Bus Riders Union and broad coalition achieve major breakthrough as Wilshire Boulevard BOL Project passes LA City Council

After six years of campaigning, the Wilshire Boulevard Bus-Only Lanes project took an important step forward, with the Los Angeles City Council voting to approve the project and move it forward. With the MTA Board having voted to approve the project last month, the project has effectively cleared all major political hurdles and the project should be operational by late 2012 or early 2013. This project will create the longest dedicated bus lanes on surface streets in Los Angeles on a corridor that is one of the most heavily traveled in the entire country, with 80,000 bus riders daily. It will save bus riders as much as 30 minutes a day - 130 hours per year - in travel time. If, as predicted, the bus-lanes project spurs 10% of drivers on Wilshire to leave their cars at home and switch to the bus (2,000 cars during rush hour!), it will reduce 22,000 tons of carbon emissions and 2,500 tons of criteria pollutants annually.

"This is a historic step for a city where auto-centered planning has dominated for 70 years. This project will take LA close to its vision of being a world-class 21st century green metropolis, advancing real solutions for both climate change and the public health crisis caused by LA's polluted air," said Sunyoung Yang, lead organizer at the Bus Riders Union. "It is also a huge victory for the broad coalition - led by bus riders but with strong support from environmentalists, bicyclists, and community leaders from throughout the City - that pushed this campaign for the last six years."

An intense debate unfolded at City Council today, with wealthy West Side homeowners groups continuing to push for the Bus Riders Union and broad coalition achieve major breakthrough
as Wilshire Boulevard Bus-Only Lane Project passes LA City Council
exemption of sections of Wilshire Boulevard. The Bus Riders Union our allies - including the likes of Green LA, Natural Resources Defense Council, LA County Bicycle Coalition and many others -- mobilized in support of the full project with no exemptions. City Councilmembers Bernard Parks, Richard Alarcon, Ed Reyes, Tony Cardenas, and José Huizar spoke strongly in favor of the full 8.7 mile project. They emphasized that priority be given to large numbers of low-income transit-dependent bus riders traversing Wilshire every day and not to the narrow traffic and parking concerns of West Side homeowners. Tony Cardenas made it clear that any vote to exempt parts of the West Side would ultimately be a political decision driven by the political influence these West Siders and not on the facts or the best interests of the entire city.

A motion to approve the complete 8.7 mile project with no exemptions garnered 7 votes (7 to 5 in favor), falling one vote short of the required 8-vote majority inside the 15 member City Council. In the end, a resounding majority (11-1 to in favor) voted to formally approve a truncated 7.7 mile version of the project while at the same time supporting the full 8.7 mile alternative and urging the MTA to reconsider its endorsement of the 7.7 mile option, which would exempt a one-mile stretch in Westwood's Condo Canyon. Several Councilmembers felt it was safer to follow the lead of the MTA Board, which approved the 7.7 mile option in May. In order for the project to move forward, the two bodies must agree on the same project; some Councilmembers expressed concern that disagreeing with the MTA could slow down the process and risk delaying the application deadline for the federal funds.

As such, the bus-only lanes will run in the LA city portions of Wilshire Blvd.--from Parkview Street by Macarthur Park to Centinela Avenue where LA meets the City of Santa Monica - minus the 1 mile that was exempted between Comstock and Selby in Westwood. The lanes will operate only during commute hours - 7-9AM in the morning, 4-7PM in the evening. As part of the construction, the streets will be repaved and an additional lane will be built from Federal to Barrington close to the I-405 entrance to mitigate traffic impacts.