Mind the gap

In case you're not sure how this city works, take a look at why a section of traffic impacted Wilshire Boulevard could be cut from a Metro busway plan.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Metro has proposed designating a bus-only lane during morning and evening rush hours along 8.7 miles of the busy boulevard. . . . High-rise residents of Westwood's 'condo canyon' asked Metro to exempt the portion of Wilshire between Comstock and Selby avenues because they contended that a bus-only lane would interfere with residents or delivery people seeking to leave or enter buildings' driveways or parking garages. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is on Metro's board, said he agreed with the residents."

There are only a few locations in Los Angeles that already have the residential density, proximity to jobs, and access to transit that Wilshire Boulevard has. The "condo canyon" from Beverly Hills to Westwood is as close to Manhattan-style "transit oriented development" as this city gets.

Except, as we all know, public transit in Los Angeles is for other people. And if slightly better transit might impede the delivery of stuff to those who never use the buses that stop literally at their door, then the transit system must be broken to the desires of those who will not ride.

A mile-long "luxury gap" on Wilshire is the most garish irony in Metro's redesigned rush-hour busway.There's even more opposition from Brentwood and elsewhere on the westside. "To take away a much-needed lane from car traffic is insane," one West Los Angeles resident said in an e-mail (as quoted in the Times story).

But isn't the new paradigm for Los Angeles, according to Mayor Villaraigosa, making transit more desirable and cars less so? Giving bus riders an easier commute is "insane" only if you never intend to benefit from public transit yourself.

[Postscript: A rush-hour Wilshire Boulevard busway is a pale substitute for a "subway to the sea," but it's increasingly likely that the subway will never be built. The light-rail Expo Line will reach Santa Monica first. Already the argument is being made that two routes to the sea will not have sufficient ridership or funding to make both routes possible.]

The image on this page was taken by flickr user Chris. It is used under a Creative Commons License.

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