To speed up the H.264/MPEG scalable video coding (SVC) encoder, we propose a layer-adaptive intra/inter mode decision algorithm and a motion search scheme for the hierarchical B-frames in SVC with combined coarse-grain quality scalability (CGS) and temporal scalability. To reduce computation but maintain the same level of coding efficiency, we examine the rate-distortion (R-D) performance contributed by different coding modes at the enhancement layers (EL) and the mode conditional probabilities at different temporal layers. For the intra prediction on inter frames, we can reduce the number of Intra4??4/Intra 8??8 prediction modes by 50% or more, based on the reference/base layer intra prediction directions. For the EL inter prediction, the look-up tables containing inter prediction candidate modes are designed to use the macroblock (MB) coding mode dependence and the reference/base layer quantization parameters (Qp). In addition, to avoid checking all motion estimation (ME) reference frames, the base layer (BL) reference frame index is selectively reused. And according to the EL MB partition, the BL motion vector can be used as the initial search point for the EL ME. Compared with Joint Scalable Video Model 9.11, our proposed algorithm provides a 20?? speedup on encoding the EL and an 85% time saving on the entire encoding process with negligible loss in coding efficiency. Moreover, compared with other fast mode decision algorithms, our scheme can demonstrate a 7-41% complexity reduction on the overall encoding process.