NRDC Urges LA to Adopt the Wilshire Blvd. Bus-Only Lane without any Exemptions

The Los Angeles City Council and the LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors are scheduled this week to select a version of the Wilshire Blvd. Bus-Only Lane that they want the city and county to move forward with.  I have blogged about this proposed project a few times (here and here).  As a quick recap, this project would reserve one lane going each direction during rush hour on Wilshire Blvd in LA for buses only (and cars turning right). This would slow down the cars traveling on this busy corridor a little bit, and would give bus riders a quicker and more reliable commute.

The latest update is that Metro and the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) have finished their analysis of all the different versions of this project, and it is now time for our City Council and Metro Board of Directors to pick one.

Metro staff prefers what they are calling “Alternative A-1.”  This version of the project would create a bus-only lane for 7.7 miles, exempting the one mile between Comstock and Selby (aka Condo Canyon).  City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl has advocated for a different version, called Alternative A-2, which would exempt the entire westside of LA, shrinking the project down to only 5.4 miles.

NRDC urges LA to adopt Alternative A, which will create 8.7 miles of bus-only lane, without any exemptions.  And we are not alone.  A broad coalition of community members, transportation advocates, bus riders, and environmental organizations support this alternative.  So do some of LA’s favorite bloggers and the LA Times.

This project is an important step on our City’s journey to creating a comprehensive public transit system.  Alternative A will improve bus speeds and reliability for the commuters that already use this bus line, and will encourage 10% of those commuting on Wilshire Blvd. by car to take the bus instead. 

There is no doubt that to reduce LA’s notorious traffic and air pollution problems, we need to encourage single-occupancy drivers to get out of their cars and on to public transit as much as possible.  Alternative A is the best approach to a Wilshire Blvd. bus-only lane that will help us achieve these important goals.  Staff’s preferred alternative, Alternative A-1, would decrease the project’s benefits, and Alternative A-2 would decrease the project’s benefits even further. 

While this project will slightly increase travel time for car users, Alternative A will decrease bus commuting time by a larger margin.  The LA Department of Transportation’s recent study found that on the opening day of the project, travel time for a car would increase 10.69 minutes.  After implementation, when there will be an anticipated shift of 10% of drivers using the bus instead, the travel time for a car would increase 6.11 minutes over existing conditions.  Meanwhile, under Alternative A, travel time for a person riding the bus would decrease by 10 to 15 minutes. 

And, frankly, traffic along the Wilshire Blvd. corridor is going to get worse over time even without this project.  The 6 to 10 minutes of additional travel time that this project will cause for car commuters is more than outweighed by the significant step forward that this project makes in moving us closer to a comprehensive, efficient public transit system.

Implementation of 8.7 miles of bus-only lane is an important step in LA’s overall shift towards a more sustainable public transportation system.  We can no longer afford to avoid taking every possible avenue to get commuters out of their smog- and greenhouse gas-emitting cars and into public transit.  We urge the City Council and the Metro Board of Directors to adopt the alternative of this project that will decrease travel bus travel times the most, accordingly inspiring more car commuters to take the bus: Alternative A with no exemptions for the Comstock area or the westside.