Bus riders who travel on Wilshire Boulevard during rush hour — one of the busiest bus corridors in the country — will get to ride the first portion of a new dedicated bus-only lane starting Wednesday. From Western Avenue to South Park View Street, the bus-only lanes will be reserved for buses during the peak weekday rush hours from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
"During peak hours, we are running as many buses as we can [along Wilshire Boulevard]," said Paul Gonzales, media relations officer for Metro. "We have to find a way to move people faster through this corridor."
Bicyclists and right-turning vehicles are allowed in the bus-only lane as well. All others will have to merge into the other lanes. Parking spots will not be affected, as on-street parking is already banned during rush hour.
This is only the first part of Metro's Bus Rapid Transit project, which will repave and repaint the bus-only lane all the way to the eastern border of Santa Monica. The rest of the lane is expected to be completed by the end of 2014 — though it will not include the portion within Beverly Hills.
The Wilshire bus routes, including the Rapid 720 on extra-long articulated buses with over 57 seats, are the most well-traveled in the county, connecting popular points like the beach and UCLA, Rodeo Drive, LACMA, the Purple Line station at Western/Wilshire, Good Samaritan Hospital, 7th/Metro Station and Boyle Heights.
The 720 and 2 buses run every two minutes during peak rush hour, with over 54,000 boardings a day between downtown and Santa Monica, according to Gonzales. Public transit is well-used in the Wilshire corridor, as 20 percent of all trips taken in the Wilshire corridor are public transit, according to an environmental impact report.
Map: The first phase of the Wilshire Boulevard bus-only lane travels from Western Avenue to MacArthur Park.
The Santa Monica-downtown Los Angeles commute takes an average of 52 minutes in the morning and 64 minutes in the afternoon, Gonzales said, but bus riders can expect to improve travel times by an average of 24 percent — or anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes when the full dedicated lane is constructed.
During the combined weekday rush hours, more people travel along Wilshire Boulevard on bus than they do in vehicles. Metro estimates 24,000 people travel in 20,000 cars, but over 29,000 people commute by Metro buses.
Construction to complete the rest of the lane will continue along various portions of Wilshire to repave, repaint and, at points, widen the street, Gonzales said. Metro expects to complete the full lane by November 2014.