Ever wonder why L.A.'s public transit system seems haphazard, with rail lines that don't go where they're most needed and inadequate bus service? A political battle over bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard serves as an instructive example of the ways the best-designed plans of transit engineers are often thwarted.
Wilshire is L.A.'s densest business and residential corridor, and it's among the city's biggest traffic nightmares at rush hour, which is why devoting a lane in each direction to bus use only is a good idea. More people already travel by bus than by car along the route during peak hours, and a fast bus lane would lure even more out of their cars, reducing pollution and radically reducing commuting times for bus riders.
The lanes, which have been in the planning stages for nearly a decade, were originally supposed to run from MacArthur Park to the Santa Monica border, except for a segment in the city of Beverly Hills, which opted not to participate. But when wealthy Westsiders complained about a loss of street parking and increased automotive congestion, politicians started looking to carve out chunks of the 9-mile route. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, carrying water for high-rise dwellers in the Condo Canyon neighborhood between Selby and Comstock avenues, led a push in December to cut that mile-long stretch. Then City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, no doubt after getting an earful from constituents in Brentwood, proposed deleting the entire segment west of Beverly Hills, which would leave just 5.4 miles of bus lanes.