The El Monte Busway is an 11-mile (18 km) shared-use bus corridor (transitway) and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane running west along Interstate 10 (San Bernardino Freeway) from Interstate 605 and El Monte Station in El Monte, California, via transitway stations at California State University Metro Station, USC Medical Center Metro Station into Downtown Los Angeles and its terminus at Union Station.
Together with the Harbor Transitway it forms a key part of the Metro Silver Line bus rapid transit line which is one of Metro Transitway lines. The busway is also served by three Metro Express routes and several Foothill Transit bus services which nearly all of the routes only run on weekday peak periods. The busway now carries 16,000 bus passengers per day with 49 buses using the system each hour at peak times and was described by the United States Department of Transportation as one of the most successful HOV facilities in the country in 2002. The Metrolink San Bernardino Line runs parallel to the El Monte Busway for almost its entire length.
The busway, which opened in 1973 for buses only was extended to three-person carpools in 1976. The Metro Silver Line was introduced on December 13, 2009 and the El Monte Station was rebuilt to double capacity to 40,000 passengers by late 2012. Along with the Harbor Transitway, the busway was upgraded to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes as part of the Metro ExpressLanes project in February 2013. A new station for the Metro Silver Line will be constructed at Patsaouras Transit Plaza close to Union Station and the current street stop at the entrance to the El Monte Busway/Alameda Street will be removed once the new station is completed; the project was originally scheduled to open in 2015, but project delays have pushed back its projected opening until late 2016.
When the busway opened in 1973 it was exclusively for the use of buses. It was made available to private cars with three or more occupants for three months during the 1974 Southern California Rapid Transit District strike which lasted 68 days. Carpools with three or more occupants were then permitted to use the busway during peak hours starting in 1976 and then also at weekends from 1977 and 24 hours a day from 1981. A one-mile extension into central Los Angeles opened in 1989.
Construction of the Harbor Transitway shared-use bus corridor in the median of Interstate 110 was approved in 1987 and was completed in 1995. In 1993 plans for a high frequency 'dual-hub' service were proposed which would operate along both busways between El Monte Bus Station in the east via downtown to the Harbor Gateway Transit Center in the south with buses very 2–3 minutes and a total journey time of about 60 minutes. A lack of funding meant that a service of this type was not introduced until December 2009.
State bill 63 lowered the carpool occupancy requirement from three occupants to two on 1 January 2000. This was intended to be a 24-month experiment but it was cancelled after only 6 months in which period there had been a large increase in the number of vehicles using the lane, greatly increased journey-times and reduced average vehicle occupancy. Over this time speeds on the busway dropped from 65 mph (105 km/h) to 20 mph (32 km/h) and journey times increased by 20–30 minutes making it slower than the regular lanes where speeds dropped from 25 mph (40 km/h) to 23 mph (37 km/h). Accident rates on the busway increased significantly from zero in the six months before the experiment to five during the experiment. Foothill Transit needed to hire more drivers and stage more buses to provide busway service and the change generated over 1,000 complaints to government agencies.
The above bill had been proposed by senator Hilda Solis and authorized by Governor Gray Davis on July 1999 and was supported many cities hoping that carpool rates would increase but had been opposed by Caltrans, Foothill Transit and the Southern California Transit Advocates (a transit users' organization). As a result of the increased congestion an emergency measure (Bill 769) was passed in July 2000 to terminate the experiment during peak hours raising the occupancy required to three occupants or more between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, in both directions. On weekends and at other times, the two occupant rule remains. This bill was supported by Hilda Solis who had proposed the original bill. Motorcycles, clean fueled vehicles, hybrid vehicles (with the appropriate sticker), and buses (with or without passengers) are allowed on the busway at all times. The busway was however still congested during peak hours and heavily congested just before and after peak hours.
The Metro Silver Line operates between the El Monte Bus Station and the Harbor Gateway Transit Center via downtown Los Angeles using the El Monte Busway and the Harbor Busways which started operation on December 13, 2009 and ridership on both busways has steady increased. Frequencies for the Metro Silver Line have improved as a result of the increased ridership demands.
The El Monte Station was rebuilt to double its capacity to 40,000 passengers as part of the Metro ExpressLanes project. Work began in September 2010 and was completed in October 2012.
In January 2015, the Cal State L.A. and LAC + USC Medical Center stations were temporarily closed for one month to replace stairways and lights.
The bus/HOV lanes were converted to high-occupancy toll lanes in February 2013 as part of the Metro ExpressLanes project, allowing low occupancy vehicles to use the lanes on payment of a fee which will vary dynamically with traffic levels. Vehicles with 2 occupants will charged a dynamic fee during peak hours but not at other times. Vehicles with 3 or more people will be able to use the lanes without charge at all times, but must have obtained a Fastrak transponder in advance to do so without being stopped and/or cited. Also as part of this project, an additional lane was added, resulting in nine miles of two HOT lanes in each direction from I-605 to I-710 and one HOT lane in each direction from I-710 to Alameda Street.
Other elements of the Metro ExpressLanes project relevant to the busway include:100 New Metro Vanpools
A new transit station is to be built at Patsaouras Transit Plaza to serve Union Station as part of the Metro ExpressLanes project. To avoid impacting the ExpressLanes demonstration, the station's construction was delayed, which was followed by further unplanned delays, and the new Patsaouras Plaza busway station is not due to be open until late 2016 at the earliest.
Bus service operates from Downtown Los Angeles to various points in the San Gabriel Valley and Pomona Valley, as well as the San Bernardino County cities of Chino and Montclair. Foothill Transit Line 481 continues to Koreatown to the Wilshire/Western station of the Metro Purple Line. The Metro Silver Line is the only bus line to operate on both the Harbor and El Monte Busways.
Bus services are provided with a mix of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Foothill Transit buses.
Foothill Transit's Silver Streak operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week; all other Foothill Transit routes operate weekdays only in the peak direction. Metro Express Line 489 operates weekdays only in the peak direction, line 487 and the Silver Line operate seven days a week. Hours vary for each line. On August 2012, Metro added one additional late night trip for the Metro Silver Line each direction on Fridays and Saturdays. The trip was added as a result of Metro's successful late night service on the rail lines: Metro Red Line, Metro Purple Line, Metro Green Line, Metro Gold Line, Metro Blue Line, Metro Expo Line and Metro's other transitway line: Metro Orange Line.
The fare structure differs between Metro Silver Line, Metro Express, Foothill Transit's Silver Streak, Foothill Transit Line 481, and Foothill Transit's Commuter Express. Fares vary based on the destination. Metro Silver Line charges $2.45 on the busway regardless of the trip length. For Metro Express Lines: 485, 487 & 489 the base fare of $1.75 is applied for passengers not traveling east of Cal State L.A. Station. Before the Metro Silver Line was implemented, former Metro Express Lines: 483, 484, and 490 charged $1.25 for the base fare for passengers not traveling east of the Cal State LA Station. Since the opening of the Metro Silver Line, Metro has been working with Foothill Transit to have each agency's pass accepted on the Metro Silver Line and Foothill Transit's Silver Streak. On October 2012, an agreement was reached with Foothill Transit to lower the Silver Streak's base fare from $2.50 to $2.45 and accept Metro's passes. Metro would begin accepting Foothill Transit's passes for the Metro Silver Line. As a result of the Foothill Transit-Metro "Silver2Silver" program, the Silver Streak also charges a $2.45 fare for all trips. The fare for Line 481 is $2.75, regardless of trip length. Commuter Express fares are $4.90. Metro and Foothill Transit's "Silver2Silver" program is only applied between the El Monte Station and Downtown Los Angeles. This is the only segment where both the Metro Silver Line and Foothill's Silver Streak run together. To make up Foothill Transit's loss of lowering the Silver Streak fare, Metro will pay Foothill Transit from subsidies coming from the Metro Express Lanes project. The year-long promotion will run through October 2013. During the time in between Metro and Foothill Transit will determine if the program is successful. If the program is deemed successful, the agreement will become permanent. This may cause Metro to consider doing a fare agreement on the Harbor busway with Torrance Transit, and Gardena Transit.
The El Monte Bus Station is claimed to be the busiest bus terminal west of Chicago, with 22,000 boardings daily.
The carpool lanes of the El Monte Busway can only be entered and exited at a few points. The segment from El Monte to I-710 is demarcated not only with two 'double yellow' lines which are typical of Southern California HOV lanes, but also an approximately 12-foot-wide (3.7 m) asphalt median. The segment west of I-710 into Downtown Los Angeles is on an alignment separate from the regular lanes of the I-10 As part of the ExpressLanes project, this buffer zone was restriped into a travel lane.
Westbound entrances are at I-605, Baldwin Ave. in El Monte, El Monte Bus Station (for buses only), Del Mar Ave. (where motorists take a ramp from street level), and I-710 (for buses only). Westbound exits are at Baldwin Ave., Fremont Ave., I-710, I-5, Vignes St., and Alameda St. Eastbound entrances are at Alameda St., Patsaouras Transit Plaza at Union Station, I-710, and Baldwin Ave. Eastbound exits are at Patsaouras Transit Plaza, I-710 (for buses only), Del Mar Ave. (where motorists take a ramp to street level), Baldwin Ave., and I-605.
The El Monte Busway has three stations and one street stop which is located near Union Station. The current street stop will be removed once the new Silver Line station is opened in late 2016 as part of the Metro Express Lanes project. Metro and Foothill Transit's "Silver 2 Silver" program applies on the entire segment of the El Monte Busway. Metro Silver Line and Metro Express Line: 487 run daily. Metro Express Lines: 485 operates only on weekdays and line 489 operate only on Weekdays peak period in certain directions (peak a.m. to Downtown Los Angeles and peak p.m. to Temple City). Foothill Transit's Silver Streak operates daily. Foothill Transit Lines: 481, 493, 497, 498, 499, 699 operate only during the a.m. and p.m. peak periods in certain directions. In the morning, all of these lines operate to Downtown Los Angeles and in the afternoons, these lines operate towards their destinations in the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.
1 Line 699 has a stop within Patsaouras Transit Plaza at Union Station. All other lines stop at Alameda Street & the El Monte Busway entrance.