From Mario Ramirez:
Mass transit users in one of the city's busiest corridors are celebrating a shorter commute.
Five new miles of dedicated bus lanes are now in affect along Wilshire Blvd. The lanes run in both directions from Western Ave to San Vicente Blvd. The new lanes are connecting with almost 2 miles of lanes that opened in June 2013 between Western Ave and and Park View Street near MacArthur Park.
The bus-only lanes are causing a new problem for drivers who aren't aware of the new changes. Motorists caught parking in the bus lanes from 7a.m. to 9a.m. and from 4p.m. to 7p.m. have already been subject to being towed in addition to fees up to $400. Now motorists driving in the bus lanes during those hours face a fine of up to $200. Motorists are able to access the lanes during non-peak hours. There will be a grace period for offenders during the first few weeks.
Mayor Eric Garcetti cut a ribbon for the second phase of the developing project along Wilshire Blvd.
The $31.5 Million Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project now covers 12.5 miles along Wilshire Blvd. The new lanes are expected to save metro drivers an estimated 15 minutes during their rush hour commute.
It was all smiles as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and a host of dignitaries, officials, and workers from Metro used the iconic politicians over sized scissors to cut the ribbon on what is officially known as Phase Two of the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project.
What that means is about 5 additional miles of ''peak hour bus lanes'' in both directions along busy Wilshire Blvd roughly between MacArthur Park and West L.A. , though Beverly Hills, parts of Westwood, and beyond that to the west, none of Santa Monica is included. The official explanation is they didn't apply for federal grants in time. The idea is fairly simple, to move buses faster, to save time for bus riders, and also to encourage others who might not yet have tried the bus to get on board and check it out. ($1.75 a ride)
As L.A.'s Mayor Eric Garcetti told me, ''the goal is to move people more quickly home and to work who might be stuck in traffic. We hope it'll bring new passengers and those who've already been on the bus and dependent on this will have a shorter ride. ''Bus rider Henry Banks put it quite simply ''I think it's a great idea'' It's supposed to save people like him about 15 minutes on the typical ride. Metro operates a huge fleet of buses, one of the largest systems in the country. These ''peak hour'' lanes, from 7 to 9 am and 4 to 7 pm are an idea that has been tried in stops and starts for years, but now is in full swing (except for the above exceptions).
You'll have to get used to staying out of those lanes while you're driving (they've already been ''no parking'' for years ) or risk a moving violation that could be a couple of hundred dollars. The good news is that for the first couple of weeks you'll get a warning. You can read Metro's explanation of the whole project here. They have a pretty robust web site, and most of their people that write for it and put it together used to be in the news business anyway.