Metro explores private partnership to speed up Vermont Avenue transit

The Vermont Avenue corridor is the second busiest in the county for bus ridership. LA Metro is looking at a proposal to accelerate a Measure M plan to bring rapid bus to the street.
The Vermont Avenue corridor is the second busiest in the county for bus ridership. LA Metro is looking at a proposal to accelerate a Measure M plan to bring rapid bus to the street.
Jonathan Riley via Flickr

Los Angeles county's transit agency is reviewing a proposal that could accelerate a key Measure M project for faster mass transit through the heart of the city.

The 12.5-mile Vermont Avenue corridor from Hollywood Boulevard to the 105 freeway is among the busiest in the county, with daily bus ridership of more than 40,000 each weekday. That's the second highest in Metro's system. Only Wilshire Boulevard, where Metro is currently constructing a subway, has more.

The route crosses through several dense, low-income neighborhoods where residents rely on transit. It connects to the Green, Expo, Red and Purple rail lines and runs by major centers of employment like the University of Southern California.

The Measure M plan approved by county voters last year dedicates $25 million to add bus rapid transit to the corridor, likely with a dedicated lane and curbside fare payment for faster boarding. Metro says it will seek another $400 million from other sources.

But under the current plan, the project isn’t slated to break ground until 2024 and might not be finished in time for the 2028 Olympics. It's been identified in Metro's preliminary "28 by 28" plan as a project that should be prioritized for completion before the games.

Now, Metro is looking for help to deliver it earlier. The agency is reviewing a proposal from outside investors, AECOM and John Laing, to help build the project. It’s part of a larger push by Metro to form public-private partnerships to speed up Measure M initiatives.

Metro will further analyze the proposal before deciding whether to proceed with an official bidding process.

The agency has also commissioned a study on the possibility of extending the Red Line subway down Vermont to USC, where it would connect to the Expo Line, or even further south to the Green Line.

Some transit advocates, like Damien Goodmon of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, have criticized Metro for not prioritizing a rail line down Vermont Avenue. He says the agency chose to pursue other rail projects with much lower demand in parts of the county, like the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, in order to shore up votes to pass Measure M.

The rapid bus project on Vermont Avenue is projected to attract about 30,000 additional weekday boardings from its current ridership around 40,000. Faster and higher capacity rail transit would expand those gains even more. 

The Gold Line Foothill extension to Claremont, which is currently under construction, is projected to add just 10,000 daily rides.

Under Measure M, the Vermont corridor would not become eligible for additional funds to convert to rail until 2067.