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Streetsblog Responds to City Watch Columnists Attack on Bus-Only Lanes

11_13_08_wilshire_bus.jpgPhoto: LA Wad/Flickr

(editor's note:  A couple of weeks ago Joe Linton wrote an update on Los Angeles' support for the Wilshire Bus-Only Lane.  A City Watch Columnist, Harold Katz, responded with an article attacking the project.)

I'd like to begin by stating I have nothing but admiration for activist
Harold Katz's nearly 40 years of involvement with traffic and
transportation issues in Los Angeles. But respectfully I think he is
wrong headed in his recent commentary for CityWatch titled "Bus-Only Lane will Turn Wilshire into Traffic Mess."

I am not going to engage in a battle of statistics--my focus is on the
larger picture.  I would have to believe to some extent the concerns
raised about auto accidents being caused by the bus lane can be
addressed by their design and associated mitigation measures. I don't
see a fatal flaw in the basic concept of the lanes. And I don't know
why there is a concern the project will result in a unending stream of
LAPD motorcycle traffic officers giving out traffic tickets to poor
innocent auto drivers victimized by the big bad bus lanes.  

The unstated premise is that facilitating automobiles is the ultimate
goal of improving mobility. When Harold decries that in his view a "bus
rider will save 5 minutes and the thousands of auto drivers will lose
26 minutes" he avoids the question how many bus riders will benefit and
whether the improvement for bus users exceeds the cost to auto drivers.

The El Monte busway proves a single lane used by high capacity
vehicles can carry as many people as 4-5 lanes of mixed flow traffic;
Wilshire has the potential to have similar results. The lanes also have
incredible symbolic value --  instead of the lipservice long paid to
the goal of our region being committed to having mass transit NOT
automobiles as its priority it will be expressed as a tangible part of
the landscape in the form of these lanes. And if Wilshire is a success
it will be a model for other bus lanes. The 1995 Metro Long Range
Transportation Plan included what was supposed to be 101 miles of bus
lanes along major arterials. After all these years isn't it time to
implement that long deferred part of our new vision of our future
transportation network?

By the way, along most of Wilshire the curb lanes are only available
for parking during non-peak hours. The bus lanes only reallocates them
for buses in the peak hours, so "the parking question" Harold hints at
I think is moot.

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