Screwed year-in and year-out by rail-happy L.A. politicians and transportation officials, the Bus Riders Union finally gets to pop the bubbly tonight — in celebration of a 7.7-mile bus lane it's taken them six years to win.
(That is, if it's approved by L.A. County Supervisors next week. But those guys also sit on the Metro board, which just OK'd the plan last week, so no big danger there.)
The project will cost $30 million, two-thirds of which is already secured in a federal grant. Predictably, however, it has faced huge opposition…
… from stuffy homeowners' associations across the Westside who don't think they'll be able to move in and out of their driveways as easily with buses whizzing through, among other small inconveniences.
In fact, at today's L.A. City Council meeting, the Brentwood Community Council threatened to sue “over the lack of studies of the impact of shortening sidewalk lengths to make room for a travel lane in Brentwood,” reports top Metro-watcher LAStreetsBlog, who Tweeted diligently through the meeting.
The Bus Riders Union rolls its eyes to that, instead prioritizing the thousands of blue-collar workers and veterans who crawl through Wilshire's rush-hour traffic jam on the bus each day.
Under the new plan, Wilshire bus-lane hours will last from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., then 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., on weekdays. The lane will start at MacArthur Park and end at the edge of Santa Monica.
One group of homeowners, however, does come away smug: The tightly packed sheeplings of Westwood's “Condo Canyon,” which spills into Beverly Hills. Instead of stretching 8.7 miles down Wilshire, the lane will conveniently skip their neighborhood.
Bus-only-lane opponents mouthed off to the Times in November:
High-rise residents of Westwood's “condo canyon” are pushing to exempt a nearly mile-long stretch of Wilshire between Comstock and Selby avenues because, they contend, the bus-only lane would cause huge backups for motorists in an area where traffic already moves smoothly. The condo dwellers say a bus-only lane would also interfere with residents or delivery people seeking to leave or enter buildings' driveways or parking garages.”
Granted, we probably wouldn't love hosting the big farty bus system in our backyard, either. But living along Wilshire, you're kind of asking for it — widening and re-striping the Boulevard to make room for an extra lane isn't going to make that huge of a difference, in the end. The same cannot be said for the estimated 30,000 riders who would see their commute shortened by 10 to 15 more minutes.
Too bad. The lane will see frustrating gaps where Westsiders whined the loudest — lent political sway by L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who's been pushing for the minuscule 5.4-mile version of the lane since this whole thing got off the ground. (Councilman Paul Koretz wasn't far behind today, reportedly quoting “a traffic study commissioned by Condo Canyon residents as if it were a Holy Book.”)
Amusingly, though, Rosendahl's main allegiance lies with Brentwood, where residents are now threatening to sue; suffice to say the councilman left the meeting today with tail between legs. LAStreetsblog describes his pickle:
Towards the end of the debate, a frustrated Rosendahl compared himself to a “lone boat at sea” and commented that he would prefer a route that included the Condo Canyon area over one that didn't but included Brentwood. If he had voted that way, the 8.7 mile route would have actually passed the full council creating a showdown with the Metro Board which had already approved the 7.7 mile route.
In other words, the meeting was a mind-numbing power game that, by some miracle, ended in a decision that bus riders can work with, albeit not their ideal.