Council Votes for More Study for Wilshire Bus Only Project

(Note: I’ve been trading emails with Ray Klein, who I parody in the second part of this story. He claims my claims that he’s misquoting Hu are false and he has a transcript. My claim is based on Hu’s argument at the end of the Transportation Committee hearing that he was being taken out of context. We’ll get to the bottom of this next week. – DN)

Note 2: The clarification is now available, here.

A 11-2 vote for studying a BOL that is Westside Free.

After a two-hour debate, the Los Angeles City Council voted to accept a much-amended motion asking Metro to complete more studies of the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes Proposal before making recommendations to the Metro Board later this spring.

Following the Yaroslavsky Exemption of the Condo Canyon area from the Wilshire BOL proposal last year, Council Member Bill Rosendahl began pushing the idea that the entire Westside be removed from the proposal.  In January, he single-handidly moved a motion out of committee that the entire area be studied and that the city affirms its support for the 5.4 mile project that would exist east of La Cienega Boulevard.  That motion was heard, amended, and passed today.

The key change to Rosendahl’s original motion was removing the first provision affirming support for the 5.4 mile stretch.  Council Member Huizar suggested removing that sentence as it implied the Council wasn’t in favor of the complete route, which most members were.  It seems the intent of that language wasn’t to say the Council wasn’t opposed to the complete BOL project, as both Rosendahl and his staff argued repeatedly that the Council wasn’t taking a position, but was just asking Metro for more studies.

Other amendments included one from Tom LaBonge, who opposed Rosendahl’s motion until the Huizar Amendment, asking that San Vicente, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Venice Boulevard also be studied for “transit corridor” improvements.  Another motion came from Paul Krekorian, who was backing Rosendahl from the start, asking for more outreach to Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Condo Canyon and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to get them on board for a complete expansion of the project.

Because the proposal to the FTA never included Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, the study of the full project will not be completed until after the final route for this phase of the project is completed.  Speaking for Metro, Brad McAllister explained that Metro is already talking to Beverly Hills, but that the discussion is not in time to include them at this time.  Discussions with Santa Monica are not seriously underway.

The motion passed 11-2 with Council Members Richard Alarcon and Tony Cardenas voting in opposition.

From the start of the debate, even a casual observer could tell this was going to be a contentious one.  After one public speaker, Joel Epstein, Rosendahl rose and animatedly defended his record on transportation options.  Perhaps feeling the sting from today’s piece on Bus Only Lanes in the Los Angeles Times, he complained there was a lot of misinformation about his resolution and that all he wanted was a study of other options.

Advocates were having none of it.  Joining Brentwood resident Epstein were representatives of the Bus Riders Union, Green L.A., CALPIRG, and the NRDC in opposition to Rosendahl’s motion.  The feeling in the room was that this motion was a first step in removing the Westside from the BOL project.  Indeed, most of the debate was focused on whether the general public’s benefit of having a clean, sustainable and fast transit option on the Westside outweighed those of the car driving public; not whether or not having a study of the BOL without Brentwood was a good idea.

One of the more interesting testimonies came from Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic’s Hilary Norton, who argued that the project isn’t just good for bus riders, but for car drivers along the corridor.  Noting that the poor road condition makes much of what would be the BOL un-traversable anyway, she reminded the room that any part of the proposal that is excluded won’t be repaved and will continue to deteriorate.  While McAllister and LADOT’s Kang Hu repeatedly state that the project is about moving people, not just “cars” or “buses,” Norton reminded us that the project benefits anyone trying to drive the corridor.

...and then Kang Hu said dragons will come out of the sky and eat anyone caught in traffic if we just put a BOL in Brentwood.

Speaking in favor of the Rosendahl motion were residents of Brentwood and the Condo Canyon area of Westwood.  Carrying an armful of petitions, Brentwood Community Council Member Ray Klein continued to misquote LADOT Senior Traffic Engineer Kang Hu, even though he has been publicly corrected for claiming Hu has said that a segmented BOL project doesn’t have value.  Does it reduce the value of the 300 petitions when they’re carried by someone who continually mis-represents easily verifiable facts, such as what someone says?

Once the Council began its debate, it was clear that Rosendahl’s motion would  have difficulty passing without an amendment.  The first to speak was reliable Rosendahl-ally, Tom LaBonge who noted that while Beverly Hills isn’t part of the project, their peak hour parking restrictions on Wilshire create a “de-facto” Bus Only Lane.  LaBonge also encouraged the LADOT and Metro to more forcefully make the case that the project is a good one gesturing emphatically and encouraging the staffers to “Fight for it!”

Next up was Council Member Ed Reyes who peppered Hu and McAlister with technical questions, but also seemed to lean against supporting the Rosendahl motion as originally proposed.  Reyes described the supporters of the Rosendahl motion as “saying “no” this doesn’t help us, we don’t care if it helps everyone else.”

Following Reyes was Council Member Richard Alarcon, who sits on the City’s Transportation Committee but missed the hearing on this motion earlier this month.  Alarcon blasted Rosendahl and the motion noting the public support the City Council gave the 8.7 mile route just four years earlier.  “In 2007 we voted for 8.7 miles, now we’re going to turn around and say “no, just kidding.”  He also suggested, in jest, a motion that the City Council never complain about not getting its share of federal dollars ever again, after turning away a portion of the BOL projects.

More opposition came from Council Member Tony Cardenas who pushed Hu and McAllister on whether the 1.8 miles of BOL’s in Brentwood had value on their own and whether the Condo Canyon segment had value on it’s own.  After both gave an unequivocal yes, Cardenas praised Hu for sticking to his guns in the face of the Council.

After Council Member Jose Huizar’s amendment to remove any language implying the city’s support for the 5.4 mile BOL, the debate calmed down and eventually the motion passed with minimal opposition.  Speaking at the end of the debate, Rosendahl again defended his record, stated that the project won’t work in just the Brentwood Area, and blasted Beverly Hills and Santa Monica for not being on board.

The final study and staff recommendations, on a 5.4 mile “east of La Cienega route,” and of the same route with a 1.8 mile lane also in Brentwood will be heard by the Metro Board in April.

  • LAofAnaheim

    What’s next……Hancock Park will want the Bus Lane removal between Western and La Brea. This project is becoming an embarrassment.

  • roadblock

    Stumbling around with confidence™.

  • Rosendahl talking out of both sides of his mouth. I’m really disappointed in his position on this issue.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t recall hearing anywhere Santa Monica having a strong position on this either way, I thought since from the beginning they weren’t even being involved. My understanding was the bus lane project was voted on quickly for federal process and that was why they skipped negotiating with Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

  • Eric B

    @ Gary, you’re exactly right.

    Not only that, the Santa Monica thing is a bit of a red herring since Wilshire is two lanes in each direction west of Centinela. Few people would support converting one of two lanes to bus only. It is very reasonable to convert one of three lanes.

    The lane to be converted is currently only a peak hour lane anyway–and a poorly maintained one at that. If we can get buses past the perennial 405 traffic jam, that is probably 15-20 minutes in time saved per transit rider. Exceedingly few transit projects are that cost effective in time saved alone, let alone the social, economic, and environmental benefits of improved service.

  • “Other amendments included one from Tom LaBonge, who opposed Rosendahl’s motion until the Huizar Amendment, asking that San Vicente, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Venice Boulevard also be studied for “transit corridor” improvements.”

    —————-

    Support continues to line up for extending the Crenshaw/LAX LRT up San Vicente, Santa Monica Blvd. to Hollywood/Highland

  • I wonder what would have happened if Bundy/Wilshire had been left in the LPA. The NIMBYs would always oppose it, but buses could get to Bundy/Wilshire either than getting caught up in that bottleneck that we are going to see at the V.A. station with hordes of cars trying to get to the V.A. station too, not to mention the 405-Fwy.

  • Joe

    Rosendahl claims to be pro-transit, but I don’t see how that can be the case when he opposes the most important transit project for the Westside since the original Subway to the Sea got truncated.

    Unfortunately I don’t think he’s up for re-election until 2013…but I guess that gives us plenty of time to get organized.

  • Sarah

    I spoke against Rosendahl’s motion this morning and was pleased to see so much Council support for 8.7 miles of bus-only lanes.

    @bzcat: You’re exactly right. Several transit advocates and reporters were standing outside chambers just after the vote. Rosendahl came out and tried to explain that he supports continuous bus-only lanes on Wilshire, but doesn’t think it’s worthwhile to build if Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Condo Canyon aren’t involved. Sunyoung Yang of the Bus Rider’s Union responded that Beverly Hills and Santa Monica won’t ever get on board if LA doesn’t lead on this.

  • If you live in the affected council districts (5 and 11) you need to make your voice heard on this. It’s not rocket science. Make it clear that you vote in the district, that you care about the bus lanes, and that you want a representative who will show some leadership for innovative transportation solutions.

    These Councilmembers can be turned around, but only if the people they are accountable to speak up.

    http://www.lacity.org/YourGovernment/CityCouncil/index.htm

  • la rider

    I hate Los Angeles. How just a few selfish people can make life so difficult for the greater good is beyond my comprehension. No, it’s not because of money either, EXPO is also going through pain also.

  • Bob Zwolinski

    I can understand Rosendahl’s stance on this issue. The gridlock that the prior Brentwood BOL created was worse than horrific! You can’t take away 1 lane of traffic in each direction when there are over 125,000 cars at 1 given moment during rush-hour trying to jockey into position to get on and off the 405 or just trying to continue further east on Wilshire.

    Trust me… I’m all for a Bus Only Lane in Brentwood! But its EIR should be revisited only after the new Wilshire/405 flyovers are opened. Then we‘ll be able to determine what the Wilshire/405 traffic patterns will have morphed into in order to make an educated decision on its existence.

    BOL in condo canyon? Not concerned… The 720 flows just fine with the status quo.

  • Joe

    @Bob,

    The gridlock heading East on Wilshire is still horrific, even without the bus lane. Why should I have to sit on the 720 in that gridlock, just because other people won’t do the responsible thing and get out of their cars?

    Every day we delay the bus lane is thousands of man-hours wasted. We’ve already been waiting years for this lane; I don’t see any reason why we should wait years more just so car drivers can sit and wait in three lanes of traffic instead of two.

  • Perhaps Billy might take the Metro “Rapid” 720 to the VA hospital when next he needs some heart surgery. Then he might understand intimately what veterans who have lost limbs, years and normality have to endure just to be seen as a direct result of allowing Bill to have such a great country in which to reside.

    http://www.thebusbench.com/2011/01/waiting-and-watching-on-wilshire-for-a-metro-720.html

  • leon

    this is all you can say about the organization that made this possible. yes i know that this is news and legally the writer cannot out right give an opinion; however that does not stop him or her from congratulating anyone. Congratulations to the Bus Riders union for their continued support to make this and many green project possible. With out you MTA would continue their discriminatory ways. Congratulations to the Labor Community Strategy Center for their continuous commitment to fight against transit racism

  • No need to get excited, “leon.” The BRU has its own blog and the two organizations might do well to reach out to other transit advocacy groups as well as those who blog about L.A. transit, rather than having its members demand other transit blogs are implicitly deficient for failing to include congratulations for the BRU/LCSG.

  • “Unfortunately I don’t think he’s up for re-election until 2013…but I guess that gives us plenty of time to get organized.”

    —————

    Whoa on that!

    Councilman Rosendahl is incredibly pro-transit for his district which includes Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Mar Vista, Westchester. The 11th District is much bigger than pro-transit Venice.

    While I strongly disagree with the Councilman’s proposal to shorted the Wilshire bus-only lanes, the most likely opponents to Rosendahl in 2013 would be financed by and a champion for anti-transit NIMBYs.

    Rosendahl is overall by far one of the good guys.

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