Eyes on the Street: Red Pavement Bus Lane Improvements in Downtown L.A. and East Hollywood

Newly reddened northbound bus-only lane on Alameda Street. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Newly reddened northbound bus-only lane on Alameda Street. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

There are some new bright red bus lane markings on several L.A. streets – mostly in downtown Los Angeles. These include several upgrades to the J Line/Silver Streak bus rapid transit (BRT) route near Union Station.

Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero notes that these bus lane improvements are a joint effort between the City of Los Angeles Transportation Department (LADOT) and Metro – as part of Metro’s NextGen bus network revamp. The agencies have been working together via the bus speed improvement initiative spearheaded by L.A. City Councilmember and Metro Boardmember Mike Bonin. Since 2019, LADOT and Metro have partnered to open eight new bus lanes: Flower Street5th and 6th StreetsAliso Street, Olive Street, Grand Avenue, and Alvarado Street, and now Alameda Street.

More L.A. City bus lanes are coming soon on a remaining portion of Alvarado and on La Brea Avenue.

This most recent round of bus-only lane improvements (outlined below) adds no new bus lane mileage, but intervenes strategically to speed bus travel at some pinch points where buses already have priority, but inattentive or scofflaw motorists often ignore bus lanes. Not all drivers will respect the bright red bus lanes, but very few will fail to notice them. At a couple of these locations, Streetsblog observed drivers beginning to merge into the bus lanes, then noticing the red pavement markings and returning to the lanes designated for cars.

Map of new red-pavement bus lane markings - on Foothill Transit Silver Streak base map
Map of the three new red-pavement bus lane segments – on Foothill Transit Silver Streak base map

There are three sections of newly reddened bus-only lane on the eastbound Metro J Line/Silver Streak route as it wends its way through downtown. From west to east they are:

  • First Street – new bus-only left turn left pocket – a half-block between Broadway and Spring Street (in front of the historic L.A. Times building)
  • Aliso Street – new red pavement on the existing bus-only lane – a block between Los Angeles Street and Alameda Street
  • Alameda Street – new red pavement on the existing 1.5-block long northbound bus lane between Aliso Street and the El Monte busway entrance (at the south edge of Union Station – over the 101 Freeway)

The First Street bus turn lane is for eastbound buses turning left onto the counterflow northbound bus-only lane on Spring Street. There is no left turn for private cars here, as they can only turn right onto one-way Spring.

First Street bus-only left turn pocket
First Street bus-only left turn pocket
First Street's brand new bus-only left turn pocket
First Street’s newly red-marked bus-only left turn pocket
The First Street bus-only turn lane
The new First Street bus-only turn lane is next to the historic L.A. Times building, just west of City Hall

From First Street, J/Silver Streak buses go north on the Spring Street bus lanes, then turn right at Aliso Street. Streetsblog spotted somewhat new soft-hit-post protection on the first block of the Aliso Street bus-only lane, though, checking Google Street View (compare December 2020 with June 2021), these posts were added in early 2021.

Bus lane protection soft-hit posts on Aliso Street between Main and Spring Streets
Bus lane protection soft-hit posts on Aliso Street between Main and Spring Streets
Initial Aliso Street bus lane protection was just
Initial Aliso Street bus lane protection was just a low plastic speed bump, with no posts

The southmost block (between Los Angeles Street and Alameda Street) of the Aliso Street bus-only lane got new red paint treatment.

The Aliso Street bus-only lane yesterday
The Aliso Street bus-only lane yesterday
Metro and LADOT's new Aliso Street bus-only lane. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
The Aliso Street bus-only lane in October 2020. This stretch is now red pavement.

From Aliso, Silver/J buses turn left on Alameda Street, where LADOT and Metro added new red pavement on the existing northbound bus lane.

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Newly red bus-only lane on Alameda Street where it crosses over the 101 Freeway
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The Alameda Street bus lane goes only a block and a half, from Aliso Street to the El Monte Busway entrance, just south of Union Station
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Though most L.A. City bus lanes have signs (example) that at least clarify that bicyclists are OK to ride in the bus lane, for some reason the Alameda bus-only does not

(Thanks to @DavidRoachford, whose tweet tipped SBLA off to the red Alameda bus lane.)

There are two additional short segments where the agencies recently added red pavement marking to existing bus-only turn lanes.

On the west side of downtown L.A. – on Figueroa Street at 3rd Street – there is a decade-old bus-only left turn pocket for southbound buses turning left onto the eastbound frontage lanes on 3rd Street. LADOT recently added a bright red bus only pad in that left turn pocket.

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New red bus-only turn pocket on Figueroa Street at 3rd Street in downtown Los Angeles. At this intersection, Figueroa goes from two-way to one-way, so southbound drivers must turn right onto one-way westbound third street where many use the on-ramp to the 110 Freeway. Southbound buses here turn left onto a one-block eastbound frontage road, then proceed south on Flower Street.
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LADOT DASH in the bus-only left turn pocket on Figueroa Street. Note, barely visible to the right of the red area, there is a sharrow. Similar to buses, southbound cyclists can do a vehicular left turn to continue south on Flower. (Many cyclists choose to ride “salmon” against traffic in the one-way northbound protected bike lane just outside the photo to the right.)
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Figueroa street signage (left end of Wrong Way sign) notes that left turns are “BUS ONLY / BIKES OK”

At the Vermont Triangle, in East Hollywood at the edge of Los Feliz, LADOT implemented a bus-only left turn lane in 2017. Eastbound Hollywood Boulevard buses turn left at Vermont Avenue. Car drivers there turn left onto Vermont using a short stretch of Prospect Avenue.

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New bright red bus-only left turn pocket on Hollywood Boulevard at Vermont Avenue in L.A. City’s East Hollywood/Los Feliz neighborhood

In related news, yesterday, Metro announced that LADOT will be stepping up enforcement of bus lanes. This week, LADOT is issuing warnings for bus-lane violations. Next week, LADOT will be ticketing bus lane scofflaws.

Enforcement can be problematic, both because of equity concerns and because of the increased possibility of fraught encounters between people of color and law enforcement. But in this case, LADOT’s parking enforcement officers are unarmed, and many will be on bikes.

Ultimately, the goal is to smooth passage for Metro’s core riders, the overwhelming majority of whom are lower-income people of color. Particularly right now, when Metro is cutting bus service and gas prices are on the rise, it is especially important to make the remaining service as reliable as possible for the Angelenos who depend on it.

Below is the full text of Metro’s announcement:

Bus Lanes Across the City of Los Angeles

LADOT will begin targeted enforcement of bus only lanes across the City of Los Angeles starting Monday, March 14, 2022. Parking enforcement ensures that buses can utilize the bus lanes as designed in a safe and secure manner, while minimizing conflicts with parked or idling cars, delivery vehicles loading/unloading in the lanes, or other actions that might affect the safety of bus riders, pedestrians, and motorists, and/or impede the speed and reliability of our bus service.

As a reminder, it is illegal to park or stop in bus only lanes during posted times. Targeted enforcement from LADOT begins this week (Monday, March 14 through Friday, March 18), with LADOT issuing written warnings in the first week of their targeted enforcement. After that, all violators may receive a citation and may be towed in accordance with municipal code. We appreciate your continued support in helping to keep these lanes clear and all street users safe!

TIPS FOR SAFELY USING THE BUS ONLY LANES

What is a bus only lane?

A bus only lane gives buses dedicated space to travel separately from vehicles. A separate lane allows buses to get riders to their destinations faster and more reliably.

Who is allowed to use the lanes?

Bus only lanes are for use by buses only during the stated hours of operation. Emergency vehicles, drivers making right turns and people on bicycles can use the bus only lane when needed.

Is parking and loading/unloading* allowed?

Do not park, load, unload or drop off/pick up passengers in the bus only lanes during the stated hours of operation. *Refer to signage for restrictions.

Can I make right turns?

Drivers are permitted to enter the bus only lanes to make legal right turns at intersections and driveways.

Story corrected March 16 8 a.m.: Streetsblog initially reported that the Alameda Street bus lane was new, but LADOT clarified that the red pavement was added to the existing bus lane there. Google Street View shows that the Alameda bus lane has indeed been there since at least 2014. 

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