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In San Fernando Valley, L.A. Metro Makes Buses a Priority

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently opened another 5.6 miles of bus priority lanes, giving the region a total of 51 lane miles designed specifically for public transit. Another 46 miles are coming next year.

A segmented, silver Metro Liner bus waits for passengers in the Los Angeles area.
One of the new buses traveling the G Line (Orange Line) for L.A. Metro.
Los Angeles buses just got a little more help getting past paused traffic in one of Southern California’s more congested regions.

That's because the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) has debuted nearly 6 miles of new “bus priority” lanes in the San Fernando Valley. The lanes — which allow for vehicles turning into driveways, and are for bicycles, too — are expected to speed up service 15 percent, said Patrick Chandler, L.A. Metro communications manager.

“Bus lanes are implemented helping to save Metro customers more time and increase the reliability of bus service,” Chandler said in an email, adding that variables still make it difficult to say if the faster bus service will be quicker for riders than private transportation.

“We know the origin of our customers’ ride on transit because it generally starts at a transit stop. With cars, the origin could be different, as well as the destination,” he said.

The new bus priority lane segments are in the Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys area, on Sepulveda Boulevard between Ventura Boulevard and Rayen Street; and on westbound Ventura Boulevard from Vesper Avenue to Sepulveda Boulevard, L.A. Metro said in a news release March 26.

Reimagining the street space without expanding it has become a mantra for green transit advocates and transportation departments across the country. Using the roadway space more creatively to serve a wider cross-section of users — including bikes, cars and buses, but also e-bikes and scooters — has become an imperative for reducing single-occupancy car trips and, in turn, human-caused climate change.

When thinking about redesigning streets for bikes, buses and pedestrians, Ellen Kennedy, principal for carbon-free transportation at Rocky Mountain Institute, seemed to point out the obvious about bus lanes at last year’s Forth Roadmap Conference in Portland, Ore. “You can move a lot more people through that space than you can in cars,” she said.

Cities like Chicago have created Bus Priority Zone projects, which have deployed a variety of street and technology upgrades ranging from bus-only lanes to special bus signals that allow transit vehicles to get a head start at intersections.

With its new miles of bus priority lanes, Los Angeles now boasts some 51 miles of bus priority lanes across the city, with another 46 miles coming into service next year, per the news release.

"Bus speed and reliability are crucial to building our ridership," said Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Council president and L.A. Metro board director, in a statement. "The city and Metro have the shared goal of getting people out of their cars and onto environmentally sustainable transit. Dedicated bus lanes are an efficient means of reorganizing our existing roadway infrastructure to prioritize that transit.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.