So far, opposition to the proposal is most intense along the section of Wilshire east of Beverly Hills, because that's where the MTA initially focused its planning and outreach efforts. But as word of the busway spreads west, concerns are expected to mount from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica.

Several years ago, Beverly Hills opposed a plan to turn Santa Monica Boulevard into a 10-lane superhighway from the San Diego (405) Freeway to Hollywood, essentially limiting that proposal to 2.5 miles between the freeway and Century City.

"We are monitoring the busway situation very closely," said Beverly Hills Transportation Director Maria Rychlicki. "We don't yet know the number of stops, or what the need for removal of parking spaces will be. And, if the first phase were to end on our eastern border at San Vicente, we would like to find out what the plans are for a transition" to local bus routes.

In Westwood, members of the Westwood Village Alliance hadn't yet heard details of the MTA's plan, and the group has no official position. But one alliance member, Frank Ponder, general manager of Bel Air Camera, said he favors the idea of a busway, as long as it doesn't go down the center of the street.

"I think it's a great idea in concept," Ponder said. "We've reached the point where we can no longer focus on just adding lanes for cars. We have to move people rather than cars."

But, Ponder said, putting a busway down the middle of Wilshire would be problematic.

"You have to deal with taking away more than one lane because you have to pick up people," Ponder said. "And the inability to make left turns would be a problem. It would be a lot easier if they decided to put the busway alongside the curbs."

Demise of the subway

Just a few years ago, Westside cities and business groups were aligned with the MTA in seeking funds for a subway extension to the Westside. They were eager to reduce mounting traffic congestion, both on surface streets and on the Santa Monica (10) Freeway.

Initially, that extension was to have run all the way down Wilshire. However, a 1985 methane gas explosion at the Ross Dress for Less store on Third Street just east of Fairfax Avenue soured planners on a subway through the Miracle Mile district. They sought alternate routes, including a detour down to Pico and San Vicente boulevards and the use of a rail line from the University of Southern California to southern Santa Monica.

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