The Metro Board of Directors approved a 7.7-mile route for the Wilshire peak hour bus lane project. The approval came as part of voting to adopt the final environmental impact report for the project and followed the Metro staff recommendation for the project.
The vote was 10 to 0
11 to 0 with two absences and one abstention from Board Member Jose Huizar.
The route would include 5.4 miles of peak hour lanes on Wilshire immediately east of Beverly Hills — between San Vicente Boulevard and Park View Street, which is just west of downtown L.A. The other 2.3 miles would be in several segments between Centinela and the western border of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
The map above shows the route and various improvements to be made along Wilshire, which is the heaviest traveled bus corridor in Los Angeles County with about 80,000 boardings on the average weekday.
A segment of about one-mile between Comstock and Selby avenues in Westwood was not included in the project. The area was originally planned to have peak hour lanes. But the Metro Board decided to exempt it because of community concerns that the loss of a traffic lane in that area would severely impact traffic.
Construction could begin later this year. The bus lanes are scheduled to open in 2013 at an estimated cost of $31.5 million, which also includes rebuilt curb lanes to accommodate heavier buses and improved traffic signal priority.
Metro estimates that bus travel times could improve by about nine to 14 minutes per trip with the 7.7-mile alternative. A recent study by the city of Los Angeles’ transportation department concluded that with the bus lanes in place driving times for private vehicles in the peak hours may increase by at least six minutes.
About 24,000 people currently 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 bus lanes will only be in operation during peak hours. In most cases, the bus lane will be in the present curb lane. Street parking is already banned along most of Wilshire during the rush hours. The reconstructed lanes should provide a much smoother ride than present-day Wilshire, which is extremely bumpy for bus riders.
The project also must be approved by the Los Angeles City Council and the County Board of Supervisors, as the project is on both city and county land.
If the City Council approves a different version of the project, then the project would again return to the Board of Directors for their review. The city, county and Metro Board must all agree on the same project by September in order to secure a $23-million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.
The lanes are only located along Wilshire Boulevard within the city of Los Angeles. Dating back to the late 1990s, the city had been studying bus lanes along Wilshire. When a chance to win federal money to fund the project came along, Metro had little time to apply for the money and didn’t have time to work with Santa Monica and Beverly Hills on putting the lanes in their cities.