The Wilshire bus lanes project has been in the planning stages for quite some time and still needs the final approval of Metro’s Board of Directors, the L.A. City Council and the Board of Supervisors before construction can begin.
The Metro Board is scheduled to consider the bus lanes as part of its monthly meeting on Thursday, May 26. As a prelude, the Board’s Planning Committee will take up the issue at its meeting tomorrow (May 18) at noon at Metro headquarters.
The big thing remaining to be settled? The exact location of the peak-hour bus lanes. A comparison of three alternatives that have been studied is above — the focus of the Board will likely be on alternatives A-1 and A-2. The above chart also appears in this helpful PowerPoint on the bus lanes prepared by Metro staff.
Metro staff recently released a revised final environmental study of the project with a recommendation for 7.7 miles of bus lanes. It’s essentially the same project as proposed in the previous study except that, at the direction of the Metro Board, this study evaluated dropping the one mile of bus lanes between Comstock and Selby avenues in Westwood because of community opposition to the lanes there. Some community members said they feared losing one of three general purpose traffic lanes in each direction to a bus lane, saying it would have too great a harm on traffic.
In February, the L.A. City Council also asked Metro to consider shorter bus lanes that would only be built east of Beverly Hills. Again, the issue was community opposition to the bus lanes in Westwood and Brentwood.
So it’s likely — but hardly guaranteed — that the Metro Board of Directors may choose between one of those alternatives.
A few quick details about the bus lanes:
•The lanes would operate in the curb lane, which is mostly off-limits to parking in the peak hours anyway but is used for general traffic.
•The project only includes the parts of Wilshire in the city of L.A. — Metro decided not to include Beverly Hills and Santa Monica in the project. Wilshire is the heaviest used bus corridor in L.A. County and buses can be very crowded and very slow during rush hour.
•Metro estimates that bus travel times will improve by about nine to 14 minutes per trip with the 7.7-mile alternative and six to 10 minutes with the 5.4-mile alternative. A recent city of L.A. study concluded that with the bus lanes in place driving times for private vehicles in the peak hours will increase by at least six minutes and maybe more, depending on which project is built.
•The hope is that with faster bus service, more people will switch from driving to taking the bus, thereby reducing some of the impact of the project on private vehicles. Currently about 24,000 people are traveling in 20,000 cars on Wilshire during the combined peak periods and 29,000 people are riding Metro buses. With the project, the number of Metro passengers in the corridor during peak times could rise to 33,000 to 35,000.
•The project, which includes reconstruction of the curb lanes and some street widenings, is estimated to cost about $31.5 million. The federal government is expected to cover about two-thirds of the cost through a grant; the rest will come from Metro and the city of L.A.