Express Bus systems often operate on existing streets and highways and are sometimes considered to therefore avoid any cost for right of way. However, as discussed below and elsewhere in these comments, this is faulty reasoning. The right of way cost of an Express Bus system should be included in any cost consideration. If the bus constitutes 50% of the traffic on a highway lane, it should be assigned 50% of the right of way cost for that lane. A lane designated for the exclusive use of buses should be assigned 100% of the right of way cost for that lane.
Express bus services that are operated on separate roadways designed and constructed for bus use only should carry the full cost of obtaining the right of way. This includes not only the direct cost of the right of way, but the often significant administrative cost of obtaining the right of way through the eminent domain process. Obtaining this right of way can also add several years delay to the time required for implementation of an express bus system.
Bus lanes and routes introduced onto existing streets and highways generally occupy existing traffic lanes, designed and built for automobiles. As such, exclusive access bus lanes remove significant portions of streets from service to automobile and small truck traffic, resulting in diminished access and increased congestion of the affected streets. Further congestion may be caused on streets crossing express bus routes as a result of synchronization of traffic signals or lengthening of green light duration in favor of express bus traffic.
Usually promoted as remedies to traffic congestion and delays, lanes created by conversion of existing traffic lanes to exclusive bus often tend to intensify congestion on effected streets to a point of gridlock. In addition, imposition of oversized heavy bus vehicles onto street pavement and roadbed designed to support automobiles and light trucks invariably breaks down existing streets, necessitating frequent repair, or complete reconstruction. When operating on all lanes of traffic, as is the case of Los Angeles’ Wilshire boulevard, the entire roadway can be rendered dysfunctional, and replete with potholes and broken pavement. Such imposition upon, and degrading of auto traffic rights of way should be taken into consideration of the “free right of way”, and mitigated in the planning and operation of any express bus services.
In spite of extensive evidence and testimony in opposition to introduction of exclusive express bus lanes onto 7.7 miles of the existing curbside lanes of Los Angeles’ Wilshires Boulevard, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a $31.5 million project to convert the lanes during weekday rush hours beginning west of downtown to West Los Angeles, near the City of Santa Monica, with the notable exception of a one-mile section in the high rise residential neighborhood of Westwood, and the entire length of Wilshire Boulevard in the City of Beverly Hills. Notwithstanding the traffic congestion impacts that removal of one third of the auto traffic-carrying capacity of Wilshire Boulevard that the bus lanes would create, the multi-mile gaps in the lanes will inevitably cause classic “bottlenecks” in both the bus lanes and already congested thoroughfare.