The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in response to the unexpected capacity crowds climbing aboard its red-and-white express buses, is moving to substantially expand its Rapid Bus system.
The proposed expansion would involve adding two or three new routes a year until the L.A. area is crisscrossed with some two dozen Rapid Bus lines. The current system, which debuted last June, has routes along Ventura and Wilshire boulevards, with limited stops and easy street-level boarding that can chop 25 percent or more off travel times.
"We saw how successful the two demonstration routes have been and decided to expand the system," said Rex Gephart, the MTA's Rapid Bus project manager.
The proposal is included in the MTA's 25-year plan, which will go out for public review next month. Portions of that massive plan which include light rail projects, dedicated busways and freeway improvements will likely come before the MTA board later this year. If the board approves the Rapid Bus expansion, the first new routes could be rolling as soon as next year.
"This is long overdue," said Jim Moore, associate professor of civil engineering and public policy at USC. "For years, the MTA has put so much of its resources into the rail system. Now they've got a program that actually works, and it seems they're finally on the right track."
Gephart said the regular bus routes with highest ridership are being targeted as the first to get one of the new Rapid Bus routes. These include Van Nuys Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, Pico and Venice boulevards on the Westside, Crenshaw and Avalon boulevards and Florence Avenue through South Central L.A., and First Street on the Eastside.
"When added to the Wilshire/Whittier Ventura routes and First Street on the Eastside.
"When added to the Wilshire/Whittier and Ventura routes now running, these six new routes will give us a total of four east-west and four north-south lines," Gephart said. "The idea is, over time, we build up a grid network of these Rapid Buses."
The cost of adding new Rapid Bus lines is highly variable, Gephart said. That's because in each case, the Rapid Bus line will substitute for an existing line. In the case of Wilshire and Ventura boulevards, the "limited-stop bus," which stopped every half-mile, was eliminated and replaced with the Rapid Bus, which stops about once every mile.
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