The Metropolitan Trans-portation Authority (Metro) has released the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project on Wilshire Boulevard, which would turn the existing curb lanes into bus-only lanes during morning and afternoon rush hours.
Metro is seeking public input on the proposed project and the draft EIR, which has been in development since 2006. The BRT project is designed to improve commute times between downtown Los Angeles and the City of Santa Monica, and provide an incentive for people to use public transportation. With the exception of bicycles, only buses would be allowed to travel in the dedicated curb lanes between 7:00 and 9:00am, and 4:00 to 7:00pm. Other vehicles would be allowed to make right turns from the curb lanes, which would extend 12.5 miles along Wilshire Boulevard from Valencia Street, on the western edge of downtown Los Angeles, to Centinela Avenue at the Santa Monica border. The segments of Wilshire Boulevard that run through Beverly Hills and Santa Monica are not included in the plan.
Martha Butler, project manager for the Wilshire BRT program, said officials hope to begin construction this fall if approval is granted by the Metro Board, and the city and county of Los Angeles. The public can comment on the draft EIR through July 26, after which each comment will be addressed and the final EIR will be created. Butler said she expects the Metro Board to consider the project in October.
“What we are trying to do is improve bus passage, travel times and bus service reliability,” Butler said. “For the automobiles and the bus service, it will improve traffic flow overall along the Wilshire Corridor. Most of the parking along the curb lanes on Wilshire Boulevard is restricted during peak hours anyway, so it will not cause any major disruptions.”
Metro decided to create dedicated bus lanes on Wilshire Boulevard because it is the most heavily traveled road in the county, and there are approximately 80,000 bus boardings each day along the thoroughfare. The service would also provide a connection for Metro’s Purple Line subway, which currently ends at Wilshire and Western Avenue. As part of the BRT project, Metro would repave the curb lanes on Wilshire Boulevard, which are currently in very poor condition. Butler said the project would not have an impact on medians on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile area.
“It’s definitely going to improve service reliability and travel times, and we will have an increase in ridership of twenty-five percent,” Butler added. “We are also hoping to have a fifteen to twenty percent improvement in travel times.”
The Wilshire BRT program has received support in the local area, including from the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, whose members include local businesses and cultural institutions. Steve Kramer, president of the Miracle Mile Chamber, said the program sounds like a good idea, but he is concerned that it does not include Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
“There was a concern about a 24/7 bus lane, but there was a consensus reached that it would be OK to try a peak hour bus lane,” Kramer said. “But if does not reach Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, I think that makes it somewhat foolish. This is something that shouldn’t be done piecemeal.”
Kramer added, however, that he is optimistic about the repaving of the curb lanes on Wilshire Boulevard.
“If you drive a car in that lane right now, you have a very good chance of popping a tire, and if you are riding on a bus, you had better hold on,” Kramer said.
The Mid City West Community Council (MCWCC) is scheduled to review the Wilshire BRT proposal at its meeting on July 13, and MCWCC chair Jeff Jacobberger said he supports the plan.
“I think anything we can do to improve the quality of transit service is important,” Jacobberger added. “There are peak hour parking restrictions on this section of Wilshire Boulevard anyway, so the issues about losing parking that were raised by businesses a long time ago just don’t exist anymore. The impact on traffic will be fairly minimal. To get the buses out of the main lanes would be a good idea.”
There are several ways for the public to submit comments about the draft EIR. Comments can be mailed to Martha Butler, Project Manager, Metro, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012-2952. Comments can also be made by calling the Wilshire BRT Hotline at (213)922-2500, by e-mailing Wilshirebrt@metro.net, or visit www.metro.net/wilshire.
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