In preparation for the two-month closure of two Downtown LA Expo Line stations, Metro and the city of Los Angeles launched a pilot bus-only lane on Flower Street earlier this month.
At a Metro committee meeting Thursday, agency officials said the project has been successful so far—and even drivers don’t seem to mind the change.
“We’ve received no complaints about the Flower Street bus lane to date,” said Metro community relations officer Anthony Crump.
Conan Cheung, an executive officer with the agency, added that the bus lane has gotten “a lot of positive feedback” so far. “We’re getting good social media coverage,” said Cheung. “I think it’s a positive step forward.”
Positive feedback is something the agency could use more of when it comes to other bus-only projects.
Earlier in the week, residents loudly protested bus rapid transit projects planned in Eagle Rock and the northern San Fernando Valley.
Unlike the Flower Street bus-only lane, which is only restricted to buses between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, BRT projects set aside lanes for buses around the clock.
But even limited-hour bus-only lanes have proven controversial in Los Angeles, where drivers often complain that the projects worsen traffic congestion.
Peak hour bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard took years to install, and the city of Beverly Hills opted out of the project entirely. Today, bus riders complain the lanes have made little difference in commute times, since drivers using the lanes illegally frequently block traffic.
Cheung said Thursday that enforcement of the peak-hour restrictions on Flower Street has been a key part of keeping buses moving. With eight LAPD motor officers patrolling the route, the bus-only lane has been able to accommodate roughly 60 buses per hour, according to a Metro presentation on the project.
The agency expects that even more buses will use the lane once the Pico and 7th Street/Metro Center Expo Line stations close this weekend. Flower street is already getting heavier-than-usual bus service thanks to a four-month closure of the northern tracks along Metro’s Blue Line.
Metro staff previously estimated the bus-only lanes could save passengers as much as 9 minutes during afternoon commutes.
Results of the pilot could inform Metro’s strategy in rolling out future bus-only lanes. The agency announced plans earlier this year to test out dedicated bus lanes along one of its most heavily used lines, but the proposal hit a snag when Los Angeles officials criticized one possible project along Van Nuys Boulevard.
It’s not clear whether the agency will still be able to roll out another bus-only project before the end of the year, as originally planned.