When buses get priority, riders prioritize the bus

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.

A comparison of space consumed by cars, buses and bikes. Credit: City of Muenster, Germany.

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?

16 replies

  1. I wish Metro and the City would say this more often, but a lot of our arterials had streetcars running on them. Some on medians, some in mixed traffic. https://thesource.metro.net/2011/08/30/fun-with-maps-los-angeles-transit-in-1928/

    Our streets are for moving people.

    The basic arrangement should be: you can drive a personal vehicle and gain point-to-point travel and privacy, but cede total reliability of time and pay more (gas, upkeep, insurance, parking, etc) per trip; or you can take transit and gain a reliable time schedule granted through short headways and a reliable ROW outside of traffic (transit lane) and pay less per trip, but cede complete privacy and you have to get to the transit stop. (Hey, and to go one more step, you can — in a City with safe infrastructure to do so — walk and bike, gaining free point-to-point travel that is completely carbon-neutral and good for you, but cede sweat equity).

    This is what equitable transportation that works for everyone looks like. This is what would make our transportation choices easy and variable, and what would best serve those opting-out of traffic now, and those who would wish to.

  2. The simplest, cheapest, quickest fix for our ailing transit system is to give buses priorities on many of our buses with the highest ridership or potential utility.

    Logically, bus only lanes are the best answer / solution to our MOBILITY problems,
    Politically, bus only lanes are the least likely to see implementation.

  3. The bus priority lanes are long over due; it should have been done decades ago. This is what is needed on Wilshire Blvd between the VA and Santa Monica when the purple line ends there.

  4. I like the bus lanes. Coming from Paris, I’m used to it, they’re all over the city. They’re even separated from regular traffic with a curb. The bus lanes there are also against traffic so people can’t cheat and take them. I think we should get the same model as Paris. If there are less lanes for cars, people will start to use public transportation more often. So yeah keep the flower street bus lane, but keep it away from the cars at any time of the day.

    • Buses driving against traffic is an interesting idea to help curb “cheaters”. I didn’t notice them when i was visiting Paris, but I did ride the rapid bus system in Mexico City and it was excellent. The stations were great and it was pretty speedy. I’d love it if we copied their system. We are a city with so many wide boulevards. I think dedicated bus lanes should be added to most of them.

  5. I’ll be all-inclusive and say that transit lanes (both bus lanes & light rail tracks using streets like Flower in DTLA, 1st/3rd in East L.A., Colorado in Santa Monica) are good for society as it does the most good and the best way to manage limited space that we have while improving throughput. I hope that those in the West SFV for Nordhoff Street and Eagle Rock for Colorado Boulevard look at the positive benefits brought about by re-purposing lanes for high capacity transit that will expand the transportation options to those who otherwise can’t drive (students, elderly, households that only have one car who has others needing to take transit). The argument in favor of the Nordhoff bus lanes is for the benefit of a better commute for CSUN students.

  6. I noticed this yesterday it was great. In the 860 to Long Beach, everything was going just fine until we lost our lane and joined the misery on the 405. I say let’s start removing lanes all together put some housing….

  7. What is good for busses is good for everyone. Busses work better when they don’t have to sit in traffic — making busses faster and more efficient and on-schedule will make busses a more attractive option for commuters and take even more cars off the road.

    It takes my partner almost two hours to take the Rapid Bus from Beverly Hills to East Hollywood — imagine how many more people would take that bus if it could make it in a straight shot in its own lane!


  8. The best way to make the bus system more reliable and more than adequate is to add bus lanes on as many streets as possible. Put bus lanes on every big boulevard in Los Angeles!

  9. I think bus lines are a great idea. We should implement more road diets and have dedicated bus lanes. Would encourage me to take buses more often for sure. LA needs to move away from being a car dependent city, especially with climate change.

  10. What is good for busses is bad for cars – busses only work when the bus goes from where the rider is to where the rider wants to go. Attempting to force people into an unreliable, unsafe, inadequate bus system is ethically bankrupt!!

    • Your website’s reply mechanism repeatedly loses my replies.

      Typical Metro incompetence.

    • I believe no one is forcing you. Also since I also pay taxes on those same roads, I AM ALSO ENTITLED TO REMOVE A LANE OF CAR TRAFFIC FOR BUSES. As you may have noticed there are still other lanes on flower that cars are more than welcome to stand still in.

    • Counterpoint: the first 9 words are exactly why this is such a great idea.