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La Brea Bus Lanes Installation Appears Stalled: Two Months Late, Three Miles Short

La Brea Avenue bus. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

Thousands of daily La Brea Metro and DASH riders just can't get a break. Metro keeps pushing back the start date for installing bus lanes on La Brea Avenue. Metro's most recent announcement was that installation would get underway in "early 2023" but as of today - late February - work has not started. In addition to construction delays, only half the project will proceed in an initial phase, with the southern end delayed by L.A. City Councilmember Heather Hutt.

Metro map of La Brea Avenue bus lane project
Metro map of La Brea Avenue bus lane project
Metro map of La Brea Avenue bus lane project

In September 2021 Metro announced plans to install 5.9 miles of peak-hour bus lanes on La Brea Avenue.

The bus lanes were to extend from Coliseum Street to Sunset Boulevard, with Metro rider connections to the existing Metro E Line La Brea Station and a future Metro D Line Wilshire/La Brea Station, scheduled to open in 2024. Nearly the entire project had already been approved by the city of Los Angeles in its 2015 Mobility Plan, though it also includes a three-block stretch in the city of West Hollywood.

"The La Brea project is a critical one," wrote Streets for All founder Michael Schneider stressing that, "it won’t just be the longest bus-only lane in L.A. once finished, but it will critically provide a north/south connection for transit riders." Move L.A. Executive Director Eli Lipman stressed the importance of La Brea bus lane connections, including to the Metro E Line and key job centers critical to L.A.'s economy: Hollywood and Highland, and Hollywood Park/SoFi Stadium. "Fast, frequent, and reliable service is critical for this corridor," wrote Lipman, "and a dedicated bus lane is necessary to each of these goals."

The La Brea bus lanes would speed up the Metro 212 bus, which carries roughly ten thousand daily riders on weekdays. It would also serve three L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) DASH bus lines: Crenshaw, Midtown, and Fairfax.

Metro and LADOT did community outreach for the project in late 2021 and early 2022.

In November 2022, Metro announced that bus lane installation "work would begin the week of December 5," but only for the northern three miles of the La Brea project - from Olympic Boulevard to Sunset. Metro tried to put a positive spin on only half the project proceeding initially: “Utilizing a phased approach to project implementation will allow us to bring the benefits of improved bus speed and reliability to our Line 212 riders sooner, while also continuing our work with the community to finalize the project design between Olympic Blvd. and Coliseum St.”

On December 20, 2022, Metro revised the schedule to work starting "early 2023."

A week ago Streetsblog checked in with Metro spokesperson Patrick Chandler regarding an expected start date. Chandler responded that, "Metro continues working with the contractor to finalize construction permits and start date for the project." He confirmed that the initial phase will be just the three-mile Olympic-Sunset segment, and noted that construction is expected to start at Olympic then proceed north to Sunset, then head south back to Olympic. He also stated that once a new construction start date is established, Metro will send notices to stakeholders in the corridor.

Councilmember Hutt has not yet approved La Brea bus lane connections to the Metro Expo Line Station
Councilmember Hutt is not yet supporting bus lane connections to the Metro E Line La Brea Station
City starting work on La Brea bus lane, but lower section connecting to Expo is being further delayed by Councilmember Heather Hutt. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

The portions of the project that are moving forward are in L.A. City Council Districts 5 and 13, represented by Councilmember Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Hugo Soto-Martinez, respectively (though the project was approved by their predecessors, Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mitch O'Farrell.) The only portion currently officially delayed is in Council District 10, represented by Councilmember Heather Hutt.

Hutt, in a written statement to Streetsblog, explained her stance on the La Brea bus lanes project:

In speaking with various community groups, the homeowners association and neighborhood councils, I haven't received a consensus that the community supports this project. Transportation represents a very pivotal part of economic development, sustainable accessibility and the unification of communities. As the Councilwoman for CD10 and the Chair of the Transportation Committee, I will continue to push for fair, adequate and equitable bus and transportation service.

By essentially vetoing half the bus lane project, Hutt is perpetuating a practice started under the previous mayor, when councilmembers selectively blocked already approved portions of the city's Mobility Plan. The La Brea bus lanes could be a test for L.A.'s new Mayor Karen Bass and her LADOT. Will Bass continue the balkanized past process that prevented effective implementation of  coherent multimodal plans, leading to unsafe streets, slower bus speeds, and grassroots voter revolt? Or will Mayor Bass exert the needed executive influence to ensure that L.A. implements citywide plans for a world class transit system?

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