Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Calling for a transit-only lane on Santa Monica Blvd. - Sunset Blvd. between Santa Monica and Union Station

I consider myself the biggest cheerleader of bringing Metrorail to the West Hollywood environs.  And with luck, the northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line will be routed to Hollywood via West Hollywood and its neighboring areas.

However, we shouldn't forget surface transit.  Even with Metrorail, major corridors throughout Southern California are also going to need transit-only lanes allowing for speedy service for buses and modern streetcar trams to connect people to the "first/last mile" of the their journey.  We will need a full network of transit-only lanes all over the county (in addition to bicycle lanes).

Here's a sample pic of what this might look like.

As part of this, in addition to the Purple Line expansion as part of the Westside Subway Extension, there is currently a project to bring bus rapid transit to Wilshire Blvd.

I will be the first to stand up and call for a Santa Monica Blvd. transit-only lane between the ocean and Sunset Junction, further heading downtown to Union Station.

As a transit-only lane, it could potentially run modern streetcars quickly and efficiently.  Just imagine...

Now my willingness to take lanes away from cars to allow for more mobility for transit and bicycles may doom any chances I might ever have to get elected to political office in Southern California or it may not.  (No, I am not a candidate for anything.)  But the golden era of cheap gasoline and the single-occupancy automobile in southern California is LONG behind us.  Even if we "drill, baby, drill", $2/gallon gasoline is gone forever.  It's a global market and China and India are not going to stay in the third world so that we can drive our SUVs cheaply across the streets of  Los Angeles.  Therefore, we need to consider practical ways to expand mass transit mobility affordably like any other world class metropolitan region.

So let's bring a transit-only lane to Santa Monica Blvd. while we continue to advocate for Metrorail.


irwinc said...

Dan, thank you for tireless advocate for transit. I too like the bus lane idea on Santa Monica Blvd and I can certainly understand your point of view being that you are WeHo resident. However, I think in terms of regional perspective, Santa Monica Blvd bus lane falls behind several others like Venice Blvd, Vermont Ave, Sepulveda Blvd... just to name 3.

Another key point that I think worth mentioning going forward on any bus lane topic is that the city Govt in charge of the roadway (WeHo, LA etc) can change and re-stripe the road as they wish. Case in point: the Downtown LA bus only lanes were done without much fuss nor an EIR because City of LA had exclusive power to re-stripe the roads. The only reason Wilshire bus lane ended up as a Metro project was because it crossed multiple jurisdiction - so a county agency had to be in charge; and certain county politicians that wanted political cover, so they requested a full EIR. This proved to be unnecessary once Beverly Hills and Santa Monica both opted out of the project. With City of LA being the only jurisdiction involved, it would have been very simple to do. The bus lane would have stopped at the border of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica as a City of LA project but we wouldn't have wasted so much time on EIR, to get basically the same result.

The moral of my long winded post? Think local... if we want bus lanes on major roads, it has to start with the CITY govt, not the county. Look at what the bicycle community was able to get with some sustained pressure on City of LA? Hundred of miles of newly re-striped bike lanes. If only there was similar pressure to re-stripe all major roads in City of LA to include a bus lane. But somehow, I don't see the idiotic BRU taking a charge on this...

Dan Wentzel said...

Thank you for your, comment, Irwin.

I appreciate it.

My understanding is that Santa Monica Blvd. is the 4th heaviest bus corridor behind Wilshire, Vermont, Western, in that order, ahead of Venice.

But I support bus-only lanes on all of these roads.

We are all going to support the transit projects we are most likely to see the most benefit from.

Steve Lantz said...

Historic footnote: When Supervisor Ed Edelman and Congressman Tony Bielenson first envisioned a replacement to the abandoned Beverly Hills Freeway in the '70s, they obtained a federal earmark for the Santa Monica Boulevard Transit Parkway project that included reconfiguration of Big and Little Santa Monica Boulevards with transit and bicycle lanes. The grant was used to purchase the old SP rail right of way from Pico, up the west side of Sepulveda and in the median of Santa Monica to the old site of the Wonder Bakery in Beverly Hills. Long story short, by the time the Santa Monica Boulevard project was built fifteen years later, the state right of way was transfered to City ownership and the City of LA / Metro agreed to construct a re-configured Big and Little Santa Monica between the 405 and Century City without the dedicated bikeways and transit lanes. Beverly has not made significant changes in the original use and West Hollywood has put its street on a road diet by emphasizing pedestrians and landscaping. So what started as a freeway right of way has ended as a local streets solution that continues to serve the river of cars.

Dana Gabbard said...

We need to get the Wilshire lanes up and running before something like this has any sort of chance. The LADOT traffic engineers have to be shown bus lanes don't overly impact auto throughput. Sadly we have to deal with the antiquated 1950s mindset that rules local jurisdictions...