Throughout this year, the city of Los Angeles has been adding bus-only lanes to a handful of corridors in Downtown. And now, that effort has been extended to the neighboring communities of Westlake and Echo Park. Officials will study the feasibility of peak-hour bus-only lanes along a 1.6-mile stretch of Alvarado Street between 7th Street and Sunset Boulevard, according to a staff report issued by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.  

The proposed project would reportedly convert existing peak-hour travel lanes between Mon. and Fri., operating from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. southbound, and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. northbound. It is expected that the dedicated bus lanes would increase service frequency along the corridor from 10 minutes to 7 minutes, while also cutting three minutes of travel time from each direction. Travel times in the other mixed-flow lanes would be impacted by approximately 90 seconds.

The corridor will begin next to the Westlake/MacArthur Park subway station and intersect with several major bus lines, running through neighborhoods which are majority Latino and overwhelmingly transit-dependent. Metro data indicates that 94% of residents in the area do not own vehicles, and 77% of residents rely on bus service five days per week or more.

It was previously reported that despite an early panic regarding the use of public transportation during the pandemic, scientists recently said that public transit has proven to be one of the most COVID-safe places to be outside the home. 

Metro and LADOT staff expect to begin community outreach in Jan. 2021, and a traffic study for the project is already underway.  The project design could also bring about other safety improvements to the corridor, including new lighting and pedestrian infrastructure.

The proposed Alvarado Street bus lane and the peak-hour lanes already operating on Wilshire Boulevard, 5th Street, 6th Street, and Flower Street are the most tangible evidence of Metro’s NextGen Bus Plan. A sweeping realignment of the Countywide transportation network, the program aims to improve service speed and frequency, which has the potential to increase ridership by upwards of 20%. As part of the effort, Metro reportedly plans to invest $750 million in infrastructure such bus-only lanes and synchronized traffic lights, while also spending roughly $150 million to improve accessibility and passenger amenities at stations.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the crippling blow to public transit ridership nationwide has hindered the implementation of the NextGen Plan.  Metro, which relies heavily on sales tax revenue for funding, slashed its budget for fiscal year 2021 to $6 billion – down $1.2 billion from 2020. The budget cut is ultimately reflected in a 20% reduction to bus service, as well as pared back service on subway and light rail lines.

Despite this, planning for new bus infrastructure continues. Additional peak-hour lanes are proposed for Grand Avenue and Olive Street in Downtown, as well as along Lincoln Boulevard in Venice.  Regional bus rapid transit projects could also bring all-day exclusive lanes to a handful of corridors in Northeast Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. 

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Neama Rahmani is the President and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Neama graduated from UCLA at the age of 19 and Harvard Law School at the age of 22, making him one of the youngest graduates in the 200-year history of the…

Neama Rahmani is the President and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Neama graduated from UCLA at the age of 19 and Harvard Law School at the age of 22, making him one of the youngest graduates in the 200-year history of the law school. Upon graduation, Neama was hired by O’Melveny & Myers, the largest law firm in Los Angeles, where he represented companies such as Disney, Marriott, and the Roman Catholic Church.

But Neama wanted to help ordinary people, not corporations, so he joined the United States Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted drug and human trafficking cases along the United States-Mexico border. While working as a federal prosecutor, Neama captured and successfully prosecuted a fugitive murderer and drug kingpin who had terrorized Southern California and was featured on “America’s Most Wanted.” Neama was then appointed to be the Director of Enforcement of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, an independent watchdog that oversees and investigates the elected officials and highest level employees of the City of Los Angeles, including the Mayor and City Council. He held that position until becoming a trial lawyer for the people.

Neama has extensive trial experience. He has led teams of more than 170 attorneys in litigation against the largest companies in the world. Neama has successfully tried dozens of cases to verdict as lead trial counsel, and has argued before both state and federal appeals courts. Over the course of his career, Neama has handled thousands of cases as attorney of record and has helped his clients obtain more than $1 billion in settlements and judgments.