April 24, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Wilshire Bus Lane Controversy Update

Wilshire BRT Project —
A Bad Idea

by Lauren Cole

The MTA Board met on December 9 to review the Wilshire BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) project. As you may recall, this project reinstates the dedicated bus lanes that were implemented in our area on a trial basis in 2006 and that caused such horrendous gridlock that the project was aborted. The new bus lanes would take out a lane of traffic in both directions on Wilshire during peak hours (7 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 7 pm), from Centinela to the 405. The section of the bus lane west of the 405 does not connect to the rest of the bus lane project, which runs from La Cienega to Park View near Downtown LA, and in limited areas in Westwood. Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are not participating.

Councilman Paul Koretz’s office worked closely with local Westwood residents and sent representatives to the MTA hearing to request that the bus lanes not be implemented from Selby to Comstock. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky spoke in favor of giving Westwood this exclusion, and suggested that the MTA should do further study of the impact on traffic in the lanes other than the bus lanes. The MTA Board approved the project but requested that the EIR be revised to exclude the Westwood section, and, if time permits, to do the study of mixed lanes.

Representatives from the Brentwood Community Council and West LA Neighborhood Council attended the meeting and spoke against implementing the project west of the 405 unless the MTA can demonstrate that the new project wouldn’t create a gridlock nightmare like the one we had a few years ago from the trial bus lanes. The current EIR doesn’t even study the traffic impact on Brentwood, in spite of repeated requests by the BCC, SBRA, and BHA among others. In addition, nearly 150 Brentwood residents sent in emails to the MTA in advance of the meeting opposing re-implementing bus lanes west of the 405.

Where was Councilman Rosendahl in this process? A no show. Despite many calls from the BCC and West LA, not only did Rosendahl fail to support the Brentwood and West LA communities that he represents, no one from his office, including his transportation deputy, even bothered to attend the MTA hearing. As one observer noted “Brentwood and West LA have just been thrown under the bus by Councilman Rosendahl.â€

What happens next? The project still needs to go to the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors for approval. Dates have not been set. If you are concerned, please let Councilman Rosendahl (Councilman.Rosendahl@lacity.org) and Supervisor Yaroslavsky (zev@bos.lacounty.gov) know as soon as possible, and tell your friends and neighbors as well. Westwood made enough noise to be heard. We haven’t yet.

Why We Need the BRT and Bus Only Lanes Along Wilshire Blvd
By: Joel Epstein

It being the holiday season I am writing with an important invitation. Please join me in supporting Metro’s plans for a bus rapid transit (BRT) line along Wilshire Blvd. between downtown LA and Santa Monica. And while you are at it, please add your voice to the growing citywide chorus of support for special bus only lanes that will speed the BRT along LA’s backbone, including the critical and often congested stretch between the 405 and Centinela.

These special lanes will create a faster commute – both for those smart enough to ride, and for those with no alternate means of traveling between downtown and west of the 405. The Wilshire BRT, modeled after successful rapid bus lines in Bogotá, Mexico City, Istanbul and other congested cities, is a critical piece of LA’s plan for greater transportation mobility. Metro’s home run with the once opposed but now widely praised Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley also informs the transit agency’s plans for Wilshire. As riders flock to this attractive alternative to the car, air quality will be improved as well.

On weekdays, approximately 80,000 people already board the bus along Wilshire Blvd. Given the density of the region and existing conditions on our roads at rush hour, we need solutions like the Wilshire BRT that move more people efficiently and cost effectively. With their greater capacity to transport commuters, comfortable rapid buses are a solution whose time has come.

While I look forward to the Westside Subway extension to the VA and ultimately to Santa Monica, near-term projects like the Wilshire BRT afford us the opportunity to improve our commuting time sooner than it will take a new and improved Metro to build the Westside subway.

Critics of the plan speak of catastrophic impacts on traffic on the stretch of Wilshire west of the 405 and on adjacent east west thoroughfares. But what these doomsayers fail to acknowledge is that our commuting habits and the region’s density are already too incompatible with the capacity of our streets and freeways to accommodate mostly private cars during rush hour. It is time to reject the spurious argument that buses, which have the capacity to carry dozens more commuters than automobiles, should make way for the cars, even when it is our cars that are involved.

The companion assertion that the bus lanes will kill local businesses is equally without merit as the buses will in fact make our business districts more shopper friendly by making it easier to get there.

Who will benefit from the Wilshire BRT? We all will. The BRT will serve not just Brentwood, Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades workers and students commuting east but also the tens of thousands of workers commuting west to office jobs or to provide the essential services that Brentwood residents rely on daily.

For all of these reasons Brentwood needs to say yes to both the BRT and to dedicated bus lanes between the 405 and Centinela. And rest assured that it is not just Brentwood that needs to support this critical project. To solve our mobility woes, every community along Wilshire Blvd. needs to be part of the solution, from Brentwood and the Condo Canyon to downtown LA.

The Wilshire BRT with bus only lanes is a chance to change the status quo along Wilshire Blvd. With your support I hope to see you on the BRT soon.

Joel Epstein is a Brentwood resident and a frequent contributor on transportation issues to the Huffington Post and other publications.

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