Two Red Line trains whisk in and out of Hollywood/Highland station below the world-famous Hollywood Boulevard. Hollywood/Highland serves Red Line trains only and is the last stop on Hollywood Blvd. before outbound trains head north to Studio City and North Hollywood. It is the first stop for inbound trains heading through Downtown LA to Union Station.
Los Angeles has grown from being a city where the landscape has been dominated by car transport, to seeing an impressive renaissance of its once great rail system.
Construction officially began on the Los Angeles County Metro Rail system in 1985. On July 14, 1990, the Blue Line began revenue service and became the first form of urban rail transit to serve Los Angeles since the closure of LA’s last streetcar lines in the 60s and 70s. The route ran from 7th St/Metro Center, in Downtown Los Angeles, to Long Beach.
In 1993, the Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission were merged to become the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, soon to be rebranded as Metro.
That same year, the first stretch of a full-blown underground subway opened, mostly through Downtown Los Angeles, from Union Station to Westlake/MacArthur Park. It was known as the Red Line and Purple Line, soon to branch out and become separate routes in the future.
In 1995, the Green Line opened as the second light rail line to serve the city, and traveled from Norwalk to Redondo Beach. The line connected with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) through a free shuttle that would take you into airport premises.
1999 saw the extension of both the Red Line and Purple Line, finally becoming separate entities. The Red Line was extended to Hollywood/Vine, and the Purple Line was built to Wilshire/Western. The next year, in 2000, the Red Line was extended to its current terminus of North Hollywood.
In 2003, the Gold Line became the third light rail route to open in LA, and went from Union Station to Sierra Madre Villa, in Pasadena. It would be later extended to Atlantic station, in East LA, in 2009, and further east from Sierra Madre Villa to APU/Citrus College, in Azusa, in March 2016.
The Orange Line became the first bus rapid transit (BRT) line to operate in Los Angeles in 2005, when service started from North Hollywood, where it connected with the Red Line, to Warner Center, west in the San Fernando Valley. It would be further extended north to Chatsworth in 2012, creating a split in the line at Canoga.
LA’s second BRT line, the Silver Line, entered revenue service in 2009 and ran from El Monte, in East Los Angeles, to Harbor Gateway Transit Center, between Carson and Torrance. It would be extended to Pacific/21st St, in San Pedro, in 2016.
2012 saw the opening of the Expo Line, named after Exponential Blvd the line provides service on. The route initially ran from 7th St/Metro Center, in Downtown LA, to Culver City, before being extended to Downtown Santa Monica in May of 2016.
The current network of urban rail for Los Angeles sits at what was just described above, but what can we expect for the future? Projects such as the Crenshaw/LAX line, the Regional Connector, which will drastically alter current rail service, and the extension of the Purple Line are all projects currently under construction and set to be completed within the next ten years. After that, we don't know, but there is much anticipation that this impressive rail system will continue to expand over the next several decades.
In 27 years, Los Angeles has seen a rapid rebirth of urban rail-based transit options, similar to what Portland has experienced in recent decades. What we have seen is one of the most impressive comebacks of urban rail in any city in the nation, and that is something to appreciate.
It will take many years to grow the current system out to better serve Los Angeles and the surrounding region, but if what has been done already can be accomplished again and again for decades to come, there is little doubt Los Angeles will be on its way to joining the great list of urban rail systems.
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