Board of Directors give initial approval to Wilshire bus lane project without Condo Canyon segment

The final environmental impact report for rush hour bus lanes on parts of Wilshire Boulevard was initially approved by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday, with a roughly one-mile stretch in the Condo Canyon area of Westwood removed from the project. Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained from the vote.

Metro staff now have to conduct additional environmental analysis of the project without the Condo Canyon stretch. So the Board will have to vote on an updated environmental study in April. Construction is expected to begin in early 2012, with the lanes opening in 2013.

A motion by Board of Director Zev Yaroslavsky asked to remove the segment of the bus lanes between Selby and Comstock avenues in Westwood. His motion also asked Metro staff to “assess travel time delay and traffic impacts in the mixed flow lanes along the project corridor. This analysis should serve to help determine what additional mitigation would be necessary to address time delays along the corridor and in the region.”

Many public speakers — including more than a dozen from the Bus Riders Union — testified in favor of keeping the Selby-to-Comstock segment, saying the bus lanes would be a lesser project without it and that the bus lanes shouldn’t be further fragmented.

But Yaroslavsky, who represents Westwood as part of his supervisorial  district, said that other areas along Wilshire had also been exempted from having the bus lanes, including Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and the area around MacArthur Park.

The bottom line, Yaroslavsky said, is that the Condo Canyon area is already heavily residential and one of the few parts of Wilshire where traffic moves decently at  rush hour. He said the project would not do enough to improve bus times — 30 to 60 seconds at most — but could cause other travel times for other traffic to deteriorate by as much as 26 percent.

The Federal Transit Administration told Metro last week that removing the Condo Canyon segment would not threaten federal funding for the bus lane project.

A few highlights about the project:

•The project, as proposed, would add a bus lane to Wilshire between Centinela and South Park View street, which is west of downtown Los Angeles. The bus lane would not be in the city of Beverly Hills. Metro staff have said they didn’t have time to coordinate with Beverly Hills before applying for federal funding for the project.

•The bus lane would mostly be in the parking lane and would only be in effect during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Private vehicles would be allowed to enter the lanes to turn right. Conversely, buses would be allowed to leave the lane in order to pass one another.

•Metro planning officials say that the bus lanes would shave 12 minutes off the time it takes buses to travel the length of the bus lane corridor. Drive times for private vehicles would increase six minutes after the project is up and running.

•In the 8.7-mile segment studied, about 29,000 Metro riders use buses within the project area during rush hour compared to 20,000 autos carrying about 24,000 people. With the bus lanes, the number of bus riders is expected to increase to 33,000 to 35,000 in the project area. The bus lanes are also expected to help Westside Subway Extension passengers reach destinations between train stations.

10 replies

  1. Maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong. We’ve assumed that our choice is to let all traffic flow unimpeded or else give some folks a free ride down Wilshire on a dedicated-lane bus. That’s the worst kind of socialism: it completely overlooks the unique and innate contribution of rich folks to our leisure society. To bottle them up in unproductive congestion just so that a few regular folks can get to work sooner contravenes the American Way.
    No, we need to put power and leadership into the hands of those who truly deserve it: those living in the tallest condos, driving the largest cars, but who must today fritter away their most valuable minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic simply because so many other folks have places to be. We’ll never plan ourselves out of our congestion problem, so why try with something like dedicated bus lanes? We’d be penalizing the very folks who deserve that free ride on their own blacktop by handing over precious lanes to a dubious enterprise like public transit.
    Take a lesson from the tax cuts debate: the leadership and the unique capacity of the condo classes will put us on track to a less-congested future in Los Angeles if only we would reserve most of Wilshire for their exclusive use. We can call it ‘Lexus lanes’ on Wilshire – two lanes in each direction through Condo Canyon just for those holding means-tested gold-plated VIP passes.
    Not just because it feels right, but because it IS right. Call it the trickle-down economics of the blacktop if you like: Getting the rich folks off to their destination sooner means that the rest of us can get where we’re going too. What’s more, every Tahoe or Escalade liberated from the standstill equates to getting a compact car or two off the road – an argument even an environmentalist could love. And finally, minimizing the annoyances of the wealthy also meets the fairness test. They already have so little to complain about that a bit of congestion in the morning rush can really take the dew off a fine morning for the Condo Canyon dweller. Why start the day off badly?
    Three good reasons to let the rich take the Lexus lanes!
    Don’t give into class warfare by suggesting a bus load of folks needs priority. Those few extra minutes afforded by a dedicated bus lane won’t matter to working folks, who don’t want to work anyway. With the rich folks making record crosstown time, surely the rest of us will get where we’re going sooner too, so pipe down!
    If trickle-down works for the broader economy, it will work for Los Angeles congestion too. But if we continue to throw down obstacles in the way of those who would lead us to a brighter future if only we believe, we’ll never get where we want to go.
    Like dedicated bus lanes, for example. Who among us can afford them?

  2. This really is not much of a surprise, you know, the whole bending-over-backwards-for-single-occupancy-vehicles thingy. Yeah that. Unfortunately this seems to be a problem with other projects too in terms of improving speeds of transit in general. From what I have noticed in riding metrorail and busses is that the transit vehicles simply do not have enough signal priority or any preemption at intersections. This, of course, is due to concerns about cross traffic “impacts” meanwhile the actual impacts on comprehensive transit are virtually unimportant. (Much of this problem is due to LADOT and their ways because they do have control of the traffic lights and just refuse to configure them). Speed really needs to become a higher focus for transit in this town. If we really can’t grade separate (i.e. for light rail/busway) then for the love of all that is holy in the world let’s at least give signal priority/preemption!!! My god, the orange line stops at most intersections and the so called “rapid” buses are not at all rapid because they just get to the next red light faster!!! Oh, and the eastside gold line and blue line still get caught at red lights (it better not happen with expo), lets fix that problem, pronto!

  3. Epic fail indeed. I used to travel that stretch on Metro “Rapid.” I knew the Metro Board was dysfunctional, but with this they really give the impression of being in somebody’s wallet.

  4. With such a segmented implementation (Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and now Condo Canyon), I’m honestly not sure there’s a lot of value in the project. The 20 million can be better served for other transit projects.

  5. “He said the project would not do enough to improve bus times — 30 to 60 seconds at most — but could cause other travel times for other traffic to deteriorate by as much as 26 percent”

    This section is 1 mile long. That’s less than 4 minutes for car drivers… “as much as 26 percent” is the same as 60 seconds, or the same amount of time each bus would save.

    Since the buses carry more people at rush hour, it absolutely makes sense to do this.

    Furthermore, saving 60 seconds on each rush-hour bus means Metro would save money every day by running few buses at rush hour (since every minute a bus is stuck in traffic is a minute it isn’t picking up riders), and that time saved would encourage more people to ride the buses.

    Epic fail, Yaroslavsky.

  6. The preponderance of bus riders is also important because it’s usually assumed that the general interest of people using a road is car drivers, and that others are lesser, “special” interests. But on Wilshire the general interest is not drivers.

  7. Why isn’t this statistic highlighted more: “In the 8.7-mile segment studied, about 29,000 Metro riders use buses within the project area during rush hour compared to 20,000 autos carrying about 24,000 people.”

    That would blow away a lot of harmful preconceptions about LA transit.