A Metro Bus passes 24th Street on it's way along Wilshire Boulevard on Monday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

WILSHIRE BLVD — Proposed bus-only lanes along Wilshire Boulevard will move forward, but not in Santa Monica, if a Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee approves a staff recommendation next week.

Under the plan, parking spaces would be converted to bus-only lanes during rush hours along 9.9 miles of Wilshire Boulevard in an attempt to cut down on travel times. However, key sections of the major east-west artery will be cut out of the plan, including Beverly Hills, the “condo canyon” area in Westwood and Santa Monica.

Metro staff said the express and local routes along Wilshire are the most heavily used buses in Los Angeles County, with 80,000 boardings per weekday.

City officials expressed concerns about extending the plan into Santa Monica. Parking is scarce along Wilshire, where many small businesses rely on street parking to meet the needs of their customers. City officials wanted to preserve that parking as much as possible, said Beth Rolandson, City Hall’s principal transportation planner.

City Hall also studied traffic patterns and travel times and found that most buses make good time while traveling in Santa Monica, doing away with the need for dedicated bus lanes. It’s not until they hit Los Angeles that traffic starts to create delays.

“Congestion starts east of us, near the 405 [freeway],” Rolandson said.

Staff also was unclear as to how the bus-only lanes would impact a redesign of Wilshire that included medians. Rolandson said there was concern that the medians would have to be removed or trimmed.

Metro plans to eliminate curbside parking during rush hours, repave and widen curb lanes to better handle heavy buses, and modify traffic signals to favor buses. About $31.5 million has been set aside for the “bus rapid transit” project.

Metro staff has recommended that the MTA board reject a request from the Los Angeles City Council to limit the bus-only lanes to the 5.4 miles of Wilshire east of Beverly Hills. Metro staff said the benefits to Brentwood residents would be outweighed by delays imposed on bus patrons, and snarled Wilshire Boulevard traffic.

The proposed project will go before an MTA board committee next Wednesday, according to reports. If built, the bus lanes would parallel the Wilshire Boulevard subway, which will not open until at least 2022 under current construction plans.

Santa Monica has bus-only lanes in the Downtown Transit Mall, but has not expanded them to other areas of the city. There have been talks of creating a bus-only lane along Lincoln Boulevard to enhance service to Rapid and local line 3 but nothing has materialized.


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