Eagle Rock Remains A Bus Lane Battleground As Metro Takes Step To Put Project On Colorado Boulevard
After years of study and community meetings, transit planners with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority are set to present their recommendation for a North Hollywood-to-Pasadena bus line to agency leaders.
If approved by Metro’s board Thursday, staff would begin drafting a final environmental impact report — taking more community feedback and studying refinement options — with hopes for the official greenlight from agency leaders this summer.
The goal of the Bus Rapid Transit project, or BRT, is to offer faster, more reliable bus service on the highly traveled corridor linking the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.
Metro’s thinking goes something like this: more L.A. county commuters would take the bus if they were faster and more reliable. But buses are slow because they’re stuck in the same traffic as cars. So create dedicated, car-free lanes and bus travel will improve.
The Measure M-funded project crosses four local jurisdictions and includes a mix of designs and lane configurations. It would create bus-only lanes for a majority of the route by reconfiguring streets, in some places by removing medians, parking and vehicle travel lanes. The proposals also include improved bike lanes and pedestrian safety features.
Where Would The Route Go?
Similar to the Orange Line (now the G Line) in the San Fernando Valley, BRT functions like “light rail on wheels” as Metro staff members describe it, with rail-like platform stations, dedicated bus lanes for most of the route, and priority at intersections.
But unlike the G Line, which runs entirely on a dedicated busway from the North Hollywood station to the Chatsworth station, the NoHo-to-Pasadena BRT concept is a complex blend of bus-only lanes, segments on the 134 Freeway, and mixed in with regular traffic on surface streets.
Here’s a basic breakdown of how and where it would go, based on the latest refinements from Metro:
- The route begins at Metro’s North Hollywood Station as a short side-running segment along Chandler Boulevard
- South on Vineland Avenue in a center-running configuration to Lankershim Boulevard
- Lankershim to the 134 onramp, taking the bus into Burbank and exiting at Pass Avenue
- The bus would head south briefly, then turn northeast on Olive Avenue in a curb-running configuration
- East on Alameda Avenue for a station stop, then north on Buena Vista Street before getting back on Olive and continuing northeast to downtown Burbank (all as curb-running)
- Southeast on Glenoaks Boulevard, initially in mixed-flow before transitioning to a median-running configuration
- South on Central Avenue in side-running configuration into downtown Glendale
- East along Broadway in side-running configuration
- Broadway enters Eagle Rock neighborhood and merges into Colorado Boulevard
- Project planners propose to start with a side-running configuration on Colorado, then transition into a center-running configuration at Eagle Rock Boulevard (there’s two options for what that configuration would look like, which we’ll explain later)
- Continue east on Colorado, then take the 134 onramp at Linda Rosa Avenue
- Bus takes the 134 into Pasadena, exits at Fair Oaks Boulevard and heads south in mixed-flow traffic
- East on Walnut Avenue, then south on Raymond Avenue, with a stop near the Gold (L) Line station at Memorial Park
- Continue south to Colorado Boulevard
- East on Colorado to Pasadena City College, where the route ends at Hill Avenue
Metro planners have mostly settled on the route design for the sections in North Hollywood and Pasadena, and made a few modifications to the sections in Burbank and Glendale. But Eagle Rock presents “a challenge,” said project manager Scott Hartwell, in part because of the many design options Colorado Boulevard allows.
“There's so much right-of-way; there's so much going on between the medians, the parking, the bike lanes, and some of these new planned curb extensions that the city of L.A. is going to be putting in ... there's a lot of different ways that the BRT could be designed,” Hartwell told me recently. “Overall there's a lot of support for putting the BRT on Colorado, it's just a matter of how we do that.”
How They Came Up With The Route
Some opponents of the plan for bus lanes on Colorado called for Metro to put the route on the 134 north of Eagle Rock. Agency staff did study that idea, but ruled it out, citing low ridership projections and a lack of transit connectivity.
Metro staff estimates the total “end-to-end” travel time — meaning a bus ride all the way from North Hollywood to Pasadena or vice versa — would be one hour and 6 minutes.
Hartwell and his team also studied travel patterns through the corridor, which included both vehicle and transit commutes. They found that about a third of trips were end-to-end, while the majority of commuters traveled within the corridor, not through it.
“As this evolved, it became more apparent that, really, the primary goal should be to connect some of these key destinations and activity centers within the corridor, as opposed to maybe focusing on the fastest end-to-end time,” Hartwell said.
That includes stops at or near the North Hollywood Arts District, Burbank Media District, Glendale Galleria, Americana at Brand, Eagle Rock Plaza, Occidental College, Old Pasadena and Pasadena City College. The route also links up Metro’s Orange (G), Red (B) and Gold (L) lines.
Eventually the buses will be electric — part of Metro’s goal of a zero-emission fleet by 2030 — though the route might start out with natural gas buses.
Metro staff projects the route would open in 2024.
Options And Divisions In Eagle Rock
Metro has two design concepts for Colorado Boulevard east of Eagle Rock Boulevard through the heart of the neighborhood. Both feature a center-running route, but take different approaches on how to reconfigure the roadway to do that.
One design option, known as Refined F1, would convert one travel lane in each direction into bus lanes. It would include buffered bike lanes, preserve some street parking and keep medians mostly intact.
The second option would create bus-only lanes in each direction and keep the existing two travel lanes for cars in place, but as a result greatly reduces on-street parking and landscaped medians.
Metro’s single-car-lane option incorporated design ideas recommended by Beautiful Boulevard, a coalition of Eagle Rock residents, business owners, bus riders, cyclists and transit advocates who support dedicated bus lanes on the street. Their proposal has garnered support from elected officials, including L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, LAUSD Board Member Jackie Goldberg and state Assembly members Wendy Carrillo and Laura Friedman.
The group’s design idea was an effort to preserve as much of the existing on-street parking and medians as possible. Coalition member and Eagle Rock resident Natalie Freidberg called it a “compromise” that will benefit local businesses by creating “an opportunity for people to linger” on the boulevard.
“Right now people go there, they park, they go into the business they need to go to, they drive away; it's not really the nicest place to hang out,” she said. “When you talk to business owners, I've been told by a number of them: ‘Yeah, with this much traffic going by, it's not the nicest place to sit outside.’ A lot more people are doing outdoor dining now than ever have before, and that's going to stay.”
The project has been an existential battle in Eagle Rock for years (and it’s not the only neighborhood split by a bus project). Some welcome it as a transit upgrade that will improve safety and provide viable, clean travel options for residents and workers — and attract more patrons to local businesses. Others are adamantly opposed to taking away space for vehicle drivers to travel or park and feel Metro hasn’t taken concerns from car-centric homeowners seriously.
The debate quickly turned ugly online, pitting community members against each other and stirring animosity about who counts as a true “stakeholder.”
One pro-BRT resident I spoke with asked not to be named, fearing more harassment and intimidation. They said they’ve been screamed at in public meetings, targeted on social media and threatened with vague lawsuits for supporting the project. They’ve also had their status as an Eagle Rock resident questioned.
“There's a portion of the community that's very, very concerned about change, and whether they're anti-anything-but-change is up to anyone's interpretation,” Freidberg said. “But change makes them uncomfortable and the status quo makes them comfortable.”
She also said there’s no shortage of rumors and misinformation about the BRT project online, which is stoking some residents’ anger into “some unsavory comments towards some of us.”
New City Councilmember Weighs In
Eagle Rock is part of L.A. Council District 14, but for most of the BRT project’s study period, its representative on the City Council was M.I.A.
As Metro board member Ara Najarian framed it at last week’s Planning and Programming Committee meeting, there “were issues” with former L.A. City Council member José Huizar “that restricted a robust involvement in this process.”
That’s a delicate way of saying that Huizar was investigated and eventually arrested by the FBI as part of a federal probe into corruption at City Hall. Federal prosecutors say Huizar led a "criminal enterprise" from his council seat in a scandal that resulted in indictments of another former city councilman, city staffers and lobbyists. Before his arrest, Huizar largely retreated from council duties, lost his committee seats and was later suspended by the City Council. He never resigned, but was termed out of office in 2020.
Eagle Rock and the rest of CD 14 are now represented by Kevin de León, who was seated in October. Last week, de León released a statement in opposition to moving forward with the BRT plan, calling on Metro to hold in-person meetings “to allow the community to understand the options.”
The council member mentioned the Beautiful Boulevard coalition and expressed concern that Metro is rushing the single-car-lane or Refined F1 option through without proper community outreach.
“I applaud the efforts of the community members behind Beautiful Boulevard for their outreach and initiative but it is inappropriate for Metro to attempt to use this work to fulfill Metro’s own obligation to engage the Eagle Rock community,” he wrote.
Metro spokesperson Brian Haas clarified to LAist that the agency’s Refined F1 option “has elements of the Beautiful Boulevard plan,” but is “not the precise plan they submitted to us.”
“I think there’s a lot of confusion that Metro is pushing forward the entire Beautiful Boulevard concept alone,” Haas said. “We’re not. We’ve incorporated some of the elements into one of two options for that stretch of Colorado Boulevard, but [are] looking to carry both of those options forward to the next stage in the process.”
De León also asked Metro to add an option for Colorado Boulevard that would maintain two lanes for cars while also keeping bike lanes and curb extensions. One of the two options approved by Metro’s planning committee last week fulfills that request, according to an official from de León's office.
Haas said the agency has held roughly two dozen meetings on the project since 2018, not including “popup community events, presentations, briefings and technical working groups.”
“Metro has made and will continue to make community and stakeholder outreach and engagement a priority,” Haas told LAist. “Our plans have always been to have additional outreach and feedback opportunities as we work toward the Final EIR.”
‘We Are Moving Into A Transit Era’
The Metro committee took up the BRT options last Wednesday and also heard a fair share of public comment on the project.
Some who are opposed to bus-only lanes on Colorado expressed fear that taking away car lanes will lead to traffic backups and cause drivers to cut through on nearby residential streets. Several commenters asked that Metro launch a 21-day demonstration study, using cones to reduce vehicle lanes and analyze the impact on traffic.
Metro board member and County Supervisor Hilda Solis suggested project staff could look into such a traffic test, though not necessarily for 21 days.
Board member and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin spoke in favor of continuing community engagement with equity in mind. He suggested outreach in multiple languages and “harassment-free meetings” scheduled at times when more community members might be able to attend.
“We have to listen to the community and we also have to make sure we fulfill our commitments that this board has made to listening to our passengers and putting riders first,” he said.
Committee Vice Chair Ara Najarian, who also serves on Glendale’s City Council, argued there’s been abundant engagement — and it’s time to move forward.
“Let's be honest: not everyone's excited about it,” he said. “There are those that don't want to give up a lane of [car] travel — and I understand that — but we are moving into a transit era and we have to put a focus on transit. In the Eagle Rock area, on the Colorado Boulevard route, you can either have two lanes and no parking, or you can have parking and one lane.”