Mid-Town First, Metro Ready to “Break Ground” on Wilshire Bus Only Lanes
Next week, Metro celebrates Bike Week with some major bus news. Metro will finally begin work on the long-delayed Wilshire Bus Only Lanes along a 1.8 mile stretch between Western Avenue and South Park View St. at MacArthur Park. As with the bus lanes in Downtown Los Angeles, these lanes are “bike o.k.”
Here’s the schedule for the lane installation on that stretch of Wilshire Boulevard. Next week, the current lane markings are removed. The following week, new markings designating the rush hour “bus only” lane are painted. Last, between May 29 and June 1, new signage will go up designating the bus lane.
The new bus lanes become effective 7 a.m. Wednesday, June 5. Only transit buses and bicycles will be permitted to use the lanes during peak hours of 7-9 am and 4-7 pm weekdays.
While Metro is spinning the beginning of completion as a major milestone, the entire Wilshire Boulevard BRT project won’t be completed until “the end of 2014,” over three and a half years after it was approved by Metro and the City Council. This unfathomably long timeline to repaint a street is blamed on the need to repave the road and the difficulty coordinating between city departments.
But that takes four years? We’re not talking about separated bus lanes, we’re talking about paint and signs.
Both candidates for Mayor, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, have expressed interest in expanding the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes to other parts of the city if the project proves successful in moving more bus commuters more quickly through the corridor. By taking so long to complete the projet, Metro and the City risk delaying the implementation of other bus only lane projects even as Metro completes studies around the county.
When the lanes are finally completed, they will cut bus commute times by 15 minutes on 12.5 miles between downtown and Centinela Avenue in Santa Monica. Street improvements and selective street widening will be made along 9.9 miles of Wilshire Boulevard with BRT lanes on 7.7 miles.
A political battle waged by two usually transit friendly elected officials, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Councilman Paul Koretz, led to 1.2 miles of the planned bus lane being removed in Westwood, despite the testimony of LADOT engineer Kang Hu that removing the lanes served no transportation purpose. Councilman Bill Rosendahl waged a similar campaign to get the lanes removed in Brentwood, but couldn’t muster the support in the City Council or Metro Board. The cities of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are not taking part in the project.
During peak hours, Metro operates buses every two minutes on Wilshire Boulevard west of downtown. There are 53,000 daily boardings with 44 percent of those during rush hours. More people travel along the Wilshire Corridor by bus than by car in peak periods.
The Wilshire Boulevard BRT is funded by a $23.3 federal grant combined with an $8.2 million local match.