The Metro Board of Director’s planning committee discussed the Wilshire bus lane project on Wednesday and moved the project’s environmental study and staff recommendations to the full Board. The committee declined to makes its own recommendation for or against the project — a common scenario in committee discussions.
The Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project proposes to install 8.7 miles of rush hour bus lanes in the curb lane of Wilshire Boulevard — mostly in the city of Los Angeles — between the Santa Monica-Los Angeles border and just west of downtown L.A. Metro staff have said the lanes will shave 12 to 17 minutes off bus trips along Wilshire.
The focus of Wednesday’s discussion was a mile-long stretch of Wilshire between Comstock and Selby avenues in Westwood (here’s a Google map). In that high-rise residential area, residents have objected to the project as it was originally proposed — which would have eliminated the parking lane in that area during peak traffic hours. In response, Metro staff have recommended keeping the parking lane intact and putting the bus lane in the righthand of three general traffic lanes in each direction.
Residents in that area are also saying the bus lane isn’t needed in this stretch of Wilshire and will mess up traffic. Metro staff have said the bus lane is needed there to help speed up bus trips on the length of the corridor.
Two members of the Board of Directors — Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Richard Katz — expressed concerns that the 30 to 90 seconds of reduced bus travel times in this stretch could come at a cost of impacting traffic more than is acceptable. The question, however, is whether eliminating that stretch of the bus lane could jeopardize $23.3 million the Federal Transit Administration has committed to the project. Total project cost is estimated at $31 million.
The full Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on moving forward with the project at their next meeting on Dec. 9; the city of L.A. and county of L.A. also need to approve the project before it’s built. Before that meeting, the committee asked Metro staff to: 1) determine whether that stretch could be eliminated without risking the loss of the money, and; 2) come back with better justifications for the entire project, which proposes to improve bus travel times on Wilshire by 25 percent.
Here’s good coverage of yesterday’s discussion at Neon Tommy.