City Still Pushes Against Metro Bus Lane

First published in the Nov. 6 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Burbank officials reiterated their opposition this week to a portion of a potential bus corridor that would remove either street parking or travel lanes on Olive Avenue.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority project would connect North Hollywood to Pasadena with a bus route weaving through cities along the 134 Freeway. Metro officials have said that a dedicated bus lane would allow for quicker and more reliable service than a traditional route.
But during its Tuesday meeting, the Burbank City Council emphasized its position that replacing street parking or travel lanes on Olive with a bus lane places too much burden on the city. While council members have generally supported Metro’s North Hollywood to Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Project (BRT), they raised concerns about its impact on traffic and parking after the project was introduced in 2018. The Council has instead asked to have the BRT intermingle with traffic while on Olive, avoiding reconstruction of street layout.
David Kriske, Community Development Department assistant director for transportation, told council members that Metro needs to complete a final environmental impact report on the route before bringing it to the Metro board in January. The Council is scheduled to provide more input on the project at its Jan. 11 meeting.
If the Metro board approves the project, construction would begin in 2023, with the BRT starting operation in 2024. Burbank would also need to issue permits to Metro for the route, Kriske said.
“We do have ultimate control over our streets,” he added.
Kriske and council members also pointed out that the Olive segment of the bus route where Metro wants a dedicated lane — between Buena Vista Street and Lake Street — is only about 1.3 miles long. There is not much congestion on that street, Kriske said, and having an exclusive lane will not save much time.
“Our position has been that, given the major local impacts that that bus lane incurs on the city for the relatively small travel savings, why sacrifice this whole project … when we can get a really good project that functions as we need it?” Kriske said.
In a presentation to the Burbank community in October, Metro officials said that converting a travel lane into a dedicated bus lane would divert 23% to 37% of traffic from Olive to other local streets, but that neighboring streets could accommodate the increase. They also noted that the BRT is projected to reduce overall travel times by 24% to 29% compared to existing bus services.
Burbank’s portion of the corridor would begin at the 134 Freeway exit on Alameda Avenue, then moving on to Buena Vista and across Olive Avenue. The bus line would continue into Downtown Burbank before turning east on Glenoaks Boulevard toward Glendale.
But it is the Olive section that has attracted concerns from community members worried that removing street parking would adversely affect residents and businesses. Metro proposed instead converting a travel lane on each side of the street, though the city has opposed that idea, too.
Council members encouraged community members to share their opinions with Metro representatives. Mayor Bob Frutos expressed frustration that Metro had not considered the perspective of the Saint Finbar Church and Parish School, located along the stretch of Olive that would be affected.
“For a dedicated bus that’s only going 1.3 miles in our city, we’re going to disrupt the whole city?” Frutos said. “No!”
Roselle Azar, principal of Saint Finbar Parish School, said she was sympathetic to the intentions of the project. But, she added, the school and church already have limited parking — losing street parking would make things worse.
“It would definitely make it hard on our community,” she said. “But at the same time I understand where they want to improve the transportation system.”
For more information about the North Hollywood to Pasadena transit corridor, visit metro.net/projects/noho-pasadena-corridor.