Metro Staff Reccomends Full 8.7 Mile Wilshire BOL, But City Council Will Make the Call

This month’s Metro Board of Directors Meeting, and their Planning and Programming Sub-Committee, will vote on how many miles of Wilshire Boulevard will be repaved and restriped for the popular Wilshire Bus Only Lanes project.  Following the restriping, there will be two lanes in each direction to accommodate 60,000 rush hour car riders and one lane for 80,000 bus riders.  Metro staff is recommending a 7.7 mile route for the lanes, from Downtown Los Angeles to the Beverly Hills border.  The route will be picked up west of Westwood and will run through Brentwood to the Santa Monica border.  Regardless of the chosen route, funds for the project will come from a federal grant.

On weekdays, approximately 80,000 people already board the bus along Wilshire Blvd during rush hour. 60,000 people are in cars or trucks.

You may remember that staff’s original recommendation of an 8.7 mile route was rejected rather quickly by the Board because of an exemption for the “Condo Canyon” area of Westwood pushed for by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

However, because the project is a joint project of Metro and the City of Los Angeles, the route has to be approved by both the Metro Board and the City of Los Angeles.  While Metro will vote on the routing at their Thursday, May 26th Board Meeting, the Los Angeles City Council is planning to vote on the Bus Only Lane route on May 24th.

Council support for the 7.7 mile route is far from certain.  Westside Councilman Bill Rosendahl is campaigning hard for a second exclusion for the Brentwood area west of the 405.  Rosendahl wants all of Los Angeles west of La Cienega removed from the project until a “Phase II” could be planned, approved, and implemented for the Westside, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica.  The odds of that happening anytime soon are awfully low.  Rosendahl’s proposed route is only 5.4 miles and would reduce time savings for bus riders using the route by 40% and is opposed by a coalition of transit advocates, environmentalists, the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  Supporting Rosendahl are the Brentwood and West L.A. Neighborhood Councils.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to study the impact of removing the Westside would have on the project.  To get the motion passed, language was removed that implied the City supported the route.  Even so, two Councilmen voted against the study, Richard Alarcon and Tony Cardenas and Council Members Jose Huizar, Paul Krekorian, and Tom LaBonge voiced opposition to cutting out the Westside.  If those five votes hold, and Herb Wesson and Jan Perry who represent communities along the Wilshire Corridor east of La Cienega, every other Council Member would have to vote for Rosendahl’s two-phased approach to bus only lanes where Phase II might never happen.

People close to both the Metro Board and City Council have informed Streetsblog that the two governmental bodies will probably vote for the same project limits, with the Metro Board just wanting to get some sort of project built and the City Council vote being far less certain.  Mayor Villaraigosa, who controls four of the thirteen votes on the Metro Board and has some influence with the Council, supported the original 8.7 mile route but hasn’t made a public statement on the 5.4 mile route versus the 7.7 mile route.  With the Mayor lobbying the federal government for greater investment in Los Angeles’ transit system, a public fight over whether to except federal funds for this project would be ill-timed.