The Metro Board of Directors last month approved a 7.7-mile Wilshire peak hour bus lane project on portions of Wilshire within the city of Los Angeles.
The City Council’s Transportation Committee discussed the issue for more than two hours this afternoon and split three ways: two Council members (Richard Alarcon and Bernard Parks) backed 8.7 miles of bus lanes, two backed the 7.7-mile option (Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge) and one (Bill Rosendahl) supported the 5.4-mile option that would have the bus lanes only east of Beverly Hills.
It will ultimately be up to the full 15-member City Council to decide which option the city will support. A discussion and vote is expected to be scheduled soon. (Here’s the project website).
Time is of the essence: Metro, the city of Los Angeles and the County Board of Supervisors have to agree on a Wilshire bus lane project to submit to the Federal Transit Administration within the next several weeks in order to qualify for a $23-million grant to help construct the lanes, rebuild parts of the street and make improvements to traffic signals. The entire project carries an estimated cost of $31.5 million.
As for today’s discussion in Council, many issues were in play that I expect will be talked about more by the full Council. Among them:
•Concerns that the bus lanes on Wilshire between Centinela and the 405 freeway will further hinder an already bad traffic situation. This is an issue that particularly impacts Rosendahl, as this stretch is within his 11th Council district.
•Councilman Bernard Parks raised the issue of equity — that the reason so many car commuters and bus commuters are traveling to the Westside is the lack of affordable housing there. For that reason, he said he believes all communities should bear some of the transportation burden of helping people reach their jobs, including the Condo Canyon stretch in Westwood not included in the 7.7-mile option.
•Among the several dozen members of the public who testified to the committee, there were many views expressed. Some (including a contingent from the Bus Riders Union) said that bus speeds along Wilshire are far too slow and they are having difficulty reaching jobs in a timely fashion.
•On the other hand, many people who live along Wilshire west of the 405 said that a one-mile demonstration bus lane that was in effect several years ago made congestion in the area even worse and they worry the new peak hour lanes — even with a portion of Wilshire being widened to accommodate them — will have the same impact.