The final environmental impact report for rush hour bus lanes on parts of Wilshire Boulevard was initially approved by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday, with a roughly one-mile stretch in the Condo Canyon area of Westwood removed from the project. Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained from the vote.
Metro staff now have to conduct additional environmental analysis of the project without the Condo Canyon stretch. So the Board will have to vote on an updated environmental study in April. Construction is expected to begin in early 2012, with the lanes opening in 2013.
A motion by Board of Director Zev Yaroslavsky asked to remove the segment of the bus lanes between Selby and Comstock avenues in Westwood. His motion also asked Metro staff to “assess travel time delay and traffic impacts in the mixed flow lanes along the project corridor. This analysis should serve to help determine what additional mitigation would be necessary to address time delays along the corridor and in the region.”
Many public speakers — including more than a dozen from the Bus Riders Union — testified in favor of keeping the Selby-to-Comstock segment, saying the bus lanes would be a lesser project without it and that the bus lanes shouldn’t be further fragmented.
But Yaroslavsky, who represents Westwood as part of his supervisorial district, said that other areas along Wilshire had also been exempted from having the bus lanes, including Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and the area around MacArthur Park.
The bottom line, Yaroslavsky said, is that the Condo Canyon area is already heavily residential and one of the few parts of Wilshire where traffic moves decently at rush hour. He said the project would not do enough to improve bus times — 30 to 60 seconds at most — but could cause other travel times for other traffic to deteriorate by as much as 26 percent.
The Federal Transit Administration told Metro last week that removing the Condo Canyon segment would not threaten federal funding for the bus lane project.
A few highlights about the project:
•The project, as proposed, would add a bus lane to Wilshire between Centinela and South Park View street, which is west of downtown Los Angeles. The bus lane would not be in the city of Beverly Hills. Metro staff have said they didn’t have time to coordinate with Beverly Hills before applying for federal funding for the project.
•The bus lane would mostly be in the parking lane and would only be in effect during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Private vehicles would be allowed to enter the lanes to turn right. Conversely, buses would be allowed to leave the lane in order to pass one another.
•Metro planning officials say that the bus lanes would shave 12 minutes off the time it takes buses to travel the length of the bus lane corridor. Drive times for private vehicles would increase six minutes after the project is up and running.
•In the 8.7-mile segment studied, about 29,000 Metro riders use buses within the project area during rush hour compared to 20,000 autos carrying about 24,000 people. With the bus lanes, the number of bus riders is expected to increase to 33,000 to 35,000 in the project area. The bus lanes are also expected to help Westside Subway Extension passengers reach destinations between train stations.