In a big concession to Westwood-area residents, the Metro Board of Directors voted today to remove the Condo Canyon area of Wilshire Boulevard from the planned 8.7 mile Wilshire Boulevard bus-only lane. Board of Director Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the area in his capacity as a County Supervisor, argued in favor of seeing the segment dropped, saying that keeping the line could increase traffic congestion around the area but only provide negligible benefits for bus riders. "Ideology has gotten in the way of the facts," said Yaroslavsky, who believes the time savings to bus riders in keeping the line would only be 30-60 seconds. And even that may be on the high end, he thinks. "I will give you my first born son if it's 60 seconds," he said, before apologizing to his son for offering to give him away.
But given that Metro's own staff recommended keeping the line, dozens and dozens of speakers showed up at today's meeting, held at Metro headquarters in downtown, to rail against the proposal to drop the segment, many arguing the Board was cratering to a small, wealthy group of residents.
"Who will stand up to the bullies from Condo Canyon?" Bus Riders Union organizer Eric Romann asked the board.
Meanwhile, some privately wondered what was so great about this bus lane--it goes on a patchy route of Wilshire Blvd given that Beverly Hills and Santa Monica are also exempted, and shares the road with those cars right hand turns. And while the line promises to shave 11-12 minutes off the bus trip across town, is that enough to make people hop on?
Perhaps, say supporters, because the bus-only lane will give riders a more consistent trip, time-wise, according to Dave Sotero, spokesman for Metro Media Relations. For instance, if you know the bus could always get you to downtown from mid-Wilshire in 25 minutes, you may be more willing to hop on. Other supporters pointed out that the federal funding for the project will help pay for re-paving and re-stripping part of the route, too.
Meanwhile, today's vote was only an initial OK--in April, the board will look at how traffic will be impacted if this Westwood area is dropped, and vote again on the final EIR. For now, the reaction to today's news remains split. "This is a huge milestone, even with the one-mile segment taken out," said Jody Litvak, Community Relations Manager for Metro. Seeking the Westwood segment, the Bus Riders Union was looking for a bigger milestone.