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Santa Monica Officials Rethink Lincoln Boulevard Bus Lane

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 19, 2013 -- Citing concerns over parking and traffic, Santa Monica is reconsidering a bus-only lane in the 1.2 mile section of Lincoln Boulevard that the City recently took over from CalTrans last summer.

Reversing a 2005 position, City officials said a dedicated bus lane that runs from the Santa Monica freeway to Grant Street -- Santa Monica's southern boundary -- would not significantly decrease travel time and would create more traffic problems on the heavily-traveled corridor.

Officials also noted that, unlike during the 2005 study, this time members of the business community were concerned that a dedicated bus lane would further reduce parking in the area and adversely affect business.

“The overall public benefit of a very short bus only travel lane does not significantly reduce the travel time for customers riding the service compared to the impact of traffic delays created in the segment,” staff said, adding that the question should be revisited once a regional plan could be explored.

Staff's 2005 analysis found that a bus-only lane on Lincoln Boulevard would create “substantial trip time savings (over eight minutes per trip) as well as an increase in ridership due to the attractiveness of faster travel.”

Staff added that in 2005, the public was very receptive to the idea of a bus-only lane. That has changed over the past seven years.

This time around, “during two community meetings, business owners expressed concern with the loss of parking, direct access to the fronts of their businesses and the overall impact of restricting traffic to buses only in the curbside lane,” staff said.

And the 2005 original calculations Staff made that found a dedicated bus lane would save up to eight minutes per trip were wrong.

Staff's decision to reconsider a dedicated bus lane is partly due to regional forces.

Lincoln Boulevard didn't make it on a list of 27 corridors identified by LA County Bus Speed and Street Design Improvement Plan as candidates for projects to speed up bus travel.

Staff maintains that if a dedicated bus lane is limited to Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica, it would not be worth the effort. But since the Big Blue Bus’s Line number 3 on Lincoln connects the beachside city to Los Angeles International airport (LAX), a bus lane that ran the length of the corridor may bring significant improvements to bus travel.

“The implementation of the Lincoln Boulevard Bus Only Lane will be delayed until such time that a more comprehensive regional planning approach for the entire corridor is studied with regional partners,” staff said, adding that they will work with Metro and regional partners.

“The solution to faster travel times, reducing congestion and providing better service to the riding public and potential riders is to provide BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) peak bus only travel lanes along the entire Lincoln Boulevard corridor,” officials said.

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