As part of the northern segment closure of the Blue Line — which is being modernized — Metro is running bus shuttles to carry riders that would usually take the train. In the southern part of DTLA, those buses are using Flower Street, which is already plenty busy with other bus routes and car traffic.
To keep traffic moving, the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Metro are testing a bus-only lane between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays. One of the curb lanes is being used for the bus lane with enforcement courtesy of the LAPD.
Not surprisingly, the bus lane has been a hit thus far: see the above video. Bus service is faster and more frequent, which greatly improves the experience for thousands of bus riders.
Metro thinks the bus lane is efficient because a bus takes up relatively little street space and can easily carry 40 or more people at a time. Whereas cars typically only carry one or two people and cumulatively take up a lot of space, as the well-known poster at right from Germany shows.
Speeding up buses is part of Metro’s Vision 2028 Plan, which outlines the strategies the agency intends to pursue over the next decade. Metro buses currently average 11 miles per hour — not a misprint! — and Metro hopes to use a range of options including bus lanes, traffic signal priority and possibly queue jumps to increase bus speeds to a minimum of 18 mph for Rapid lines.
Again, the idea here is to increase people we can move along a street. That’s something that’s good for current riders and may also make taking the bus a more attractive alternative to those who don’t take transit.
But let’s also be real: bus lanes can raise questions because installing a bus lane may mean sacrificing a traffic lane or parking lane. That’s why it’s important to understand:
• Bus lanes — like the one on Flower — may only be used at some hours of the day. And moving buses to their own lane gets them out of the way of traffic in the other lanes.
• Metro can’t unilaterally install bus lanes. The streets are overseen by the cities where they’re located. That means that Metro has to work with cities, residents, businesses and other stakeholders to make a bus lane happen and to mitigate any impacts.
Point of emphasis: Our bus projects are intended to give everyone a good, affordable option for getting around and are not intended to fundamentally change neighborhoods or hurt mobility.
Your turn, people. What do you think of the Flower Street bus lane and bus lanes in general?