The first part of a planned 12 and a half mile bus lane from South Park View Street to Western Avenue opened Tuesday.
The bus-only express lane will start in downtown Los Angeles near the MacArthur Park area, travel through Koreatown and eventually expand into Santa Monica.
The bus lane will only be active on weekdays from 7 - 9 a.m. and 4 - 7 p.m. During those times, cars can enter the lane only to turn right. During non rush-hour times, cars can use the lane as usual.
Paul Gonzales, media relations officer for Metro, says Wilshire Boulevard is the most heavily traveled transportation corridor in all of Los Angeles County.
"Wilshire Boulevard is our busiest and most important bus quarter in the county," said Gonzales. "We have 53,000 people board the bus every day and 44 percent of those people board during the peak hours."
Metro officials have seen similar projects done in big cities like Chicago, New York and Boston. They say the results have been dramatic when it comes to commute times.
Gonzales says bus passenger travel times are expected to improve by an average of 24 percent. The bus lane is expected to reduce congestion during peak hours and shorten bus commute times by up to 15 minutes.
The express lane will run from Valencia Street on the east to the Santa Monica city line and Centinela Avenue.
Wilshire Boulevard will also undergo a selected makeover for the project including restripping of traffic lanes, selective street widening and other street improvements.
"Anybody who drives up Wilshire Boulevard knows how difficult it can be sometimes but it's getting the care it deserves after all these years and all this work that it does for us," said Gonzales.
The remaining segments of the $32 million project are estimated to be completed by November 2014.
For more information on the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project, visit www.metro.net/projects/wilshire.