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Wilshire Bus Project Draws Mixed Reaction:

A community meeting about the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project drew both pro and con reactions regarding a proposed plan to create dedicated bus lanes on Wilshire Boulevard from downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica border.

The City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, and Metro are working together to study the feasibility of implementing a Bus Rapid Transit project on Wilshire, one of the busiest transit corridors in the area. The project’s goals are to improve bus passenger travel times, bus service reliability, air quality, and traffic flow along Wilshire; repave the curb lanes along damaged portions of the boulevard, minimize impact to parking, and encourage a shift from automobile use to public transit.

Metro already runs a Rapid Bus line (720) along Wilshire as well as the limited-stop 920 bus during peak hours. The lack of a dedicated bus lane however, prevents the Rapid Buses from moving along at maximum speed. Metro experimented with a one-mile dedicated bus lane in 2004. Studies by the Los Angeles City Council led to the plan for an “end-to-end” dedicated bus lane. The route currently being studied calls for the conversion of curb bus lanes into bus-only lanes during peak periods (early morning and late afternoon weekdays) from Valencia Street in the downtown area to Wilshire and Centinela Avenue at the Santa Monica border.

The City of Santa Monica may create a bus-only lane after the lanes for other portions of Wilshire Boulevard have been implemented.

The portion of Wilshire that runs through Beverly Hills is excluded from the dedicated bus lane plan at this time.

At the community meeting held November 19 at the Felicia Mahood Senior Center in West L.A., some people said that they were against the idea of a dedicated bus lane. One woman who lived in Brentwood said that she remembered Metro’s past bus-only experiment resulting in an increase in traffic, due to one less lane for cars.

Another person said that he believed the bus-lane naysayers were concerned about the type of people who might be passing through their neighborhood on a Rapid Bus. Another person complained about Santa Monica and Beverly Hills being excluded.

The Mirror asked the representatives from Metro and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation how this plan would impact traffic flow on Wilshire in Santa Monica, since gridlock that develops in West Los Angeles and Westwood during peak hours often slows up traffic as far west as 20th Street in Santa Monica.

Nobody could give an immediate answer to this question. The plan does call for a widening of Wilshire Boulevard on both sides of the street between Federal and Barrington Avenues in West Los Angeles, which might conceivably provide more room for cars.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl was scheduled to speak, but arrived late. He had been stuck in traffic.

“I’ve been in gridlock all day,” Rosendahl told the audience. “The bottom line is: this is very important, that we get this bus-only lane.”

Rosendahl listened to the concerns of the community members who didn’t like the idea of the bus-only lane. “Fair enough,” he said. But he added that if the project’s Environmental Impact Report can lead to a resolution of these issues, it is important to move forward. Rosendahl noted that Measure R passed “even in these uncertain economic times” and that with a new President, public transit projects may finally be put on a faster track to being developed.

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