HomeCity NewsMetro Bus Opponents Say: ‘Stay in Your Lane’

Metro Bus Opponents Say: ‘Stay in Your Lane’

L.A. Metro is pressing on with a dedicated bus rapid transit route proposal, dubbed the North Hollywood to Pasadena Transit Corridor project, which aims to connect the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys through Burbank, Glendale, Eagle Rock and into Pasadena, creating a more direct route between the Metro Red and Gold lines. 

The project — still in its design phase — has been the source of public attention this week as opponents gathered in front of Burbank City Hall on Tuesday to protest side-running bus lanes on Olive Avenue, which would cut traffic lanes to one per side with a dedicated turn lane, making way for streamlined bus travel. The line would introduce “premium” covered bus stops throughout its route, with real-time digital arrival updates displayed at each stop.

Opponents supported bus rapid transit (BRT) but demanded a “mixed flow” route, in which buses would share Olive’s two travel lanes in each direction with other vehicles.

Proponents have argued that express electric buses will improve traffic conditions, improve air quality and attract new transit riders and thereby reduce the number of vehicles in traffic.

The BRT, called a “light rail on wheels,” by Metro, is forecast to attract about 30,000 boardings when it opens in 2027, according to the agency. The Metro Board of Directors has flagged $317 million for the project, largely from a Measure M sales tax approved by 71% of L.A. County voters in 2016.

Burbank’s population swells by about 300% during business hours, according to the city, as folks travel across city lines to work in Burbank, greatly affecting traffic. Metro officials told the Leader that many of those individuals will likely opt for public transportation once the line is available.

In 2022, Burbank council members and transportation officials supported the BRT project overall as a way to quicken travel between cities, but advocated specifically for a mixed flow option on Olive Avenue.

The Council at the time, which consisted of Nick Schultz, Konstantine Anthony and three former members, sent a letter to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority reaffirming its concerns regarding the potential 18-mile BRT corridor.

The most significant concern expressed by city officials has been the proposed conversion of travel lanes, one in each direction, on busy Olive Avenue into dedicated bus lanes, a move officials said will worsen traffic conditions.

Since then, though, progress on the BRT project has slowed as the COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in the works. To add to pandemic complications, nearby communities such as Eagle Rock have seen opposition groups threaten to shut down the project if Metro doesn’t plan to convert the route on Colorado Boulevard to mixed flow.

Now, the Burbank City Council is scheduled to hear a “cooperation agreement” presented by Metro on March 26, where city officials are expected to clarify their position to the Metro Board of Directors. Ultimately, the city will have to grant Metro permits to do the proposed work, according to Burbank Assistant Community Development Director David Kriske.

“This is where we feel the Council would have the opportunity to amend the direction given to staff in 2022 of only wanting mixed flow,” said David Donahue, president of Vision Burbank, the group responsible for organizing Tuesday’s protests. “[This] is why we are working nonstop to mobilize the residents and business owners to tell the Council that this is a very bad idea.”

The Burbank Chamber of Commerce also took a hard stance against side-running lanes or other forms of general-purpose bus lanes, advocating for mixed flow.

“Public transportation is important to us, and we want to see BRT work for everyone. That’s why we want to see mixed flow only. The impact that reducing traffic lanes on Olive would have a detrimental effect on our businesses,” said Jamie Keyser, CEO of the Chamber.

Metro officials called the bus line “light rail on wheels,” and have conducted traffic studies to analyze the impacts the project would have on Olive. They concluded that measures could be taken to reduce traffic impacts, though specific plans may not be developed until the next project phase is approved.

“The proposed project is expected to attract new transit riders thus encouraging a shift from automobile use to public transit as well as improved regional connectivity,” Metro officials stated in an Environmental Impact Report conducted to analyze the effects of the route on neighboring communities.

First published in the March 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]