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Yaroslavsky, Katz Demand Changes To Wilshire Rapid Bus Lane Project

Paresh Dave |
November 17, 2010 | 3:01 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

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Creative Commons image
Westside residents and Metro board member Zev Yaroslavsky are pushing for a mile-long segment to be taken out of a $31 million project to transform one lane of Wilshire Bouelvard into a bus-only lane during rush hours.

A group of residents paid to have their own study done of the project's impact on a stretch of Wilshire between Comstock Avenue and Selby Avenue, fearing that messing with the smoothest portion of the nation's busiest bus corridor would be ruinous.

More than 80,000 people ride buses along Wilshire daily, but Yaroslavsky doesn't want the tens of thousands of drivers who share the street to be enraged when the bus lane opens because the one traffic-less portion of Wilshire is suddenly gridlocked.

The Bus Riders' Union opposes making changes to the project because members are worried it could thwart the entire goal of the project.

The Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project would install bus lanes in the lane closest to the curb on either side of 8.7 miles of Wilshire Boulevard between South Park View and Centinela, with a gap where Wilshire passes through Beverly Hills. The project is expected to entice 10 percent of motorists to get out of their cars and into buses because travel times from end-to-end for buses would improve by about 15 minutes. Metro's blog, The Source, has more details.

Metro board member Richard Katz, who stepped down Tuesday from the California High Speed Rail Board, questioned whether the project was even worthwhile if traffic would get worse for motorists. Metro staff said only 15 percent of drivers use the curbside lanes because they are in such poor condition. Katz and Yaroslavsky demanded Metro staff members to come back to the full board with answers about whether the Comstock-Selby segment can be eliminated and how the entire project can be better justified.

"Omniscience is a very heavy burden to bear, but sometimes you just have to open your eyes to see what's good for everyone," Yaroslavsky said Wednesday at a meeting of Metro's planning committee. "What I fear and what the Bus Riders' Union should fear is that we introduce a project that is dead on arrival, and we become the laughingstock of the region and this board has to retrench. We don't want to win the battle and lose the war."

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the area, backs Yaroslavsky's position.

Removing the Comstock-Selby portion might jeopardize the $23 million in federal funding Metro received for the project. The Federal Transit Administration would have to okay any changes.

If the agency refuses to make the amendment, it's unlikely Yaroslavsky would hold up the project when Metro's full board of directors votes on it Dec. 9. Despite the concerns, improving travel times for buses remains one of the only options for providing some relief to commuters of L.A. county's most traveled thoroughfare.

If approved, the project could be completed by summer 2012.

Some members of the public who spoke at Wednesday's committee meeting suggested Metro either change the Comstock-Selby segment to an "optional" second phase that could be completed later or only use the money for re-paving and re-stripping the segment.

Reach executive producer Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.



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