Council Stands Ground on Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes

The Los Angeles City Council refused Wednesday to sign off on a proposal to further shorten proposed rush-hour bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl had called on his colleagues to "affirm support" for exempting all of the Westside from what's currently a 7.7-mile, non-continuous route from South Park View Street at MacArthur Park to Centinela Avenue, and to settle instead for a 5.4-mile route to San Vicente Boulevard.

The council, however, agreed only to study the truncated route instead of endorsing it outright to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which will be implementing the project.

Rosendahl complained that the gaps in the 7.7-mile route -- through Beverly Hills and "condo canyon" in the Westside -- could worsen the already nightmarish traffic gridlock in his 11th District.

He called for taking out the remainder of the route located on the Westside -- in Brentwood -- so that the bus-only lanes would not go past Beverly Hills toward Santa Monica.

"If I had my druthers, there'd be 15 miles of a bus-only lane from the beach to downtown, and Santa Monica and Beverly Hills played with us," Rosendahl said. "Right now, with this splintered and fragmented Westside, it even makes it more congested in my district and it saves no time for bus riders or cars. It's a disaster as a cluster of little segments."

Councilman Richard Alarcon argued the longer route would result in faster travel times for a greater number of people. He added it would create more jobs and make the city eligible for a larger share of federal funding.

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Metro officials have said the project -- as it currently stands -- could receive as much as $23.3 million in funding from the Federal Transit Authority. That represents almost three-quarters of the project's $31.5-million cost.

"Stay the course," Alarcon told Rosendahl. "Who's going to use this (bus-only lanes)? Working-class folks who need to get down Wilshire Boulevard. If Santa Monica and Beverly Hills aren't with it, they'll be. They'll need to see us get there first."

Councilman Tony Cardenas let Rosendahl down firmly, saying, "No way."

Sandy Brown, president of the Holmby-Westwood Property Owners Association, which represents 1,100 homes adjacent to the project, insisted that putting bus-only lanes on the Westside has no benefits.

"The time-save stops when you hit La Cienega Boueveard or San Vicente," she said, citing a study commissioned by her organization. "After that, there is no time saved for the bus, and there is time lost for the automobile."

Brad McAllister, a transportation planner for Metro, said having bus- only lanes would reduce travel time for buses by about 1 minute per mile, while delaying cars by 1 minute per mile.

The bus-only lanes are intended to run weekdays during rush hour, from 7- 9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. starting in 2013.
 

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