having failed in their effort to persuade the Federal Transit Administration to not let the Metro Board off the hook; they’re now working on a letter writing campaign aimed at the Metro Board to press the importance of the Wilshire bus-only project.  You can read their letter to the FTA, here.

Bruins for Traffic Relief aren't above taking their views to the street.  Kedar Iyer on left, Alex Schaffer right Photo: Michelle Go

Bruins for Traffic Relief, Kedar Iyer and Alex Schaffer, aren't above taking their views to the street. Photo: Michelle Go

Even if the F.T.A. has removed themselves from the debate, the arguments outlined by the Bus Riders Union, Bruins for Traffic Relief, Green L.A. and LACBC are still relevant.  For example, the Condo Canyon residents claim to only be asking for a one mile exemption to the project between Comstock and Selby on Wilshire Boulevard.  However, a deeper understanding of how that project works reveals that the hole they’re asking for is much more substantial

First, it is our understanding that the logistics of the project would require a larger gap – from Comstock Ave to Veteran Blvd. Parts of this larger segment are congested. Second, the segment is certain to become more congested as the region grows. In two years, or five years, buses will be stuck in traffic through this section while they travel freely in bus-only lanes throughout the remaining length of the corridor.

Juan Matute, of Bruins for Traffic Relief, has put together a sample letter to the Metro Board with email addresses and maps so writers can see what Board Members directly represent them at the L.A. Subway Blog.  Even if you don’t care about the Wilshire project, you should bookmark this post for a handy reference on how to contact the Metro Board since Metro has never bothered to put that information on their own site.

If you do care, Matute provides all you need to directly lobby the Metro Board and tell them what you think of wealthy enclaves blocking transit projects that benefit everyone.

Will their efforts be enough to battle years of opposition from Condo Canyon?  We’ll find out next Thursday, and will report the results right here.