BRT: A Crisis on Colorado

ACCORDING TO LIZ - Metro says it has a plan. 

On May 19th, the Metro board Planning and Programming Committee approved moving forward on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor through Eagle Rock. But is its proposed “Refined F1 – one lane option” design the best it can come up with? 

The North Hollywood to Pasadena Transit Corridor project to connect North Hollywood to Pasadena is part of Metro’s plan for faster public transit across the north of Los Angeles for “improving access to jobs, education and other important destinations.” 

Their argument in redesigning Colorado Boulevard between Glendale and Pasadena is that more commuters would take buses if they were faster and more reliable. And that the reason buses are slow is because they get stuck in the same traffic as cars. Ergo, if Metro creates dedicated, car-free lanes, bus travel will improve. 

Absolutely, the City needs better public transit but is taking out the only remaining east west main street in northeast Los Angeles really the way to go? 

You see, BRT’s concept is predicated on dedicating one of only two lanes solely to the BRT buses. And, on Colorado Boulevard, that means skinnying all the other vehicles, all the other buses, delivery trucks, school buses, motion picture production vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, motorcycles and RVs down into that other lane. 

One lane. 

Single lane car lanes are great when there are other options for drivers. But that is not the case in Eagle Rock. 

In the wide flat neighborhoods of the Valley and Venice, that might fly. In downtown or Hollywood where there are alternatives if a main street is closed out of commuter commission, maybe. 

As would be the case on Colorado Boulevard in neighboring Glendale or Pasadena where there are dozens of parallel streets to dissipate the congestion, allow for parking and please the merchants. 

We are not talking about giving up one lane of car travel – that happened a few years ago to put bicycle lanes in, bicycle lanes that are often empty as traffic jams up and spews carcinogens at pedestrians, other drivers and, yes, those few bicyclists. 

This previous undemocratic reallocation of street resources has significantly amplified traffic congestion, creating longer rush hours and leading to increased idling of vehicles polluting “Beautiful Boulevard” air and endangering children and seniors. 

The volume of traffic of people and delivery vehicles will only marginally decrease with the removal of the lane – people who can bypass Eagle Rock already take the 134 – so the one-lane approach will lead to twice the gridlock and ten times the pollution. 

Plus the addition of a plethora of no-left-turns will drive many motorists into residential neighborhoods, further exacerbating air quality and safety for homeowners and negatively impacting their property values. 

The Refined F1 – one lane option includes:

  • 2 BRT-only lanes in the center
  • 1-lane in either direction for all traffic including all other Metro buses
  • removal of most parking east of Eagle Rock Boulevard, impacting local merchants
  • removal of 14 left turns to residential streets and a number of schools
  • moving existing bicycle lanes to "parking protected bike lanes" on the other side of parked cars 

Fire and emergency vehicles will have to cut across this conga line of frustrated drivers to get to the BRT lane they purportedly will be allowed to use… but how are those BRT buses going to be able to cut into the all-traffic lane to let them by? Forget about them turning left – it will be an obstacle course through traffic and two center medians. 

Many residents have serious concerns about the ability of fire and emergency vehicles to enter and exit the local Fire Station which also serves as a refueling point in the northeast. Delays on Colorado will do a further disservice to residents in the adjacent hills where developers have been granted waivers that shrink already narrow streets to a point where access and staging for emergency vehicles is challenging. 

The F1 scenario will also ensure that, at most hours of the day, regular buses pulling in and out of the traffic crawl will force the one lane of traffic to grind to a halt, ditto any cars attempting to parallel park. 

Not to mention, depending on parking skills and vehicle width, the danger of trying open one’s own car door let alone emerging with traffic less than two feet away. 

Regular bus riders would have to descend into the bike lane and forget about taking the kids out of the passenger side of cars – parent and child would become fodder for the racing 10-speeds. 

Car and delivery truck unfriendly environments are not business friendly so bye-bye to most merchants.  If they survive the chaos of construction. 

I am all for safer road design but, having seen some of the dangerous impacts on York Boulevard including the ridiculous concept that the center turning lane would be available at all times for emergency vehicle when it is used not only for turning but for passing when the single lane become congested and for the parking of delivery trucks needing to off-load, I strongly feel that the Colorado road design should be deferred until after proper assessment by knowledgeable emergency services personnel. 

What has happened on York and what will inevitable happen on Colorado if this Road Diet is pursued, is a significant increase in pollution due to vehicle idling in traffic jams that inevitably occur when three lane of traffic are forced down to one. 

There has been no appreciable reduction in the number of cars on York (except some may have moved to Colorado if their destination was north of York). Bike lanes are still virtually empty despite the LA Bicycle Coalitions vehement demands with some bicyclists still choosing to ride on the sidewalk, endangering pedestrians. 

The smog will have even more significant impact in Eagle Rock where the young and the elderly are already disproportionately affected by the particulate matter coming off Glendale’s dump at Scholl Canyon. 

Many existing trees will be removed in the process. And though the F1 graphics overflow with mature trees and shrubbery, are they guaranteed? And how many years will it take to return Colorado to a green and thriving boulevard? 

Has the Fire Department weighed in? Not only on the impact to Fire Station 42 but also to the violation to safety regulations in the F1 plan along the entire stretch of Colorado from Glendale to Pasadena. 

What about advocates for the disabled? For public health concerns? For children attending local schools? For families living adjacent? 

And has anyone other than our lame duck Controller recognized the opportunity for lawsuits that will put the Willets settlement to shame?

In supporting this plan, have the elected officials who have voiced support for it actually looked at what it will do to the community? These include Councilmember Kevin de Léon who is busy running for Mayor, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, LAUSD Board Member Jackie Goldberg and State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo. 

But why? 

Another article will look at the war between those calling for retaining a better quality of life along Colorado and the coalition of their Street Diet/bicyclist opponents. And the part that money plays.


(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)