Say cheese — maybe — to keep the bus lanes clear, please!

Our current bus-only lanes don’t perform at an optimal level (and don’t inspire public confidence as a rapid public transit tool) since they are sometimes clogged with people illegally parking or driving in them. The Wilshire Boulevard Bus-Only Lanes are often blocked by cars using them to illegally park, Uber and Lyft dropoffs and drivers using them to get around traffic. Drivers get away with it because parking officers can only be in so many places at one time.

A study from the DC Metro region has shown that automated camera enforcement (not red paint or signage) is the best method of enforcement for bus only lanes. Since bus lanes are critical to meeting so many of the Metro’s goals — such as increasing bus speeds, providing high quality mobility options, creating outstanding trip experiences, and providing reliable options to bypass congestion — enforcement technology has become a key focus.

Enter the Metro Unsolicited Proposal (UP) process. In 2018, Metro received a UP proposal from CarmaCam to test an automated camera cell-phone application to assess the magnitude of bus-lane violations — i.e. how many cars were illegally using the bus lane. We conducted a free proof of concept which proved that the application worked in capturing images of infractions and found that the Wilshire Bus Lanes had a car parked or driving in the lane every four minutes during the five effective lane hours (7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.).

With data that shows the scale of the problem, Metro is pursuing options for automated camera technology to assist with enforcement of the bus lanes both with our partner city agencies and at the state legislative level.

Many transportation authorities have front-mounted automated cameras on their buses to catch bus lane infractions (including agencies in San Francisco, New York, Seattle and London). However, these cities all undertook many steps to enable legislative authority to get those cameras.

Also promising (and maybe with a shorter implementation timeline) is teaming parking enforcement officers with automated camera technology like that used in Metro Parking lots, San Luis Obispo and in Sacramento as a second pair of eyes.

In either case, we are pursuing partnerships, legislation and  innovative technology solutions to get our buses moving faster to get our customers where they need to go.

Avital Shavit is a Senior Manager in the Office of Extraordinary Innovation. Luis Garcia is an Intern with the Office of Extraordinary Innovation.

18 replies

  1. Roving officers that drive their patrol cars or motorcycles along with buses like what’s been done for the Dodger Stadium Express bus lanes on Sunset Boulevard would help to enforce the lanes and keep them clear.

  2. If we reward people with $2 for every photo report resulting in a fine then this problem disappears overnight.

  3. I would only support fines for the owner of the car, not punishment for the driver. If a driver is innocent, he or she should not have to prove that he or she is not guilty. And if an innocent driver is ticketed, that driver should be entitled to a large and quick settlement for false arrest. I do favor greater enforcement against parking in bus lanes. I do not currently own a car, I live near Wilshire Boulevard, and I frequently use my Metro pass to ride the buses on Wilshire. I support Tony’s proposal to have more police officers patrol the bus lanes.

  4. Metro could have predicted this issue when they opened bus-only lanes, especially on Wilshire Blvd. After years of slow bus lanes and missed goals, Metro is only now “looking into” getting the legislative authority to use cameras for enforcement. Quite a late start… why wasn’t Metro interested in bus-lane enforcement in 2018?

    Derp, Los Angeles Metro! Derp, I say.

    Some people have the opinion that automated cameras shouldn’t be used to issue tickets to motorists. Red Light Violation citations generated by means of “red light cameras” are already being challenged frequently in court – won’t Bus Lane Violations will undergo the same battle?

    These days when I see a 720 bus, I generally see a stack of three of ’em bunched up (and they’re all trying to get around a 20).

  5. Maybe it’s just me but how about making them TRUE bus only lanes by making actually making them effective 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. . . Tow a few cars at all times of the day (even at 2am) and watch those lanes suddenly get cleaned up.

    I REALLY don’t see the point of calling the 720 “BRT” when outside of rush-hour (which is a term that now needs to die in LA for obvious reasons) is stuck again for the other 17 hours of operation.

  6. Get this done! The current state of bus lane are such a symbol of city/metro leadership’s apathy towards public transit, it’s a disgrace. Cameras that can issue tickets are the ONLY solution to this problem.

    Can you give any more detail on what “pursuing options for automated camera technology” means? Is Metro pursuing cameras that can actually generate tickets, rather than just inform parking officers of violations?

  7. I saw a motorcycle police officer in Downtown scolding drivers that entered the Figueroa bus lanes with his speaker system just yesterday!
    By the way, since this article mentioned Metro parking lots, does Metro check that drivers using the parking lot have used transit? I’m hearing from more and more people that the Universal City Red Line parking lot is cheap parking for Universal Studios, since Metro doesn’t check at all.

    • Hi,

      In order to pay transit rider price for parking at paid lots, you need to enter a valid TAP card number.

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

      • Anna – that doesn’t answer the question. Anyone can have a TAP card number, even if they don’t ride.

        • It needs to be a valid TAP card that has been tapped at a validator or station gate within the same day.

          Anna Chen
          Writer, The Source

          • There’s still a loophole beyond that. As of now, anyone can pay parking fee + $3.50 (if that) to TAP on the red line validators, that’s needed to park at the station and proceed to Universal, never actually using the train. And of course no way of catching these people.

            That right there is the issue. That’s what people mean by Universal visitors using the Red Line lot as a cheap parking lot for Universal.

            If all anyone needs is $6-7 bucks and a Valid TAP that was already validated with proof and 20-30 min of extra time, have fun at Universal and get away with it, then it’s obvious why people are doing it.

            Clearly these parking lots need to have someone on duty. Metro needs to figure out a way to ensure that only actual transit patrons are using the lots and not randos looking for a cheap spot for a few hours.

  8. As a former RTD/MTA Road Supervisor I can attest to the problem not only in Bus Lanes but also blocking bus zones. There are places where Valet use the bus zones to line up and store autos. Rent-a-cops believing they can park anywhere including bus zones and of course taxies and private autos loading and discharging their passengers. And this is not just a problem during rush hour but instead 24 hours per day. Perhaps in addition to the LAPD and LASD issuing tickets the MTA could put it’s Security Guards to good use and give them the authority to issue tickets. The only downside may be the guards blocking the bus lanes and bus zones while issuing tickets. The issue is long overdue in being addressed. The Wilshire Bus Lanes are not a new idea, they were created and abandoned previously.

  9. The city needs enforcement around buses throughout the city, not just in bus lanes. Crazy drivers make blind, dashing right turns from the middle lane in front of stopped buses all the time, often mowing down pedestrians.

  10. Give tickets like it’s no tomorrow. Everything else is automated, I don’t see why this shouldn’t be. As for having more police presence to hand out tickets, C’MON. Police have enough to do. Let’s spend money wisely and let police to policing, rathen than be traffic regulators.

    I love the idea about giving a referral fee to tickets given. Sign Me Up

    • “Give tickets like it’s no tomorrow.” – This!!! City complains about how there’s no money, well here you go, an opportunity for the city to have its cake and it too. Make Bus Lane violation fines equal to that of the Carpool Lane Fine and watch people in this city quickly change their self-entitled habits.

  11. Freaking. Do it. I have no qualms about creating a police state for drivers who think and act like our city is a racecourse for them.