Today, customers traveling on the Blue light rail line must transfer to the Red or Purple heavy rail lines to get to Union Station and the Gold line, which heads northeast to Pasadena. This connection at the 7th Street/Metro Center station is a large inconvenience to passengers and probably serves as an impediment to transit usage for thousands of potential customers. With the completion of the new Gold line Eastside Extension later this year and the Expo line in 2010, this problem will affect more passengers. As a result, Los Angeles Metro is studying a connection – the Regional Connector Transit Corridor – that will bring light rail directly from Metro Center to the Gold Line.
Potential corridors for the route (shown in the map above) would take trains 2 miles up Flower Street and then east on 2nd Street to the future Little Tokyo/Arts District station on the Gold Line. Depending on the route chosen, the line could cost between $700 million and $1.3 billion. In a previous round of community discussions about the project, community members overwhelmingly preferred a more expensive underground option, though a cheaper ground-running route is still under consideration. Three new stations would be built in downtown Los Angeles as part of the plan. The project is expected to open in 2017 as long as federal New Starts funding is secured.
The proposed routing of the line seems reasonable, as it leaves open the southeast portion of downtown to another future transit extension, something that is possible if Blue and Expo line ridership increases enough to merit separating the two lines into their own corridors. Choosing not to connect the lines at Union Station makes a lot of sense – it won’t duplicate the existing connection at Metro Center, and it will distribute transfers between three stations – Metro Center, Union Station, and Little Tokyo – rather than just two, which was the proposal in the original plan.
What hasn’t been decided is whether the connection would include the possibility for through-running trains between the Regional Connector and the Gold line – this would allow greater interoperability and the potential for trains running from, for instance, East L.A. to Long Beach, an option that would further improve commuting in the region. Such a connection, however, would likely cost far more than a simple transfer, so it seems unlikely.
Image above: Regional Connector Transit Corridor, from Metro