Ballot measure: bus rapid transit on Vermont Avenue in L.A.

A view of Vermont Avenue north of Slauson in South Los Angeles. Photo: Google Maps.

A view of Vermont Avenue north of Slauson in South Los Angeles. Photo: Google Maps.

One in a series of posts that will look at projects and programs that would receive funding from the sales tax ballot measure that the Metro Board has approved to send to voters on Nov. 8. 

What is it? A potential 12.5-mile bus rapid transit line [BRT] on Vermont Avenue between Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood and 120th Street in the Athens and Harbor Gateway North neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The bus line would connect with numerous other bus lines, as well as the Green Line, Expo Line and Red/Purple Lines. Under the revised spending plan released in June, the project could be upgraded to a heavy rail line — i.e. a subway — after 2060.

What is BRT? Bus rapid transit lines often have some of the following features: dedicated bus lanes, off-vehicle fare collection (instead of on the bus) and/or all-door boarding, traffic signal priority, fewer stops to provide speedier service and special branding so that they are easily recognizable. The Metro Orange Line and Silver Line are both examples of BRT.

Why Vermont Avenue? Vermont is Metro’s second-busiest bus corridor behind Wilshire Boulevard. There are already about 45,000 daily boardings along Vermont, which is also heavily congested. The traffic slows buses and causes delays and overcrowding.

When can I ride it? Under the draft spending plan, the groundbreaking would be in 2024 and the project would have a target opening date of 2028 to 2030. A technical study of the project is underway. The next step would be to begin the legally-required environmental studies, a decision to be made by the Metro Board of Directors.

Metro’s ballot measure calls for a half-cent sales tax increase and an extension of the existing Measure R sales tax. Here’s a previous post about the revised spending plan for the ballot measure.

Please visit for more info and use the hashtag #metroplan when discussing on social media. The Metro Board approved sending the ballot measure to county voters at their June 23 meeting. 

Other posts about ballot measure projects

Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor

Purple Line Extension acceleration

Airport Metro Connector

Rail or bus rapid transit on Van Nuys Boulevard

High Desert Corridor

Gold Line extension to Claremont

105 freeway ExpressLanes

Light rail between Union Station and Artesia

Green Line extension to Torrance

32 replies

  1. I take the bus down Vermont once or twice a day every weekday. This seems to be overcomplicating things. Right now there’s still parking on many parts of Vermont in the evening rush and not even simple painted buslanes. Wouldn’t Metro be able to make a more informed decision about a full BRT project if they started with painted buslanes down Vermont and assessed the results through that? That kind of change could be cheap, temporary and reverted if it didn’t work well.

  2. A new bus service to replace bus service opening in 14 years…. color me extremely underwhelmed with the state of infrastructure development in this country. This corridor is an excellent candidate for heavy rail. I have never voted against a new tax for public services. But this proposal is so underwhelming and not innovative. It does not seem fair to the upcoming generation that projects like these are what we leave them with. And, I’ll close this comment by just going in to full rant mode. Azusa gets light rail and the second busiest bus corridor in Metro’s service area does not get rail? That’s an insulting allocation of resources.

    • But much would a 12.5 mile Vermont Ave rail cost? $5 billion? $10 billion? $15 billion?

      14 years for some BRT lanes… then how long do you think it would take to lay tracks? What about underground tracks?

    • The 9 mile Purple line extension costs $4 billion and is entirely underground.

      Heavy Rail down Vermont would presumably not need to rebuild the heavy rail that already exists from Hollywood to Wilshire already under Vermont, which knocks the 12.5 miles down to 10 miles. With inflation I think under 5 billion for complete underground heavy rail from Wilshire to 120st street.

      Probably cheaper(~3 billion) if you consider that a lot of it would be built elevated or in a trench rather than fully underground. 65th-120th is hardly a wealthy, politically connected neighborhood and Vermont is massively wide down there with a huge median. The powers that be would cheapen the project in that area, and for good reason. Without tunneling it would be much cheaper.

      The time is not due to construction times, but rather waiting for the money to in. Float a low interest bond for the whole project and you could get it built in 7 years. (4 years if this was China)

      Not sure if it would be worth it, but dont scare things off with over inflated numbers.

  3. Don’t waste your money on BRT. The Vermont corridor has the ridership to support rail, possibly even heavy rail. It can be used to take riders off the congested 110. Maybe down to the Harbor Gateway transit center where there is tons of parking. Metro riders need better North/South connections in LA. The blue line is far east for most people and is constantly undergoing maintenance. Rail would get tons of people of the freeway by providing a rapid, high capacity option into downtown with connections to the green, expo, red and purple lines.

    • “Maybe down to the Harbor Gateway transit center where there is tons of parking.”
      Nah, south of the Green Line is our “South Bay” where NIMBYs dislike any kind of mass transit. The HGTC isn’t a bad goal for the south end, especially since Vermont Ave is wonderfully wide from Gage Ave.

      OTOH north of Gage the street is a real traffic nightmare, riding the 204 and 754 buses is an aversion experience. This does argue for building underground light rail to the Red Line station. It would replace the limited hour 754 bus and complement the Silver Line.

  4. Aaaaaaand that’s why I’m voting no on the half cent tax increase. Forget it. They want to give BRT to the 2nd busiest corridor, take out a traffic lane, all while there is a subway running almost that length below Vermont? Dumb.

    • The BRT is from Wilshire south to the Green Line. There is no subway under Vermont in this section.

      • I stand corrected as there is a portion under the subway from Wilshire to Hollywood, but it is important to remember that people have to get to the stations in this section as well as someone could be .5 mile from two stations and could use a bus to transfer. Also, some people want to continue south of Wilshire so the subway is not useful for them unless they want to transfer again. Of course, this corridor is busy enough with 45k bus boardings to warrant BRT.

    • Ugh. . . There is no subway running down Vermont south of Wilshire?? Also, you think traffic will be an issue with BRT?? Hah, building this as Heavy Rail will also cause headaches for commuters in the short term as well.

    • Wait – you’d vote against a measure that’ll bring $120B in transportation investments to the entire county over 40 years because a single BRT would be redundant with an existing rail line for just 2 miles of its total 12.5? That is so confusing.

      • I’m voting against R2 because apparently it is politically easier have the voters tax themselves rather than just removing parked cars/one lane of traffic. We don’t need a 4th sales transportation tax when the cities are activity against transit.

  5. Up until 1955 there was light rail service from LACC to 116 & Vermont with two line, One on Vermont and Vernon that lasted until 1963 and on from downtown to 116 St and Vermont. They were both very heavy lines then. Even though much of their ridership was lost when the lines were converted to bus, the ridership did come back. A BRT will help but a bus line can not do the job that a rail line even on the surface can do as to comfort, speed and capacity.

    • I rode the V car line on Vermont from LACC (Monroe St) to Vernon Ave from about 57 to 63. It used PCC streetcars, but I wouldn’t call it light rail. Stops were about every 1/4 mile, and the lane was used by autos.
      The streetcar line (dont know its line no., maybe F) from downtown LA to Vermont & 116th St used a private right of way in the median of Vermont from about Gage to 116th, hence the width of Vermont Ave.

    • Why do you say the V line on Vermont lost riders when it converted to bus in 63? It seemed well patronized from my memories of riding it, but I took the V car only on weekends, as I was under 12.

  6. Haven’t we learned anything with the Orange Line? Packed, bouncy buses stuck at grade crossings? Everyone crying for them to be replaced with light rail? Ring a bell?

  7. Vermont from Gage Ave south is very wide because LA Railway and later LA Transit Lines ran a streetcar line in the median strip. The streetcars were replaced by buses about 1955.

  8. Wait, 8-10 years for BRT on a Corridor that actually needs a HRT Line?? Okay, can we just increase this to one cent instead of half and built these quicker?? It’s clear half-cent isn’t enough here.

    At the least, for the time being, can you just grab buckets of white paint and “Buses and Right Turns Only” signs and have curbside bus lanes at both ends of Vermont (Gage to 120th + Wilshire to Hollywood)??

  9. build an elevated monorail instead of busway and extend it to San Pedro and Long beach. It would be faster and cheaper to build than 12 miles of heavy rail subway

  10. well Vermont BRT is a good suggestion. The pattern will be similar to sbX in San Bernardino that runs in the middle of the street with restricted busway of the entire route. The dedicated bus lanes should have some bridge separations such as E. Hollywood, K Town, Exposition Blvd, Slauson Ave, etc. so the BRT will not be affected by the traffic. The Vermont line should also have a plan with phase 2 extension to Harbor Gateway Transit Center or even further to Carson.

    • Bogota must get all the money upfront via a lump sum or massive bond issue. LA seems committed to waiting for sales tax revenue to come in in a slow trickle.

      That and US federal environmental reviews are hundreds of pages long and require years.

      • Keep in mind that the sales tax money is being split among many different projects and programs as it comes in. That’s an issue, too.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

  11. Western needs BRT more than Vermont does. Or at least some kind of upgrade. western’s bus lines 207 and 757 are overcrowded, slow, and relatively infrequent even at rush hour. This is despite both them being among the top 5 most popular lines in the system in their respective categories. Additionally these lines serve some very dense neighborhoods which are not within close proximity to a rail line.

    On the other hand, Vermont ave’s lines are much more frequent, 754 runs with articulated buses (757 only uses 40ft vehicles which are always packed) and there is already a subway under Vermont’s busiest stretch.

    • I agree, Western is in need of a transit upgrade. The 757 is painfully slow. I am afraid building BRT on Vermont will just parasite off the Red and Sliver lines rather than speed people along their way.

  12. Maybe METRO needs to reconsider the option for mass transit on Vermont.

    LA will soon have a new soccer stadium for its new team. The project is being built on land adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and owned by the University of Southern California.

  13. No, no, no. If you’re going to spend my tax dollars than it needs to be spent on something that will benefit me- and that’s rail.

    How is adding more buses to a congested corridor going to alleviate traffic?????

  14. What a boondoggle. Where in the heck is there room for Dedicated busy on Vermont before Gage? The street is just too narrow. And see if there is any money for this on twenty years. NOT