Is the new bus lane in Los Angeles confusing, or will it work?

Becca Lewis knows all about navigating the modern street grid, and she’s worked on it almost her entire adult life. That means she’s pretty good at navigating around chaos and poor planning in a transportation system that’s constantly moving.

“It’s just such a maze in L.A.,” Lewis said.

As president of The Alliance for a Regional Transportation Equity (ARTE), which is working to reform and improve transit options in Southern California, she should know about creating convenient routes and making them more visible and audible.

Of all the issues, she said, “The bus lane is probably the most confusing I’ve seen in a long time. I honestly think the approach they took of just plopping the road into place and just putting up a sign was something very obtuse and no thought was given to it.”

Lewis can’t help but share the confusion and frustration that some people express as they navigate L.A.’s urban street grid. Since a project was announced last year to implement a new bus lane along the 3.5-mile stretch of The Esplanade, hundreds of letters to the Times have been submitted criticizing the design and its implementation.

So why the confusion? It’s not just due to the new design itself; people worry that if they’re late for work and pass a bus with a speed restriction of 25 miles per hour, they could be ticketed. They’re also frustrated by what they say is a lack of communication from the MTA — both about the project’s progress and its potential effects on traffic — and from the city of Los Angeles, which they say hasn’t provided enough infrastructure improvements along the corridor.

“For me, it comes down to, with regard to [the bus lane] — how is it going to disrupt traffic, how will it affect people? And you know, right now we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Lewis said.

The MTA said that most of the immediate impact would occur on Thursday and Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. — the hours the new lane will be restricted — and that by Saturday, bus routes would move without delays.

As they move away from the starting line, the MTA is still toying with the redesign, hearing from people who want more space for handicapped parking spots, and being alerted that they’re about to turn a corner on the new lane, in which they might — unknowingly — drive right into a bus stop.

“We’re trying to go slowly but sure,” said Linda Schneider, director of communications for the MTA.

Schneider said that some of the comments and emails The Times has received have “been well received.”

Lewis said that the MTA’s attitude on the project will play a key role in how it will end up in people’s neighborhoods.

“They’re going to have to take the people on this very hard right now. They’re going to have to listen to them and not have [delegation] — listen to all of the stakeholders and communities along this route,” she said.

To that end, Lewis has heard encouraging comments from supporters and opponents alike, encouraging the MTA to use the process carefully and to come back more than once to discuss the whole thing.

“I really think they’re trying to get it right,” she said.

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