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Wilshire BRT

Metro Board Doesn’t Trust Staff, Removes Selby/Comstock Segment from Wilshire Bus-Only Proposal

2:14 PM PST on December 9, 2010

Following nearly an hour and fifteen minutes of public testimony, most of which overwhelmingly favored passage of the staff recommendation to complete the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes on all parts of Wilshire Boulevad controlled by the City of Los Angeles, the Metro Board of Directors unanimously backed transit expert Zev Yaroslavsky over their staff and LADOT staff and decided to remove the Comstock/Selby area of Wilshire in Westwood from the project.

Our Hero in 1985.  Photo: Zev Yaroslavsky/flickr
Our Hero in 1985. Photo: Zev Yaroslavsky/flickr

The strongest testimony in favor of completing the Wilshire Bus-Only lanes as completely as possible came from LADOT's Kang Hu during the staff report.  Hu, who's spent years studying the project and has professional degrees and certifications in transportation and transit planning, made a forceful defense of the project. He testified that any impacts on car traffic were manageable and that the buses on Wilshire currently carry more people than cars.  He closed his testimony by arguing that the project would handle future growth and is about shifting people out of their cars and on to buses.  Hu deserves credit for making such a forceful defense, as at least one L.A. City Councilman, Paul Koretz, is on record against the project.

Following the presentations by Hu and Metro staff, a parade of speakers representing environmental groups, urban planners, bike riders, the Bus Riders Union, and residents of West L.A. all stepped up to address the benefits of the BRT project.  Roughly 10-15% of those testifying were Westside residents opposed to the project.  The 10-15% estimate is an appropriate one, since the group was trying to get over a mile, or 11% of the project, removed.  There was no mention of excluding any part of Brentwood from the bus-only routing.

As soon as public comment was completed, Yaroslavsky went on the attack against those testifying in support of the project.  In what was both an extremely condescending and revealing statement. Yaroslavsky commented that the Metro and LADOT staff did an amazing job but he thinks that they're wrong about the impact of removing this mile of street based on his years of obstructing transit projects his solemn responsibility to make sure things work.

Yaroslavsky then went on to claim the mantle of champion of bus-only lanes, commenting that the people who would be sitting in their cars have organizations too.  And, these organizations would halt all future bus rapid transit projects after he demonstrated how easy it is to do so if we upset them.  Honestly, the logic that the only way to protect bus-only lanes from NIMBY's is to collapse whenever NIMBY's organize and demand that they do so is beyond my ability to understand.  But that's why I'm a pontificator and not a member of the dysfunctional "responsible" Metro Board of Directors.

Having completed his convoluted harangue against those that disagreed with him, Yaroslavsky voted to amend the staff recommendation to exclude the Selby/Comstock area of Wilshire from the Bus Only project.

Once Yaroslavsky was done, Board Member John Fasana asked what the Federal Transit Administration thinks about removing this area from the project.  At this point, the FTA has given verbal, not written, permission to remove the lanes.  That was enough for Fasana, who immediately backed Yaroslavsky's motion.

Next up was outgoing, but current, LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson who didn't quite throw her staff under the bus; but still ignored their advice after years of study and backed the Yaroslavsky motion.

When a vote was finally called for, the Yaroslavsky motion passed with no objection.  Thus did Bus Rapid Transit hero Zev Yaroslavsky save future Bus Rapid Transit and Bus Only Projects from future interference and the well meaning intentions of everyone that doesn't live in the Selby/Comstock Area.  The final layout of the project will be about 14% smaller than it was before, but at least all future projects are safe.

Thanks to the responsible vision of Zev Yaroslavsky.

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