El Monte Busway
I-10 ExpressLanes
LAC & USC Med. Center Metro Silver Line Station- 6.JPG
Metro J Line bus running east on the El Monte Busway stops at LA County+USC Medical Center station
Overview
SystemBusway & High-occupancy toll lanes
OperatorLos Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA)
Began serviceJanuary 1973; 49 years ago (1973-01)
Routes
Routes
LocaleLos Angeles County, California
StartEl Monte Station
EndUnion Station
Length12 miles (19 km)
Stations4

The El Monte Busway (also known as the I-10 ExpressLanes) is a 12-mile (19 km) shared-use express bus corridor (busway) and high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes running along Interstate 10 between Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles and Interstate 605 or El Monte Station in El Monte, California. Buses also make intermediate stops at Cal State LA station and LA County+USC Medical Center station. The busway opened in January 1973 to buses only, three-person carpools were allowed to enter in 1976, and the facility was converted to HOT lanes as part of the Metro ExpressLanes project on February 22, 2013.

The El Monte Busway is used by two bus rapid transit routes: the J Line, operated by Metro and the Silver Streak, operated by Foothill Transit. It is also used by several Metro Express and Foothill Transit bus services, most of which only run during weekday peak periods.

The busway now carries 16,000 bus passengers per day with 49 buses using the system each hour at peak times[1] and was described by the United States Department of Transportation as one of the most successful HOV facilities in the country in 2002.[2]

History

Main article: History of Los Angeles Metro Rail and Busway

Construction

El Monte Busway under construction in 1972
El Monte Busway under construction in 1972

The El Monte Busway was conceived in 1969 as a way to allow travelers to avoid traffic on Interstate 10 (San Bernardino Freeway), promising an 18-minute trip between El Monte and Downtown Los Angeles, compared to 35-45 minutes in the general-purpose lanes.[3] The project was developed jointly by the California Department of Public Works, Division of Highways (a predecessor of today's Caltrans) and the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) (a predecessor of today's Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority).[4] The 53 million dollar project was paid with federal, state and SCRTD funding and was also intended to be an experiment testing the feasibility of joint highway-bus operations and to increase the overall people-carrying capacity of freeway corridors.[3]

The project was built in a right of way located north of and in the median of the freeway that was owned by Southern Pacific Railroad who purchased it from the bankrupt Pacific Electric streetcar system.[5] In exchange for giving up part of their property, Southern Pacific would get new tracks capable of handling heavier freight loads compared to the old streetcar tracks.[5] The project would also include a viaduct in El Monte to elevate Southern Pacific trains as they moved between the area near the east end of the busway to the mainline tracks near the present-day El Monte Metrolink station.[4]

The formal groundbreaking for the El Monte Busway took place on January 21, 1972.[6]

The El Monte Busway opened in stages, with the seven-mile eastern segment between Interstate 710 (then-signed as SR 7) and Santa Anita Avenue opening in January 1973.[7] The El Monte station near the Santa Anita Avenue terminus would open later on July 14, 1973.[3] The eastern section is located in the median of Interstate 10, with only paint lines separating traffic on the busway from the general-purpose lanes. Railroad tracks are also located in the median, separated from vehicle traffic with concrete barriers.

The western segment has a unique design that took longer to build. Traveling from east to west, a flyover ramp near Interstate 710 moves the lanes north of Interstate 10 to a station near California State University, Los Angeles. Just west of Cal State LA station, the westbound busway lanes crossover the eastbound lanes, reversing the normal placement of the lanes.[8] The reversed lanes allow buses to serve a single island platform station at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center but prevent vehicles from entering the busway from the general-purpose lanes of Interstate 10 in the eastbound direction.[7]

The LAC+USC Medical Center station was completed in November 1974, the four-mile western segment between Mission Avenue in Los Angeles and Interstate 710 was completed in January 1975, and the Cal State LA station was finished in February 1975.[7] The entire 11-mile busway was dedicated on February 18, 1975.[9]

The El Monte was extended to its present length of 12 miles in 1989 with the opening of a one-mile extension from Mission Road to Alameda Street near Los Angeles Union Station.[2]

Opening to carpools

The busway was opened to vehicles with three or more occupants during the 1974 Southern California Rapid Transit District strike, which lasted 68 days between August and October.[7] In 1976, the busway was converted into a shared-use express bus corridor and high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, with carpools and vanpools with three or more occupants permitted during peak hours only. HOV access was extended to weekends in 1977 and 24 hours a day in 1981.[10] Opening the busway to HOVs had only minimal impact on bus running time and transit ridership remained stable.[7]

The requirement that vehicles must have three or more occupants left the El Monte Busway out of alignment with California's other HOV lanes, which generally required only two or more occupants. State senator Hilda Solis (D-La Puente) authored State Bill 63, [11] which would lower the occupancy requirement from three occupants to two for a 24-month experiment starting January 1, 2000, hoping it would increase carpool rates. Despite opposition from Caltrans, Foothill Transit and the Southern California Transit Advocates (a transit users' organization), the bill was passed the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Gray Davis on July 1999.

The experiment was a disaster, journey times increased by 20 to 30 minutes as speeds on the busway dropped from 65 mph (105 km/h) to 20 mph (32 km/h) which was slower than the general-purpose lanes of Interstate 10 where speeds also dropped from 25 mph (40 km/h) to 23 mph (37 km/h).[2] The change generated over 1,000 complaints to government agencies from bus riders and prior carpoolers.[12] Solis at first defended the change,[12] but by May, she supported Assembly Bill 769,[13] which would rescind the change and restore the higher occupancy requirement during peak hours,[14] which passed and took effect in July 2000.[2] However, the lower two occupant requirement remained during off-peak hours and weekends.

Conversion to bus rapid transit and high occupancy toll

In the early 1990s, Caltrans built another busway in Los Angeles County, the Harbor Transitway from Los Angeles south to the new Harbor Gateway Transit Center. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) staff recognized that there was an opportunity to link the operationally similar Harbor Transitway and El Monte Busway, even suggesting to Caltrans that a direct connection be built between the two busways.[15]: 3  In 1998, Metro studied the extension but found it expensive and technically challenging, and to date, there have been no further efforts to connect the busways directly.[16] Ahead of the 1996 opening of the Harbor Transitway, Metro staff studied how to operate its buses on the new facility. In 1993, they recommended the creation of a dual hub-and-spoke ("dual hub") system with a trunk route that served both the Harbor Transitway and the El Monte Busway and the El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway Transit Center serving as hubs. Ultimately, the Metro Board of Directors decided to continue running bus routes on both the El Monte Busway and Harbor Freeway as they had before.[17]

After the very successful launch of the Orange Line (now G Line), a new busway in the San Fernando Valley, Metro decided to rebrand the county's other busways in an attempt to increase awareness.[18] In March 2006, Metro decided that the Harbor Transitway would be colored bronze and the El Monte Busway would be colored silver on Metro's maps, and the two would be marketed as a "Combined Transitway Service." No changes were made in the operations of the bus routes operated on the lines. The changes were criticized as being difficult to understand for irregular and new riders.[19]

The first bus rapid transit route came to the El Monte Busway in 2007 when Foothill Transit introduced the Silver Streak. The line replaced Foothill Transit route 480, the agency's busiest line. The Silver Streak used higher-capacity vehicles and eliminated many of the off-freeway deviations and minor stops on Line 480.[20]

Metro returned to its plan for a dual-hub route in 2009, proposing a new bus rapid transit service called the Silver Line (now J Line) utilizing both the El Monte Busway and the Harbor Transitway. The new higher frequency service would be funded by converting both corridors into high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, to be branded as the Metro ExpressLanes. The Silver Line began operations on December 13, 2009, with Metro planning to refurbish the aging stations along both corridors over the coming years. The eastern section of the El Monte Busway, between Interstate 710 and El Monte was restriped to create two HOT lanes in each direction. The electronic toll collection equipment for the HOT lanes on the Harbor Transitway went into service on November 10, 2012.[21] The El Monte Busway's HOT lanes opened on February 22, 2013.[22]

Entrance to rebuilt El Monte station
Entrance to rebuilt El Monte station

By 2010, the El Monte Station has become one of the busiest bus terminals west of Chicago, with 22,000 boardings daily as of 2010.[23] Starting in 2010, the old station was demolished and replaced in October 2012 with a new station capable of handling up to 40,000 passengers per day.[24]

In January 2015, the Cal State LA and LA County+USC Medical Center stations were temporarily closed for one month for refurbishment and stairway and light replacement.[25]

Transit Access Pass (TAP) card ticket vending machines were added to most stations in early 2017 to support all-door boarding on the Silver Line.[26] Pre-payment of fares and all-door boarding reduces the time buses need to remain stopped at stations.[27]

On November 1, 2020, a new transitway was opened at Patsaouras Transit Plaza to serve Union Station, funded in part by Metro ExpressLanes toll revenue.[28] The station was originally scheduled to open in 2015, but project delays had pushed the opening back.[29]

Entrances and exits

El Monte Busway can only be entered and exited at a few points.[30][7]

Westbound entrances are at I-605 (from Interstate 10), Santa Anita Avenue (from Interstate 10), El Monte Station (buses only), Del Mar Avenue (ramp from street level), Fremont Avenue (from Interstate 10), and I-710 (buses from southbound I-710 only).

Westbound exits are at Santa Anita Avenue (to Interstate 10), Fremont Avenue (to Interstate 10), US 101, and Alameda Street

Eastbound entrances are at Alameda Street, Fremont Avenue (from Interstate 10), and Rosemead Boulevard/SR 19 (from Interstate 10)

Eastbound exits are at I-710 (buses to northbound I-710 only), Fremont Avenue (to Interstate 10), Del Mar Avenue (ramp to street level), Rosemead Boulevard/SR 19 (to Interstate 10), El Monte Station (buses only), and I-605 (to Interstate 10).

Tolls

As of October 2020, the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes are a 24/7 service. Solo drivers are tolled using a variable pricing system based on the time of day. For two-person carpools, they are charged the posted toll during the peak hours between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.; no toll is charged during off-peak hours. Carpools with three or more occupants have toll-free access at all times.[31] All tolls are collected using an open road tolling system, and therefore there are no toll booths to receive cash. Each vehicle using the HOT lanes is required to carry a FasTrak Flex transponder, with its switch set to indicate the number of the vehicle's occupants (1, 2, or 3 or more).[31]

Bus services

A mix of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Foothill Transit bus services utilize the El Monte Busway to operate between Downtown Los Angeles and various points in the San Gabriel Valley and Pomona Valley, as well as the San Bernardino County cities of Chino and Montclair.

Two bus rapid transit routes utilize the El Monte Busway: the J Line, operated by LA Metro and the Silver Streak, operated by Foothill Transit. These routes offer frequent service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Metro and Foothill Transit offer a reciprocal fare program where pass holders may ride either J Line or Silver Streak buses between Downtown Los Angeles and the El Monte Station.[32]

The El Monte Busway is also used by Metro Express 487 and 489 along with Foothill Transit 490, 493, 495, 498, 499, and 699. Metro Express 487 operates all-day, seven days a week; the rest only run during weekday peak periods.

List of stations

The El Monte Busway has four stations served by the Metro J Line, the Silver Streak and is also served by Metro Express and Foothill Transit buses. The stations from west to east are:

Station Busway Services Major connections and notes
Union Station
Connects with  B Line,  D Line,  L Line, Amtrak, LAX FlyAway and Metrolink
Paid parking: 3,000 stalls
LA County+USC Medical Center
    •  J Line: 910, 950
    • Metro Bus: Express 487, Express 489
    • Foothill Transit: Silver Streak, 490, 493, 495, 498, 499, 699
Cal State LA
    •  J Line: 910, 950
    • Metro Bus: Express 487, Express 489
    • Foothill Transit: Silver Streak, 490, 493, 495, 498, 499, 699
Connects with Metrolink (California) San Bernardino Line
El Monte Station
    •  J Line: 910, 950
    • Foothill Transit: Silver Streak
Park and ride: 1,287 stalls

References

  1. ^ Moore, James E.; et al. "Planning and Markets II. Alternative Transit Options".
  2. ^ a b c d Turnbull, Katherine F. (June 2002). "Executive Report. Effects of Changing HOV Lane occupancy requirements: El Monte Busway Case Study". Texas Transportation Institute, Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "40 Years Ago This Week: Groundbreaking For El Monte Busway — California's First Multi-Modal System & The World's First Bus Rapid Transit Station". Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive. January 24, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Draft Environmental Statement of Proposed Express Busway on the San Bernardino Freeway" (PDF). California Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, Southern California Rapid Transit District. January 1971. Retrieved November 29, 2020 – via Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive.
  5. ^ a b "Red Car Tracks Come Up To Make Way For Busway" (PDF). RTD Flyer. February 11, 1972. p. 1. Retrieved November 29, 2020 – via Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive.
  6. ^ "El Monte-Los Angeles Busway Groundbreaking Marks New Era For RTD" (PDF). RTD Flyer. January 28, 1972. pp. 1–3. Retrieved November 29, 2020 – via Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Hillmer, Jon; Parry, Stephen T. (June 5, 1994). The El Monte Busway: A Twenty-Year Retrospective (PDF) (Report). Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved November 30, 2020 – via Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive.
  8. ^ "From Dream to Reality El Monte-Los Angeles Busway" (PDF). Southern California Rapid Transit District. 1975. Retrieved November 30, 2020 – via Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive.
  9. ^ "February 18: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History". Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive. December 29, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  10. ^ "El Monte Busway". Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive. May 2, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  11. ^ "Preferential vehicle lanes: occupancy level: State Highway Route 10". Senate Bill No. 63 of July 23, 1999. California State Legislature.
  12. ^ a b Shuit, Douglas P. (January 22, 2000). "Easing of Carpool Rules Backfires as Lanes Jam". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
  13. ^ "Vehicles: preferential vehicle lanes". Assembly Bill No. 769 of July 3, 2000. California State Legislature.
  14. ^ Shuit, Douglas P. (May 17, 2000). "Bill to Restore El Monte Busway Moves Forward". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
  15. ^ "Dual Hub High Occupancy Vehicle Transitway Report" (PDF). Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Scheduling and Operations Planning Staff. August 1993.
  16. ^ Gabbard, Dana (June 24, 2010). "Busway Linkage Obsession Puzzler". Streetsblog Los Angeles. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  17. ^ Radcliffe, Jim (June 27, 1996). "Harbor Transitway opens, reducing congestion - Impact felt during evening commute". Daily Breeze. p. A3 – via NewsBank.
  18. ^ Emsden, Maya (March 16, 2006). "Approve color designations for Metro lines and fixed guideways" (PDF). Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
  19. ^ Freemark, Yonah (December 10, 2009). "Los Angeles Integrates Service on Two Busways, with Plans to Implement Congestion Pricing". The Transport Politic. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  20. ^ Gutierrez, Nisha (September 28, 2007). "Foothill Transit's Silver Streak Set to Launch". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved November 30, 2020 – via Mass Transit.
  21. ^ Kudler, Adrian Glick (November 6, 2012). "Everything You Need to Know About New 110 and 10 Toll Lanes". Curbed LA. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  22. ^ Pamer, Melissa (February 22, 2013). "Metro ExpressLanes to Open on San Bernardino (10) Freeway". KNBC. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  23. ^ Hymon, Steve (April 13, 2010). "El Monte bus station work begins next week". The Source. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  24. ^ "Projects and programs: El Monte Station". Project Schedule Construction start date: September 2010 Anticipated completion date: Late Summer 2012
  25. ^ Hinton, Lexi (February 5, 2015). "El Monte Busway Stations reopen after month long construction project". The Source. Metro. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  26. ^ "Universal Fare System Contract Modification". Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. April 1, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  27. ^ "All-Door Boarding". Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  28. ^ "Metro announces bus plaza, pedestrian bridge to open Sunday at Union Station". Los Angeles Daily News. City News Service. October 30, 2020. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  29. ^ McCarty Carino, Meghan (January 2, 2017). "Metro starts work on pedestrian bridge at LA's Union Station". KPCC. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  30. ^ "Metro ExpressLanes Entry and Exit Locations" (PDF). 2013. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  31. ^ a b "Using Metro ExpressLanes". www.metroexpresslanes.net. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  32. ^ "Silver Streak to the J Line (Metro Silver)". Foothill Transit. Retrieved December 1, 2020.