West Los Angeles pedestrians might have to walk on narrower sidewalks as a project to widen Wilshire Boulevard is moving closer to the Los Angeles City Council for adoption.
A mere two blocks in Metro's 12.5-mile Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project—which stretches from the Santa Monica border at Centinela Avenue east to the 110 Freeway—the agency contends the area between Barrington Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard (called Federal Avenue to the south) is a crucial choking point that hinders public transportation.
To reduce the width of the sidewalks, certain provisions in the Brentwood-Pacific Palisades Community Plan would have to be amended, according to officials.
But there's more to consider than getting public transit passengers to their destinations more quickly, said Lauren Cole, a South Brentwood Residents' Association board member.
"Those two blocks—they're extremely congested and a lot of the buildings are right up on the sidewalk," said Cole. "It's actually a very pedestrian-heavy area as it is."
Cole was particularly concerned with the large groups of University High School students that congregate and wait for buses near the 7-Eleven on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, she said.
"There's already not room for them and they're already spilling into the street and the parking lot," said Cole.
The Brentwood Community Council also opposes the widening project, which would reduce the 10-foot sidewalks to eight feet.
With the Westside Subway Extension coming to the area, that will give less walking room when there's the potential of more pedestrian traffic, wrote community Council Chairwoman Nancy Freedman in an email.
Transit agencies over the years have increasingly looked at bus-only lanes as a viable and cost-effective solution to speeding up services, said Juan Matute, a Santa Monica resident and a researcher at UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies.
"Bus-only lanes are probably the number one treatment for speeding transit vehicles—giving a transit vehicle the right-of-way is very important," she said. "When you're sending vehicles through there every two to three minutes during peak hours—that's significant. ... For transit riders, it makes the services more reliable. For the agency, it runs the service a little bit quicker and saves some money on labor costs."
Matute said he uses the north and south sidewalks in the area at least once a week, but also rides his bike and drives on Wilshire Boulevard more frequently.
"I feel like I have a little more of a diverse perspective than somebody who's always on transit or just driving their car," said Matute. "For my personal values, the trade-off of giving up two feet in order to have the bus-only lane through that area is something that I'm supportive of."
Metro and the Los Angeles Planning Commission are compiling public comments on the widening project in a report to be released in the near future, according to officials.
The planning commission will hold its final meeting on this aspect of the Wilshire BRT on Aug. 9, before presenting to the full council for adoption.